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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.

talking spirits
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

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