A very good day

I guess it is always the nature of my life that time seems short. When we were planning the visit of our son and his family a week seemed like a good amount of time. We could spend a day taking the children to see sights in our town such as Storybook Island and Dinosaur Park. We could take the oldest grandchildren to grand camp. We could invite friends over for dinner. We could drive the game loop in Custer State Park, visit Sylvan Lake and Mount Rushmore. We could drive the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road. We might even squeeze in a trip to the Mammoth site and a swim at Hot Springs. But time goes by quickly, children get tired. (Adults get tired too!) And there are the distractions of work and everyday life. It isn’t possible to do everything. It is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again. Time is precious and there is no need to waste it worrying about what you can’t do. The joy of life is in the moment and being fully present to what you can do.

state park antelope
We had a glorious day yesterday for a drive through Custer State park. Not every detail worked out, but it was a really fun trip. They were doing some resurfacing of the roads, so the Needles Highway wasn’t open in the morning, so we headed straight to the park and took a walk at Stockade Lake to let the children stretch out their legs. From there it was a short drive to the top of Coolidge Mountain, where the view is terrific and it is easy to orient the adults to the layout of the park. Lunch at Blue Bell Lodge was wonderful. Our grandson enjoyed his buffalo burger and some of the adults enjoyed pulled buffalo sandwiches.

Some days it seems like the game are all hiding. When we drove the game loop, even the donkeys were about a half a mile from the road. I decided that a walk with the children just to see the donkeys probably wasn’t worth it, so we had a lovely drive and spotted a couple of antelope and a lone elk. I’m not sure that the 2-year-old saw either. She still rides in a rear-facing car seat and it is hard for her to tell what the others are looking at. Our luck changed when we turned onto Iron Mountain road. I could see a group of buffalo heading to the top of the hill and by slowing down just a bit, I timed our arrival so they crossed the road right in front of us. It isn’t quite like herding cattle, but if you watch, you can often tell where buffalo are going to go.

2019-06-24 buffalo calf

The two-year-old was saying, “Me see! Me see!” Then a yearling walked right by the side of the car, so close you could have touched it if you rolled down the window. Suddenly she said “Oh!” and it was clear she knew what we were looking at. The five-year-old declared, “I like buffalo. They’re cute!” Then she added, “They probably don’t behave cute.” I had told the kids that we don’t get out of the car when buffalo are near because they are big and faster than they look.

The tunnels on Iron Mountain Road give spectacular views of Mount Rushmore even if the tourists from the flatlands who are driving it in the wrong direction for the views can’t understand the concept of one way tunnels and end up stopping their cars right in the middle of your picture. I know I have a bias against “flatlanders.” As usual for driving in the hills when they are full of tourists, we encountered several who crossed the centerline of the highway, their fear of falling off the edge of the road being greater than their fear of a head-on collision. Fortunately traffic moves slowly on the winding roads of the park and we have more patience in that setting than we do on other days.

csp calf buffalo
Game watching continued at Mount Rushmore, with a brief rain shower that had a bit of tiny hail mixed in. It was enough to produce some good people-watching. There are plenty of sheltered places at the monument, so we stood under an arch and watched as others scrambled for shelter. Within moments the grand viewing terrace was emptied and we got some good pictures of the mountain and our family standing in front of it. The shower was soon over and we walked the presidential trail. The two-year-old wasn’t impressed with the mountain carving, but she loved all of the stairs to go up and down. Suddenly she stoped and announced, “A little rabbit.” What she saw was a chipmunk, but she didn’t have the vocabulary for that creature, so she chose the name of an animal she did know. The children enjoyed watching the little creature chewing on a pine nut.

mt rushmroe chipmunk
We didn’t see as much game as I had hoped, but once again South Dakota didn’t disappoint. That is one thing about living where we do. We’ve always got a lot to show guests. Just the joy of a walk through the pine trees is enough to give energy to your days. We’ve been able to find opportunities for the grandchildren to see the baby deer in our lawn, which was one of the goals for the trip.

Mostly we had time to be together. I’ve learned to accept that we live far apart. We encouraged our children to become independent and to explore the world and they’ve done both. We are very proud of our children and the lives they are forging for their families. That means that the times when we are together are incredibly precious for us.

In the evening we gave the parents a “date night” to go out to dinner and we got the grandchildren all to ourselves. After the youngest was in her pajamas, Susan offered to read her a story. She announced, “I go up to grandpa.” She had her ups and downs reversed. I was actually down stairs, but she came to me to have me read. I’ve made some speeches to some big audiences in the past, but I’ve never found a better audience than my grandchildren, who all seem to enjoy it when I read to them.

Life is good and I count myself among the most fortunate of people in the world.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!