We continue the Living on Earth – Orion Magazine feature “The Place Where You Live” with an essay about the prairie. Linda Hasselstrom of Hermosa, South Dakota describes the wildlife that frequents her ranch pastures.
CURWOOD: This week, we have another installment of the Living on Earth – Orion Magazine occasional series “The Place Where You Live.”
[MUSIC: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes “Home” from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes (Rough Trade Records 2009).]
CURWOOD: Home, home on the range. As the song says, it’s where the deer and the antelope play. And while most of us don’t live on the prairie, it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans.
HASSELSTROM: My name is Linda Hasselstrom, and I’m from Hermosa, South Dakota. Home to me is the prairie. I’ve lived a number of other places, and I'm really grateful for having lived in town because it gives me a better perspective on what I value and on why people in town don’t necessarily understand why the prairie is worthwhile.
But the prairie is home to me because of the wildlife, because there’s always something new to see. There’s always a sunrise, there’s always a sunset, there’s always weather, there’s always animals doing things that give me hope, particularly if I’m fool enough to read the newspaper headlines.
[MUSIC: Junior Mance: “Home On The Range” from Letter From Home (JunGlo Music 2011).]
On a late afternoon we sit on the deck looking over one of our ranch pastures. With a flash of white, a pronghorn doe unfolds from the grass and stands, her creamy belly contrasting her black chest chevrons.
Then an antelope calf leaps up. Another! A third! One begins to nurse while two hurtle around the hill, butting, kicking. Their legs are so long beneath their tiny bodies they look like daddy longlegs. Eventually all three nurse the doe, jostling.
As dusk falls, the doe and her babies slowly fade from sight. We know the calves lie hidden under grass clumps.
Only after a mild winter will a pronghorn doe have three calves – a reminder that everything I’ve observed in sixty years of living on this short grass prairie is a tiny fragment of all there is to see and know. How can I explain my love of the prairie? How can I pass my knowledge on? This love arises from the taut line of a running antelope’s back, from the lush promise of the redtop grass that sustains her. She perpetuates the prairie by living here. So do I.
A few days later, a hailstorm with icy stones as large as hens’ eggs pounds the garden and hayfields into coleslaw. Two flocks of ducklings on the pond below the house vanish completely. At dusk on the hillside, we see one antelope doe, one calf. Did the others die in the storm? We never see them again.
CURWOOD: Author Linda Hasselstrom lives in Hermosa, South Dakota. She writes about ranching and the environment and hosts writing retreats. Tell us about “The Place Where You Live.” To find out about the Living on Earth – Orion Magazine series and how to post your essay, go to our website LOE dot org.
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