Thursday, October 22, 2009

Driving to Arlington: Sioux Falls 1961

I can't really recall how many trips we took to Arlington. I was just a little kid. But, in my mind, I remember the trips, at least in a montage fashion.
Arlington is a small, mainly farming community north of Sioux Falls in eastern South Dakota. It was a neat little town, as best as I can recall it. I have no idea what it's like today, as I have not been there since the mid 70's. But it is my mother's hometown, a place where she grew up. My grandmother lived there her whole life. My mother's older sister--her only sibling--Aunt Nancy also lived there her whole life (except for a bit in Arizona before she died), married and with five kids of her own (my cousins, of course). For most all of that time, they had a farm. I liked visiting the farm. I liked Nancy and my uncle and my cousins. I'm sorry I've lost touch with them. (We have always been a scattered family.)
But I remember the drives up to Arlington.
Sure, it was a short drive really, maybe an hour or two, on small rural roads. I mean, this was South Dakota in the late 50's and early 60's: how many people could have been living there at the time, even in eastern S. Dakota? (You want desolate? Visit western S. Dakota.) But there were two main highlights to the drive, things that became family rites.
One was The Hill. The drive up there on little two-lanes had some hills to them. One hill in particular was tall and had quite the gradient downslope. So, we kids would all look forward to The Hill and as we got to it Father would speed up and off we'd shoot at the apex and down we'd swoop and we'd all get that roller coaster tickle feeling in our stomachs (and testicles, to be honest). That was always fun.
The other rite was we'd always stop in the town of Brookings for a hamburger. This was at some little downtown cafe (I don't recall its name), but my parents insisted they were the best hamburgers anywhere. Homemade tasting, they said. So, we always got them. Most times we got them to go--burgers in a bag--a few times I can recall actually going into the cafe, but only have a vague recollection of what the place looked like: small, open kitchen/grill, lunch counter kind of place. Old school. But they were good burgers . . . I wonder if the place still exists?
Not all that long ago I had a very vivid dream about Arlington, about the farm country of eastern South Dakota. In the dream I was an adult and I was driving around the empty windswept roads and it was actually very pretty in an austere, rural way. I can't recall exactly what happened in the dream, but it involved searching for my grown cousins, maybe my grandmother. My mother was with me in the car as we drove around--something was wrong in the plot of the dream--but I remember being impressed with the countryside. And, in real life, there is a beauty to that country. I know there is. In my mind and in my dreams I see it as golden country: fall fields the color of fresh cut pine, lone but leafy trees offering deep shade, shallow and slow rivers, everything windy and peaceful and empty empty empty except a few farm houses and grain silos . . . I wonder if that's true.
Hmm. I guess I need to get back up there.

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