Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh Pioneers and the Dunn Family moves north.

We have officially entered the Great Plains. The land here is dry (South Dakota is experiencing a severe drought this summer) and colored in a spectrum of golds and greens. The large expanses of corn fields have given way to wheat and pasture land of the many ranches in the area. I know Montana is called "Big Sky Country" but as other state mottos go, they are more regional then state specific. I should be wearing a hat to protect myself from the glaring degree sun, but I don't like the idea of having a brim crop out any of the amazing view.

The expanse of land, the rolling hills remind me of the great lakes. Seeing the sky meet the horizon miles and miles away. Its hauting here on the desolate plains. 25 miles between towns with populations of 50. We look forward and plan around the very few large cities here with populations around 500. I keep imagining the N.C. Wyeth's painting "Christina's World". None of the pictures truely capture the wide openess here.

Willa Cather also comes to mind. ""When I strike the open plains, something happens. I'm home. I breathe differently. That love of great spaces, of rolling open country like the sea--it's the great passion of my life." I feel similar to a smaller extent. This may because my maternal grandmother, Margaret Dunn (her maiden name) was born here.

My great Grandfather Dunn came to Plankinton South Dakota in the early teens from Missouri looking for land of his own. He had a small farm growing oats, wheat and spelt. He also had about 30-50 head of cattle. My great Gradmother moved down to White Lake (the town 10 miles west of Plankinton) from her family homestead in Dicky, North Dakota, to live with a cousin and find work. She met my great Grandfather and they were soon wed. My Grandmother and her twin, Mildred were born in 1918, the first of 15 children. Around 1925 my grandmother's family had hit on hard times. My great Grandfather had fallen ill, and was having a difficult time keeping up the farm. To make matters worse, anthrax broke out among the cattle killing all of them. This was horrible because all the cattle had to be destroyed. The health department came out to oversee each dead cow was burned and the ashes burried. This completely ruinded the family. My great Grandmother contacted her father who came down from North Dakota to help. They decided their only option was to move back to Dicky to be closer to family. They packed up what they could, and with their four children boarded the train. First they traveled east to Mitchell, South Dakota. Here my Grandmother and her family visited the famous Corn Palace. This is a building whose exterior is completely covered in mosiacs made from corn cobs, husks, and stalks. I remember my Grandmother saying how amazing they all throught it was. From Mitchell, the family boarded a train north. However, my great Grandmother was 9 months pregnant at the time. She went into labor on the train which forced the family to get off at Aberdeen, South Dakota, near the North Dakota border. My great Grandmother was taken to the hospital and there she gave birth to my Grandmother's sisters Maureen and Marian. After the births, my Grandmothers family reboarded the train with thier 6 children and completed their journey to Dicky, North Dakota where my grandmother grew up.

Ira and I were able to retrace some of the steps my family took on their journey. First we visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

It looks different now then when my Grandmother saw it because it has different mosiacs every year. This year was rodeo themed.

Next we rode down highway 16 to Plankinton and White Lake.

The highway parallels the old train tracks my family traveled on. Plankinton and White Lake are very small towns of about 50 people.

They still exist unlike a lot of other small towns that popped up along the railway because the highway and then the interstate was built to parrallel them.

I was excited to travel this route because it enabled me to reach back and relive part of my family's history.


[165] said...

Andrea, I read "My Antonia" for my Senior Exam at CU for English. These pictures do well to convey her words!

ezra said...

I totally thought of Christina's World when I saw that picture with the hay bales. One of my favorite paintings of all time. And I love Willa Cather as well. You guys are living everyone's fantasy. You know that right?