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“Life on the Farm and Ranch”

South Dakota Humanities Council, ed. John Miller

        Living on the prairie, we had grown accustomed to the silence that surrounded our farm, silence broken only occasionally by the sound of gears shifting as a car drove down the gravel road just east of us.  It was a silence that my father loved, saying there was no use living in the country if you had to hear and see your neighbors across the road; might as well live in town, he said.  My mother, however, admired the little clusters of farmhouses we saw from the car windows as we drove east down Highway 16, and she envied the women who lived in those houses, saying it would be nice to hear the comings and goings of other people or to see a neighbor’s yard light when she stepped out on the front stoop at night.

        Sometimes the silence would be broken by the drone of a car motoring down the dirt road that led to our house, and we would hurry to the front yard to greet our guests.  My mother would go into the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee, and squeeze lemon juice into a plastic pitcher with cups of sugar and water and ice. Then she would slice apple pie, chocolate cake, and caramel rolls that always sat on our kitchen counter.  Throughout the evening, there would be storytelling and laughter and doors slamming as kids ran in and out of the house. 

        Soon, the guests would get into the cars and drive back down the dirt road while Mother stood on the front stoop watching the bright red taillights, the only illumination other than the stars, until their glow faded into the dark and silence descended once again on the farm.

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