With the advent of satellite navigation, we’re never truly lost anymore, but there are those times when we run across a former road that’s now underwater, or has fallen into disuse, and we’re forced to take an unplanned route to our next destination, and it frequently turns into a blessing in disguise, because we often run into out-of-the-way places that we didn’t know about beforehand. This former prairie farmstead was one of those pleasant surprises.
We were just tooling down a back road in South Dakota, enjoying the drive over rolling hills on a vibrant green prairie, when we came upon this place.
When we run across places like this, we can’t help but think about the days when pioneers came to the Great Plains on covered wagons, across rutted wagon trails, when there were no roads (remember those opening scenes from Little House on the Prairie?). It makes one appreciate the hardship those settlers endured, and in contrast, you sometimes feel a longing for those simpler times and the adventure of going somewhere new to start a life from the ground up.
Obviously, this homestead is from a later era, when railroad transportation was the method of the day, but this scenery still evokes the feeling of those days gone by.
We had to be careful picking our way through this place due to stray boards, nails pointing up, lurking in the tall grass. If you visit places like this, heavy soles and a careful step, friend.
Look at all those trees! In all seriousness, something I never fully understood until I was out of school was that our prairie landscapes like this don’t generally have trees because the climate is too dry. In the absence of a river or lake or other water source, trees die of thirst on the prairie. There are many, many, many places on the Great Plains where trees only grow due to mass tree-planting efforts by farmers after the Dust Bowl. Otherwise, places like this remain magnificently treeless and flat.
For miles in every direction, it’s just prairie and farmland. Aside from one utility line running by the front of this place, there’s virtually nothing to suggest the time we live in.
We visited this place in 2015, and we’re not sure if it’s still privately owned or if it’s gone back to the county due to back taxes, which is a common occurrence, but we’re not revealing the exact location of this place out of respect for the property owner, whomever that may be.
If you’re feeling bored, grab a camera and try getting lost on the prairie. You’ll be glad you did.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media