PIERRE, S.D. – This was the way it was in South Dakota last week, at least for one impressionable traveler who never met a different landscape he didn’t like. But, I have never been to Afghanistan.
Getting to the banks of the Missouri, in South Dakota’s capital city, required passing through Denver where a faux pas became one of the most serendipitous experiences ever recalled. Everybody finds his way around these days by engaging a Global Positioning System which makes one reflect on history when the “Wise Men” only needed one star to find their way to a stable in Bethlehem.
Magellan found his way around the world without GPS. Columbus. The Indians. The Vikings, Daniel Boone and Abraham relied on instincts, the sun, the moon and the stats to reach their destinations. If you are headed to a neighbor’s house across town, even if it is only a couple of miles, one of On-Star’s friendly folk will “talk” you there.
I have a friend, Grant Dipman, who is the general manager of the Ritz Carlton in Denver, and Googled his address through the UGA database. I got the address of the hotel which also included his home address.
After plugging in what I thought was his office address, suddenly I am led by OnStar to a residential street in a beautiful neighborhood which brought about the serendipity referred to above. Last week was peak for fall color in Denver. The hardwoods of York Street were literally aglow, with golden hues rich, deep and beckoning to the eye and the emotions.
The abundant ash, cottonwood and aspen formed an arbor which caused a parking of the car, exiting and walking around the neighborhood. Enveloped in all that bountiful color, you felt unalterably connected to nature. Nature holds sway with us if we let it, which brings about regret that we don’t immerse ourselves into nature’s embrace more often.
From Denver to Pierre, which is different, but stimulating nonetheless, you find fall color intermittently about. A cottonwood by the Missouri (“I listened in vain for a murmur.”) a golden ash near the Capitol and colorful locust on Mary Street, where my friends Homer and Pat Harding live, confirm that color, even in sparse doses, is always welcomed throughout our country in the fall.
A brief respite by the Missouri River allows for reflection on the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1802. “Undaunted Courage,” author Stephen Ambrose wrote about these two American heroes. There is a natural history museum here that is chock full of artifacts and memorabilia that are illuminating about the people who moved west more than a century ago.
This time of the year, the hunting season gathers momentum like a blizzard in January. In the next 30 days, you can get up in the morning, kill a multi-antlered buck and then get your limit of Canada geese and your pheasant by noon. If you are up to it, you can then go out on the Missouri and boat a few walleye. At the local motels, you can bring in your bounty and cook on the grills which are put in place for that purpose. For so many in our western states, the outdoor life is the good life.
The varied landscape, constantly makes an impression on a visitor. You leave the mile high city of Denver, in the heart of the Rockies, for the prairies of South Dakota where a few buffalo still roam. (“Dances with Wolves” was filmed in these parts, a perfect setting for that story.) The rolling hills are dotted with cattle grazing, making for a scene of serenity and loneliness when the countryside is so vast. When the temperatures drop and snow showers come relentlessly, you can appreciate those nearby fields with rolls of hay that stretch across the landscape as far as you can see.
As the guest of Brad Reinke, who grew up Pierre and is afflicted with all kinds of hunting impulses, I got in on the first pheasant hunt of the season, a time when the pheasant fly the fastest. All I can say is that if I were hunting for my supper, I wouldn’t have gone hungry. Brad and his father Darrell are the consummate hosts. Their rolling property and pheasant habitat on 600 acres where they have planted more than 15,000 trees (mostly cedar, plum and Russian olive) brings about good feelings to have contributed to the South Dakota economy which is enhanced by out of state pheasant hunters. Out of state hunters bring about a multi-million dollar impact on the South Dakota economy.
In hosting his friends for the best in pheasant hunting, Brad makes a poignant comment. “This would be no fun for us if we didn’t share.” How nice!