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Another Day in the Country

Great expectations

© Another Day in the Country

I took my California family to the airport in Wichita last Tuesday. Jana hadn’t seen it since all the new improvements are in place.

“Looks like the big city,” she said, impressed.

It’s funny what we are impressed by. For me, it’s sweet corn.

I was so glad to get home and find corn at Jirak’s — sweet, tender, and fresh picked. In California, they seem to prefer white corn in the stores. It doesn’t seem at all like real corn to me.

I haven’t told you all the funny stories about our road trip — just in case you don’t get to go on one, or just in case yours aren’t amusing like ours turned out to be.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a sense of humor? My family is the greatest for that skill — even though my sister thinks she’s not funny. Get her to play charades and you’ll see.

Our second night on the road, somewhere in Montana, we stayed at what we thought was a second-rate motel in the dark of night.

In the morning, we discovered interesting art everywhere and hollyhocks. I knew then that the owners must be creative people.

In the lobby the next morning, we met the owner as well as a couple of avid photographers who’d also stayed there.

“You have to go to Custer State Park,” the photographer couple from Arizona said. “It’s wonderful. So much wildlife. You can’t miss it — herds of buffalo, antelope. Here, look at these pictures.”

We were impressed.

“After Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we’ve got to drive through Custer State Park, okay? It’s supposed to be great!” I said to my son-in-law, the travel planner.

So we did just that — paid our park fee, and started winding through trees, expecting any moment to come upon a meadow vista filled with buffalo.

We drove and drove and drove. It started to get funny.

“I think I saw a turkey,” Dagfinnr said. “It was shaped sorta like a turkey.”

A few minutes later he added, “There’s a bird. I don’t know what kind, though, do you Baba?”

The bird already had flitted off, doing bird things.

“Is that a bear over there?” Richard pointed through the trees.

It looked sorta like a bear. It was a rock.

Miles and miles later, after seeing only rocks and trees, we came across a real buffalo lying by the road, bored.

He looked like a plant, as if he was in a wildlife diorama,

“Is he chained there?” we wondered.

This didn’t look like a usual place for a wild buffalo to roam.

Miles and miles and more miles later, we saw some folk stopped by the side of the road, looking at something.

We stopped, strained our eyes.

“Oh, prairie dogs,” Jana said, “Look. there’s a whole bunch of them!”

Frankly, I saw more people than prairie dogs.

Dagfinnr, who had been counting every bird, bunny, buffalo, and maybe a turkey, had been keeping track of how many animals we saw — especially after hearing stories from those photographers at the motel: 22, 23, 24 — he was soon counting fast and in the 70s with the prairie dogs when I stopped him.

“You can’t count each one,” I said. “It’s the species.”

That lowered the count dramatically. We were all laughing.

We did see another buffalo, ambling down the side of the road. I took a picture out the window.

Richard was concerned that the buffalo might not stay on his side of the road and didn’t want to slow down too much.

Later, having left the confines of the park, we saw an antelope — dead, the victim of a traffic accident.

That side trip cost us hours of driving time, and we were now seriously behind on Richard’s timetable.

We didn’t get to our next motel — our most expensive one ($160) with free breakfast that included fresh waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage — until midnight Nebraska time.

And, we had to get rolling in the morning to make it to Ramona by supper time, so we didn’t particularly get our money’s worth.

When we got home, cousin LeeRoy asked, “Did you see Custer State Park? I loved that place as a kid. We saw herds of antelope and buffalo, and when they started running across a meadow, the ground would shake.”

Really, LeeRoy? The only thing we saw herds of, and I’m sure that’s not the proper term, were prairie dogs. That was it. 

It’s another day in the country, and I just Googled “Custer State Park” to make sure I had the name right, and discovered a video — some guy sitting on top of his car filming this big bunch of buffalo. So I’ve finally seen what I was promised — on YouTube!

Last modified July 29, 2021

 

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