The Challenges of This Blasted Country

It’s been one of those days with lots of miles driven — not so rare around here, since everything is at least 20 miles away. Though the current gas crisis does make you think twice … just before you turn the key, ’cause you’ve just gotta get there from here.

I live on a section, just like Laura did. And you know what? I can’t even tell you what section it is. But I’ve seen the land maps and the ownership names. Probably looks a lot like the land divisions of South Dakota in Laura’s time. To the direct north, south, east, and west of my house are fields. Sometimes wheat, sometimes corn, sometimes sunflowers, depending on the year and the season. My house is but a dot in the corner of one of those fields. I’m a half-mile from our closest neighbors, one to the north and two to the south, all three visible clear as day. I found out a friend of mine, a woman of sixty, lives “out in the country” as I do and I asked her: “Do you have trees on your property?”

“Oh no. We haven’t been there that long.”

“How long?”

“Twelve years.”

Twelve years is not very long for trees to grow.

Luckily our house is old. It was built in the 1940s. My husband’s grandparents raised their kids here, and when they lived here they planted trees. So directly out my window now, I can hear whispering trees (when the window is open, which it rarely is because of the everpresent dust) and I can see shade under which I can send my kids to play. I’m not sure I would have lasted as long as I have “out in the country” without these trees. When I first moved here, I sometimes went for weeks without talking to a single person other than my husband.

Sometimes, in a rare and fleeting glimpse, I can sort of see where Lib Bouchie* was coming from.

* Mrs. Brewster


5 Responses to The Challenges of This Blasted Country

  1. 'Becca says:

    I remember during my freshman year of college, a friend of mine and I were out on the roads west of Brookings. I was riding in the car, marvelling at how all the county roads were in perfect squares (having grown up in New Jersey, I was much more used to roads that wound where they needed to) when all of a sudden it hit me: we were driving between the sections. We went out that way quite alot in the two years I lived there, and each time I’d stare out the car window, searching for tree claims and old shanties, just amazed to be in the place I’d read so much about.

  2. Dakotagirl says:

    I do love the plains states, especially South Dakota. I can see how certain personality types could have mental issues after living there, especially during a 19th century winter.

    The man of the place had a temporary worker on his crew from South Dakota. He did not hang around this region long, due to getting claustrophobia type symptoms. He could not become adjusted to all the hills and trees here in the south. One remark that stands out that he made, “When driving, how can you tell which way you’re going?”

  3. sgaissert says:

    It is said that “people need people,” but I wonder if the ones who went west were more the type who don’t need people as much. I need people less than my husband does. If he had been Pa Ingalls, he would have gone to the mercantile a lot (and his crops would have suffered for it). My daughter needs people less than I do. She may have thrived living on a section.

    And as for the lack of trees, I guess that you’d just have to make your peace with the sky.

  4. Amy says:

    I remember the first time my husband and I drove from Minnesota into Kansas, to get a look at Wichita, which is where we live now. We were in the Flint Hills when we realized there was no trees on the landscape. It felt so eerie and barren… and then the sun set over the hills and it was absolutely gorgeous.

    Both of us are folks who enjoy solitude, even as we occasionally need a “people fix.” I think we’d have done fine on a section. But I can see how the loneliness could really take a toll.

  5. Jonni says:

    I tend to think of myself as a solitary person so not having close neighbors wouldn’t be a problem and today it sounds heavenly (my neighbors are having an outdoor party at the moment) but not being able to run into town to do a little shopping whenever I get the notion, that I would miss. And my ocean, I’d definitely miss my ocean.

    If Mrs. Bouchie had had the Internet to connect her to the big wide world, she might have done a lot better. 😉

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