Cruising in a boat on the Missouri River between Chamberlain and Oacoma last Sunday, I found myself wishing my mom was on board.
That would never have happened, of course, even if she was alive and in her prime. With the possible exception of an airplane flying through the clouds, nothing attracted him less than a boat on water. She crossed a ferry on one of the Great Lakes exactly once, while on a family vacation. She was very fond of the cobbled highways and city streets, whether she was walking or driving her aging Chevrolet sedan over the bridge to Al’s Oasis for coffee and pie.
She flew in an airplane once in her life. It was then that she had a heart attack and had to be airlifted to Sioux Falls. And when the initial crisis passed and she was safely put in a hospital bed, she really didn’t like the fact that her family put her on a plane without her consent. “Who decided you could do this?” she demanded to know.
So, yeah, I know she would never get in a boat with me. I still wish she had been. She would have loved Sunday. The afternoon was pleasant, with just enough wind to make the temperature of over 80 degrees pleasant. The sun shining on the water created ribbons of sparkling diamonds in the wake of the other boats. And the hills were alive with some of the brightest, most vibrant green colors you will ever see in this part of the country.
The area around Chamberlain is its own paradise at this time of year when the rain has fallen in the spring. The humidity brings the grasses and wildflowers to life on the cliffs that rise from the shore of the river. The poplars and elms that line the shore and climb the cliffs are brilliant with medium-green leaves so vivid they look still damp with morning dew. The cedars, bushes and shrubs and trees in the draws and on top of the ridges are a darker green, almost black when the sun hits them right. And, as if to keep the palette of greens from overwhelming the senses, scattered here and there are the soft grays of Russian olives. It is enough to make a person believe that perhaps an invisible master artist has been at work.
I don’t care if you’re a resident who’s lived here your whole life or one of the weekend and holiday visitors who keep their boats in marinas and the growing number of boat storage units along River. You must be in awe of the Missouri River Valley when the soil is rich in moisture and the colors shine from every plant, tree, and blade of grass. If I wasn’t already living here, I would move here just for times like Sunday’s cruise.
It was one of the things my mother loved the most in this country of origin. Other than her children and grandchildren, she had no deeper and more enduring affection than for the land that nurtured her. She would jump at the chance any day to take a drive through the Chamberlain Hills and the fields and pastures of County Lyman. Even in dry spells, she enjoyed the ride, although she repeatedly muttered, “It could definitely handle a good rain.” »
Occasionally, on my way back from a trip to the newsroom in Sioux Falls, I would pass by, pick it up, and spend an hour on the back roads. Once she passed away, 18 years ago now, I wished I had done it more often. How little to give back to someone who willingly gave everything she had.
When the countryside was green, as it is now, my mother would look out the car window and tell how the green countryside reminded her of Ireland, where her family is from. She had never seen Ireland, of course. This would have required an ocean crossing by plane or boat. She had picture books of the place, though, and the pictures of the Emerald Isle appealed to her. Just like readers in the country here at home.
I wish she could see the place on Sunday.