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Posted 5/08/13 (Wed)


I don’t listen to the radio a lot. Catch the news in the morning, and once in awhile, listen in to the weather. I don’t need weather every 20 minutes. I don’t need the same news every hour. I don’t need a lot of music, most of it rather poor. Once in awhile, I’ll listen to a ball game if I’m in the tractor. I enjoy public radio on weekends. I’m a big fan of Garrison Keillor, but I often forget to listen.
But this weekend I got to thinking about a song. I think it was Tanya Tucker, but I could be wrong. It went something like (sing along now), “when I die, I may not get to heaven, but Texas is as close as I’ve been.”
Now, the chances of meeting me in heaven are pretty darn slim. I know that. But what made me think of this song, was a drive I took over the weekend.
We went down to Matt and Carm’s for their branding over the weekend. They are in the northwest corner of Harding County, S.D. The back of the pasture is the Montana line. Just a few miles north is North Dakota. On the way down, we turn south at Rhame, go around Table Mountain, and head south and west across the Little Missouri. I suppose from Rhame to their house is around 40 miles. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. In those 40 miles, we met one truck. One. And if I had been 10 seconds earlier, we would have missed him.
On Sunday morning, I went for an early morning drive, north from the ranch up towards Marmath. I guess I drove about 25 miles on a nice road. Fifty miles round trip. I met one lady that I imagine was going to church, or maybe a different branding. I stopped for antelope lying on the road. I stopped and admired mule deer bucks with growing antlers dressed in velvet. I stopped for a grouse that was too lazy to fly off the road. Ruffed? Or maybe a prairie chicken? Wasn’t the sharp tailed grouse I grew up with. I watched a couple of mallard drake bachelors swimming in a road ditch. I think ducks in Harding County are pretty much tourists. I turned back where the river swings back to the road a few miles north of Box Elder Creek.
I drove quietly. Not even noise pollution from the radio. No dust from cars and trucks and pickups. No traffic. No wind. It was the way a Sunday drive should be.
And later that day, the neighbors gathered to share a beer, lunch, rope and wrestle calves and watch the skies and hope for rain. And talk about the spring snows that came or didn’t come. They talked of markets and baseball and what minerals to feed the cows. Old men branded and told lies and the young and able jumped and ran and wrestled calves just as they have for over a century on that ground in Harding County.
Oil has been good for North Dakota. It has made life easier for lots of people. But springtime in Harding County is most likely as close as I’ll get to heaven.