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The Black Hills
by Mary Jo Baliestreri
At sixteen, my father left home for a CCC Camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
There was no money. His folks were running short on hens. Drought didn't help grow the
garden. My dad had never been away, had never worked other than as a paperboy. His
hands blistered digging new roads, thinning the dead and useless wood from thickets,
planting shelterbelts. Heat and mosquitos were part of the job. But so was friendship—
talking between shovelfuls of dirt, first serious discussions, clowning around and singing
at night, bathing and playing ball in Horsethief Creek.
at Crazy Horse…
a coyote yelps
Years later my father attributed his love of nature to time spent outdoors in the
Depression. We kids thought his streak of stubbornness, his controlling ways might have
sprung from the camp as well. There was a right way to plant a garden, trim a tree, cut
logs, and God help us if we complained about the work or did it without respect for the
land. We had few material goods, but we had acres of trees, meadows, a creek, and
rolling hills. We planted his ashes there. We thought he'd be pleased.
a lonesome road
up through snowy pines
my whistle echoes