Big Sky Country: Badlands, Briefly

Well we certainly know how to pick’em. We fly 1200 miles to an alien biome full of places to explore. And South Dakota arranges to get 10% of its annual rainfall (accompanied at various times by pea-soup fog and at all times by 30 mph winds or greater. Until the cloud cover broke (but not the wind) yesterday. (I had to check and see: SD’s annual rainfall is about 17.5″. Do you know what your state’s yearly total is?)

So, we finally made it (very briefly and very superficially) out to the Badlands, and I can at least say I’ve hurried into one edge of the area and come back with a few usable pictures for the scrapbook. It will be next week, most likely, before I’ll have time to take a look at them and post a little gallery of South Dakota pictures, one of which will be…

Our daughters ultrasound that we attended on Friday–this, a high-tech 4D version it’s called. The image is all gray and grainy, the usual blobs the trained eye only can see as human. Then he switches to 4D and edges and depth appear in a sepia-toned image. Amazing: a beautiful baby girl. Name very much undetermined and the source of much maternal angst during our few days here. Thirty-something years back, we had chosen a girl’s name: Noel. But backwards, she would be First Noel. Along those Christmasy lines, I suggested our new granddaughter’s name could be IVY. The Holli and the Ivy. Nah, I think not.

Yesterday, coming back from the Badlands, the skyline to the north (and very near-seeming from my daughter’s neighborhood) stood The Needles, shafts of late afternoon sun streaming down behind the stark silhoutte of these rugged Black Hills pinnacles. The lighting was spectacular, but the only pictures are in my mind. Sigh.

We went out to see Holli’s horse, boarded with a friend of hers south of town. While we were standing there, the ground began to shake. My first thought was “so they DO still have those Minuteman silos armed and ready!” The rumble built, seemed to be getting closer and over the horizon comes one of these, right over our heads. The horses seemed used to it, I don’t think I would ever be. (I failed to appreciate how close we were to Ellsworth Airforce Base.)

Okay, y’all. I’d like to see a half dozen of you at this event. I’m sort of the odd man with Blue Ridge Pens, not a regular attendee being an hour away from their Roanoke group, so some present or future friends and blog readers in the audience at Chateau Morrisette on Friday night would be a real pleasure. There are probably some rooms at Woodbury Inn. T’would make a great week-end getaway.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Almost sounds like my one and only trip to the Grand Canyon. Drove over from Las Vegas on a day off…drove through lite rain and snow across hours and hours of desert. All the way to the gates of the Canyon the visibility was probably 20-30 miles through the rain. I paid my entrance fee, drove in to the rim…and saw nothing. The canyon was socked in. If you could see 30 feet down from the edge you were doing good.

    I hung around for two-three hours waiting, hoping that it would clear a little. It didn’t happen. So I’ve been to the canyon, but I’ve only seen it from 30,000 feet in the air.