RECONNECTING WITH THE COUNTRYSIDE BY ANNETTE BROOKS
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO REPLY TO THE QUESTION “WHERE ARE YOU OFF TO THIS TIME?” WITH “THE BADLANDS!” AND LAST SPRING I FINALLY HAD A CHANCE TO DO SO, PACKING MY BOOTS AND HEADING OFF TO SOUTH DAKOTA FOR THREE DAYS.
THE REGIONAL JET LANDED IN RAPID CITY just before a mighty storm system rolled in, which made the hour-long drive to Circle View Guest Ranch unforgettably harrowing. Used to storms in Texas I figured it’d be a piece of cake but felt increasingly anxious as angry, ominous clouds gathered and multi-pronged lightning bolts struck distant ground. I imaged someone finding me fried to a crisp in my little rag-top rental car on a lonely stretch of South Dakota highway some time later, foot glued to the gas pedal. It’s for that reason that I felt a wave of relief as I pulled in at the 3,000 acre ranch, eager to experience the Original 1880 Hamm Homestead Cabin—which has no running water or electricity. Having read about it in The New York Times years ago, the idea of roughing it for a couple of nights in an authentic Badlands cabin ignited a curious sense of adventure in me. After dragging my suitcase, which contained more bedding than clothing, into the tiny weathered dwelling, I lit the lantern, sat at the table, and made a list of needed supplies, with bottled water being most urgent. I also planned to pick up some fresh produce the next day so I could prepare a meal in the ranch’s guest kitchen. Since it was already dinnertime, I ventured out into the storm once more, making my way to Cowboy Corner, a gas station that only serves its dinner menu on Fridays and Saturdays. Fueled only by airline snacks and feeling emboldened by the fact that I was wearing pants with some forgiveness in the waist, I couldn’t resist ordering a chicken fried steak of epic