Dakota Dust

On a very early run on my summer sojourn I’m revisitng a familiar road. How different will the landscape look from that of my memory?. On this day, temps are expected to go to 105 degrees, and they don’t disappoint. I run.

At my hour of the morning, the day is still new. As a guest here, I’m not sure I can convince the dogs to stay behind. I’m happy to see them cooperate.

The last time I ran this road 66 years ago, yes I was nine at the time, it was much the same. The same weeds along the road rimmed by barbed wire fences to keep cattle out of the road. And during a dry period, plenty of dust kicking up as I ran the gravel road.

The air was tolerable even with the hinted scent of the western wildfires. This morning, the only other soul out is slowly rolling his jeep through a gate, doing a morning check on his cattle.

Later, a car actually passes, a neighbor off to work in town. I see her from a distance. In this part of the world, you know when company is coming by the dust whirl preceding their arrival.

The road dipped and I was at the driveway that once took me home. It still winds around in a lovely curve, farm field on the left and meadow on the right. A fabulous gooseberry bush as well as chokecherry trees were once the stuff of wonderful jams. Now neatly graveled, I remember this driveway lined with corncobs, much softer on bare feet. Alas, this has not been my driveway for a very long time, so I push on.

Then I am on the bridge, now a simple deck with guard rails. On our childhood bridge you could climb up and walk across the beams, if you were brave and no one caught you.

Coffee Crick under that bridge is now mid-summer dry. It can become a raging and dangerous waterway and has been known to take an unwary child with it.

Then I am running up the hill. I hit the reset on my Garmin to get an accurate distance to the intersection where our schoolhouse once stood. Hmm, I may need to revise my “I walked a mile to school” tales as I’m seeing it wasn’t a mile – but it was a good 1/2 mile, and uphill.

Continuing on to a neighbor rancher’s property. I see their signs for caution as their fields are farmed organically. They have also opened their horse trails to 4-wheelers. I’m told city slickers come in droves on weekend, their trailers in tow.

Using this point as my turnaround, I take a moment to gaze at the horizon and the Nebraska Bluffs rising from the Missouri River. As a kid, I saw them as mountains under a big blue sky.

Following my trail back, I remove my dusty running shoes at the door and offer some ear-scratching to my welcome party.

Some things change, others thankfully don’t.


  1. Thank you for this walk (run) down memory lane, Mary Lou. So beautifully written, there must have been so many memories from when you last ran it 66 years ago. Although some things have changed, such your driveway and the school house now gone, it is wonderful that many things have remained the same. Thank you for sharing! šŸ˜€šŸƒā€ā™€ļø

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