May 16, 2012
One of my favorite songs from the old musical, Oklahoma!, is the title song of the same name which includes the line “where the wind comes sweeping down the plains…” Did Rogers and Hammerstein venture to the same West that I have? Ever since I crossed the Mississippi River, the wind has blasted, barreled and belted its way down the plains, over the mountains and through the valleys. I’ve come to chuckle at the road signs that warn of “wind gusts” because the wind seems to be gusting ALL the time. It blows about 30 mph continuously and gusts to 45 mph or more. And the Clampett mobile, at almost 12 feet tall and 25 feet long is just one big wind catcher.
Yes, it’s a long and windy road we’ve traveled. The wind pelted us all day yesterday and then kept us company last night at Blackstrap Provincial Park in Saskatchewan.
We watched a gorgeous sunset and the wind, not to be outdone by the sun, swept around us all night in big gusts that gently rocked the camper.
We rose early and who should greet us but our old friend, the wind. He traveled with us all the way to Drinkwater where we stopped for brunch. Drinkwater was one of dozens of little farming towns we passed on our way south through Saskatchewan. We discovered a lonely, abandoned church in Drinkwater with only pigeons to keep it company.
I thought about the people who had sacrificed to build that church in Drinkwater, probably at the turn of the last century. I saw a couple of the houses they had built…big, two-story structures to house children and aging parents. I thought about how proud they probably were when it was completed, an ornate and vital part of their growing community. I thought about the people who attended every Sunday…strangers I never knew, but do know somehow. I know that they undoubtedly prayed for healthy, happy children. I know that they wanted to be loved and accepted as we all do. I know that they wanted the church to be a growing part of their farm community. What I don’t know is what happened to their dreams? Where did the drive and commitment that built a lovely, stain-glassed building go? What caused the church – not just the building, but the people who were truly the church – to fold?
I could make some guesses in answer to my pondering, but the wind kept blowing and it took us to Williston, North Dakota. Welcome to the 21stCentury version of a mining boom town. Like its predecessors it is dirty, crowded and filled with manic hurrying and scurrying. The new face of North Dakota is oil rigs, and RV-neighborhoods to house the influx of workers needed to milk the earth. The already gusting wind is complemented by the seemingly infinite number of eighteen-wheelers on the road driving at madcap speeds down two-lane highways built to handle the traffic of farmers and tourists.
The wind blows in, around and through it all. It carried us through the anthill of a booming economy to the grasslands and buttes of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The wind blows still and tomorrow it will accompany me on the next leg of my journey home. The long and windy road leads to the best place on Earth – home.