I had many ideas of how to fill this entry, but each one called for research and time revising that I really do not feel up to at this moment. Instead, I will just tell you a little bit about my week.
This week, I crossed the border from Canada to the United States, this time settling my bones in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I arrived in the night and saw little, but morning greeted me with news of small grassfires not far from my new little town. I drove out to see the remains, as I’ve never seen anything like that in person and feel it’s prudent to know what I’m getting myself into by moving to this part of the land. It wasn’t as bad as I expected; the fire had jumped the road, but was killed by the firefighters before it could reach the farm field just one more road away. I do not imagine that the farm could have been saved if it had jumped the second road. In the end, there was some property damage to a small park and a lot of black stubble where tall grass used to be (and still stood, around the burnt part). There were also vehicle tracks through it, I’m not sure why, that revealed the grass still living underneath the soot. I’ve never seen anything like it, and to me it proves the now-common wisdom that fire is a natural part of the prairie, not deadly to it at all.
Seeing that, though, really got me thinking. I was told on my way here that the Black Hills have that name for the darkness of the native trees that cover them, and it’s true that the trees are quite dark and thick, though no longer as widespread over the hills as they once were. However, I’m also seeing many dead trees and stripes of dead scrubbrush out here, which I’m told are from fires (perhaps just one widespread fire?) a year or two ago. The person who told me then went on to complain that the dead wood around Deadwood (I know!) should be cut and hauled away, both to improve the scenery and to eliminate the fire hazard, but “the environmentalists won that fight.” I’m not sure quite what was meant by that, unless it has to do with preventing soil erosion, but the idea that trees killed in a past fire could cause an even bigger fire now has stuck in my mind.
What would these hills look like, on fire? We have all seen photographs of forest fires and large grassfires, so it is not difficult to imagine hills and valleys covered in flames. What would these hills look like after it finally burned itself out? I think that they would then be very black indeed.
It has been a warm, dry winter in these parts, despite all the snow and sleet I witnessed in the northeast this year. With parched plants and dry earth, I wonder just how hot the summer will be– and to what that might lead.
Not to be confused with Lead, which is another town near here, and pronounced like the verb instead of the ore!