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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Here for Each Other

Sometimes I wonder why I wander.  A compelling answer is the people.  Though quantities are low, qualities are high.  

Roads in the Black Hills of South Dakota twist into tattered spider webs of gravel and dirt, beckoning the curious spirit and spilling out into the expansive prairie.  These roads reach deeply into remote, sparsely populated areas to connect with the outside world.  Many were purpose built long ago to log forests or raise cattle and then haul the harvest to town.  Following ridge lines and valleys, they branch and simply dead-end where accomplishing their objective.

Hours often pass, without human interruption, while spinning a bicycle through such country.  But perhaps four or five times over the course of a day, I'm jolted into the here and now by the crunching of gravel and billowing of dust.  In the prairie, or in the Southern Black Hills with its yawning meadows, the approaching vehicle is most likely a truck driven by a local rancher, out working and living.

Out here on a bicycle, I've encountered hundreds of such folks over time, but never a negative one.  Most slow, smile and wave, probably not sure what to make of the sight.  At least one or two, per ride, will stop.  After an introductory "G'Morning!" or "G'Afternoon!" or, yes, "Howdy!" the first question typically is, "Are you okay?"  I assure them that I am just out riding and will safely get home.  With that, most go about their business, leaving me to mine.

That alone is comforting.  That folks out here look after each other, and look after others.  I'm a stranger traveling in a strange way through their lands, yet I know that if I ever needed help out on those roads, the very first person coming by would do so.  Granted, that may take some time, but I won't be abandoned.

It's easy to lose that spirit of humanity, of caring for each other.  As our numbers increase and our institutions expand, our interactions with other diminish, especially with those we don't know.  It's easy to think someone else, or some program, will take care of others.

Riding remote roads reminds me we're here for each other.

Megan Shearer, Pennington County rancher, making sure I'm OK.

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