Here are some more things I learned while living in South Dakota.
I realized the abundance of wildlife that rangelands produce. It is so different for me to be out in a pasture on the fourwheeler and see a flock of pheasants fly up, or see rabbits and deer. I’ve seen a coyote and a badger. When I ride a fourwheeler through my parents’ farm at home I am lucky to see a deer nibbling in an alfalfa field. It just really hit me that all of this rangeland does so much good for the wildlife in comparison to farmed fields, and it should be protected not only for those animals but for the soil and water benefits it provides.
Because I didn’t see a lot of wildlife at home I never realized how much habitat a hay field produces, especially for pheasants. I was reminded of this every time I cut hay this summer and ran over a pheasant nest full of eggs. It was like pulling a calf that doesn’t make it. There was nothing I could do, but I felt bad anyway. It just reminded me of nature’s life cycle and how humans have altered it so much. Yet it is in our nature to alter the world we live in to survive, and without altering it we would not be anywhere near where we are today. It almost seems like we have given ourselves a higher status than we deserve since we can decide the fate of animals and the land.
When I came here I had hoped to learn to ride. Turns out Mittens and Elmer had different ideas. The first time I rode Elmer Lyle saddled him up for me, gave a few instructions, and turned me loose. We only went around the yard, and it seemed to go ok. After that I didn’t have time to ride for a while, and by the next time I did, Elmer had been taken to Luke’s and Mittens and Nelly the driving horse were brought over here. When I wanted to ride Mittens Lyle had me saddle her with his supervision and off I went. Well, that was what I hoped would happen. Mittens decided she wanted to stay with Nelly and she kept trying to turn around. We made it out to the nearest pasture and I figured once she couldn’t see Nelly she’d be more cooperative. I underestimate horses apparently. She not only wanted to go back to the yard, but she would take off running in that direction every chance she got. This happened the next time I took her out as well. Lyle told me to show her who was boss and to give her a kick when she was naughty. Since I wasn’t raised with or around horses, I was afraid that if I gave her a little kick that she would go off running. So I didn’t. Moral of the story is that Mittens got the best of me this summer and I still haven’t learned to ride properly.
If I learned that South Dakota horses aren’t all that good to me, it is the opposite when it comes to the people here. I have met nice people everywhere I have lived, but this is the smallest town I have lived near, and maybe that is the reason for everyone’s kindness.
I have gotten lessons in gardening, baking, cooking, and canning while living with the Permans. The women of this family are training me well to feed a future husband. I learned that you shouldn’t plant potatoes in the same place two years in a row. I learned to make homemade bread, caramel rolls, and kuchen. Living out here has taught me to make use of what you have and that making homemade meals is really appreciated among family and guests alike.
I have also gotten it in my head that I want to learn to be better with tools, be able to do some woodworking, have chickens and some cows, make as much of my own food as I can, and have an assortment of animals running around. I am contemplating the benefits of staying home to raise your own kids versus sending them to a daycare. I have been told my whole life to get a good job, but now I wonder if it wouldn’t be so bad to stay home for a few years to raise kids. It would seem like those first years of a child’s life would be more important that some career. That is how I grew up, how my boyfriend grew up, and how both my parents grew up. And we all turned out pretty darn good. There must be something there to attest to that. It’s just one of many things that I have second-guessed by being here.
I also second-guessed my plans for after I graduate college. I figured I would find a full time job with the NRCS right away, or maybe even try out some temporary jobs for a year or so. I had no intentions whatsoever of going to grad school. Last year I was so sick of college that I wanted to be done with it as soon as I could. But the more I learned from working here and from the people I met this summer, the more grad school and doing research is interesting me. I have no idea where I will go or the specifics of what I will study, but now at least I am thinking about it, and am pretty sure I want to spend another two years of my life in school.
Lastly, I learned that it is most definitely worth it to buy a $600 plane ticket or drive most of a day to see someone you love, even if you are a poor college student. My boyfriend is 1200 miles and 20 hours of driving away and will be that way until Christmas. My parents are 10 hours away, and my sisters are scattered. Skype and phone calls can only do so much. Perhaps being so far from everyone I love has made me appreciate the times I have with them so much more.