We left our South Dakota refuge in the Black Hills to venture out on the prairie, driving across to Pierre this weekend to visit my grandmother. The rain has been good this year, and the plains have a kind of austere beauty that tugs a little at my memories:

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But then I remember how hard life is on that land. We took the gravel drive of a back route, between Midland and Ft. Pierre on the Bad River Road, pausing at the town of Wendte:

Wendt1

though ghostly Wendte, alas, is no more—a place that failed when the railroad ceased to be important:

Wendt2

I sometimes think Catholicism could not have settled this land. It took the sternest of Protestants, for there is a hard wayfaring-stranger reality to these plains, a moral landscape with nothing but God and the soul in it: no room for anything else.

Prairie1

I know dark clouds will gather o’er me,
I know my way is rough and steep;
Yet beauteous fields lie just before me,
Where God’s redeemed their vigils keep.

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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