A View to the East
The old order changeth. Once upon a time the Harters were prominent ranchers in southern Hyde county. Forty years ago my father passed away, a victim of lung cancer and, I suppose, of the tobacco habit. Before he died he made arrangements for the family lands to be rented out in support of my mother. Thus matters went for decades, my mother being a modestly situating rentier. The lands, if not farmed by Harters, remained Harter lands until the death of my mother.
Her passing changed things. Neither I nor my sisters nor their children desired to run the ranch. Thus it happened that the lands were sold and the proceeds divided equally among her children, these being myself and my three sisters. At the time of my mother’s decease the lands consisted of ten quarters (a quarter being a quarter of a square mile or, equivalently, 160 acres) some eleven miles from the metropolis of Highmore, and three quarters one mile from said metropolis. Nine of the ten quarters were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife service and now constitute the June Harter Waterfowl Production Area, a prospect that would have delighted my mother had it chanced that she could have survived to learn of it. (The tenth quarter was sold to a family friend.)
That left three quarters near metropolitan Highmore, two to the east of the highway and one to the west. Two and one half acres of the western quarter were carved out for the family mansion wherein I now reside. My mother had deeded over the remainder of the western quarter to my cousins to pass onto them upon her demise. They celebrated their windfall by selling their quarter in seemly haste. The purchaser was a local farmer who works inordinately long hours. I admire him; I have no desire to emulate him.
Then there are the two eastern quarters. These we sold to another local farmer, a young chap working hard on making his way in the world, quite unlike a previous tenant who had been an automatic transmission sort of guy. The new owner is industrious, plowing, planting, weeding, and harvesting just as a good farmer should. He also has an eye to opportunity.
Enter Mr. and Mrs. C____. Sometime ago, back when my mother still lived and I was managing her affairs, the C____s had approached me, asking if they could purchase a couple of acres of prairie across the road that they could build upon. At the time matters were sufficiently entangled so that selling them two acres was neither desirable nor practical. The C____s were a patient couple; they bided their time until a new owner had taken possession. They then purchased their two acres from him, these two acres being across the road from me.
The purchase was a local wonder. The estate had sold those two quarters for a bit less than five hundred dollars an acre. The C____s purchased two acres for thirteen thousand dollars. This was not pure profit for our young entrepeneur – he had to put in a water line and provide for an electrical hookup. Nonetheless, buying land at $500 an acre and selling it at $6500 an acre is not bad work, if you can get it. This remarkable purchase did not go unnoticed. Various local landowners marked off lots on their properties in the hopes of cashing in on this new eldorado. Alas for them; no other purchasers of overpriced prairie have appeared.
I watched matters with interest; my humble abode was becoming the center of a little exurbia. I wondered what sort of house my new neighbours would build. It turned out that they were not the building sort – they hauled in a double wide trailer instead. This was not entirely fortunate.
They had chosen to live atop a hill. South Dakota has winds that make the owners of wind power generators happy. The effect of these winds are particularly noticeable on the peaks of hills. In consequence there were various unfortunate incidents, things like shingles coming loose, and the skirting tearing loose and sailing across the prairie. As it chances, the C____s are not a young couple, nor are they slender, nor are they handy with householder repairs. Thus it was that the repairs of these unfortunate incidents was not of the highest quality.
It also became apparent that their style of landscaping left something to be desired. They possess (or at least had the use of) a riding lawnmower. Mr C____ made use of it to make several swaths around a patch of prairie. Seemingly he lost interest in mowing or perhaps was exhausted with his efforts, for he abandoned the project, leaving the mower in the middle of a patch of half mown grass. There it has remained for two years.
In lieu of mowing grass the C___s have decorated their bit of heaven on the prairie with a variety of materials. There are several vehicles of dubious provenance and operability, a camper that looks as though it were rusted out, a couple of sheds that do not add to the attractiveness of the grounds, some children’s swings (they have no children), and various piles of stuff. The latter does not seem to be firmly fastened down since bits of stuff sail through the air from time to time.
They also have a hedge of thistles. This struck me; it didn’t seem to me that anyone would actually plant a hedge of thistles. It turns out that the thistles got established on a strip of ground that been broken to put in a buried line. From a distance it almost looks as though they have a real hedge.
Their latest misadventure occurred whilst they were on vacation for a couple of weeks. Remember that unfortunate skirting? It seems that the water pipes froze and burst. For a week or so, unbeknownst to them, they were watering the prairie. Finally someone from the water people came out and turned off their water. As it chances I was walking by when he made his visit. He commented on inadvisibility of not protecting water lines from freezing and that Mid-Dakota water did not put antifreeze in the water lines.
My sister Nanci has advised me to put up a large wall to block the View to the East. I shall do not such thing. I reckon that Jerry Springer should be showing up any day and I don’t want to miss the show.
This page was last updated January 6, 2005.