A Walk Downtown. Late morning into the noon hour.
Third Street is quiet. I encounter nobody, walking or in yards. Grass is growing well but none of the yards are in need of first mowing. Bird song surrounds me.
At Hermit Road, at the kiddie park, is a group of Mennonite women and children. Children are enjoying slides and swings. I’m happy to see two of the women swinging.
Across the street at a sheltered picnic area, a vehicle pulls up and parks. A shrill voice of a woman, “Wait! Just a minute! We have to get the box with the potato chips!” (Grant me deliverance.)
The first few blocks of Fifth Street are quiet. I pass by a brick house. I have wondered if it’s the only brick house in the two towns. It calls attention to itself. It’s on a corner and the houses on both opposite sides of the street are log-cabin structures.
At a house listed for sale, there is a man sitting on the porch. “Nice day!” I say. He answers, “You bet. It’d be better if we got some rain. Or some snow.” “I’ll take either,” I said. I look up to see large cumulus clouds, high in the sky, no sight of rain. Or snow.
I approach a stop sign. A woman driving hesitates to drive through the intersection. I wave her on. As she passes, I notices she is smirking, though she doesn’t look at me. I enjoy her hesitation and smirk. I would not be surprised if her name is Earlene.
On Main Street, I pass one of my favorite landmarks, a cozy looking cottage with picket fence, well-kept yard, and inviting porch. Over the porch is a sign that says, “GO AWAY.”
A man, wearing a jacket, leaves a business and greets me, “Nice day for a walk.” “Sure is,” I say. “Warm in that sweater?” he asks. “Not yet,” I say.
I arrive at the car at the head of Third Street. It tells me that it is 12:15 and 67-degrees. Nice.
Crossword Puzzle Fun.
I enjoyed working out these answers from clues given, from Puzzle 145 by David Liben-Nowell in The New York Times Tuesday Crossword Puzzle Omnibus, edited by Will Shortz. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.
Clue: Comment about comic actor Martin when standing next to a peewee? (Answer: SHORTISTALL)
Clue: Comment about actor Jack, racially speaking? (Answer: BLACKISWHITE)
Clue: Comment about well-dressed pop singer James? (Answer: BLUNTISSHARP)
Clue: Comment about impressionist Rich when playing a packed house? (LITTLEISBIG)
At the Fitness Center. Bonnie.
To recycle plastic, I must buy recycling bags at our local Fitness Center. I drove up and telephoned the number given on the announcement posted at the side of the building for service. I was to ask for Bonnie.
Bonnie answered. Her voice was bright, energetic, and friendly. I asked for two bags and told her I had a $20 bill for payment. She said, “I’ll bring the change!”
When I saw her leave the building, I put on my mask. She was a lively young woman with sparkling eyes. After we exchanged pleasantries and I paid, she said, “I hope to see you soon!”
I was sorry she was wearing a mask. I wanted to see her face, which I’m sure was, well, bonny.
Exploring in Custer County. The Rosita and Querida areas.
I had heard of both communities but never visited. They are both now ghost towns, although Rosita is a community now of a couple of modern housing developments with beautiful large homes, many in log-cabin style.
I turn off the highway on a paved road that leads by the county landfill and a wood worker’s sawmill and craft shop. The wood worker offers free guided tours. I think of Fargo and decide, not today.
There is barbed wire fencing on both sides of the road, and on the right I pass a lone antelope standing at the fence.
The road narrows and the speed limit drops. I’m glad. Slower speed gives me more time to see what there is to see.
Newly leafed aspen leaves, light green, quiver in the breeze and sunlight. I hope to visit in the fall to see the same leaves of gold. There are large stands of Ponderosa pines, all healthy, and there are a couple of hillsides filled with them. The scent is strong.
I turn on a dirt road to explore where the towns were. I come to the abandoned Bassick Mine and a sign marking what was once Querida. I stop to read the historic marker that tells about Edward Chase Bassick and his discovery of rocks that led to the building of the mine. I would like to know more about Bassick, but I can find little about him. The historic marker indicates his adventures in the area would make an interesting and compelling story.
The mine is massive, and visitors are warned that it is on private property and that the mine is dangerous to explore.
Across the road I notice a narrow dirt road that leads perhaps to whatever few structures are left of the old Rosita. I do not try to drive or walk there. Another day, yes.
I stop by the Rosita Cemetery. The gate indicates 1870. There is a sign that admonishes visitors about appropriate behavior. I guess they’ve had some problems there.
The first thing I notice is that almost every grave plot is adorned with artificial flowers. There are some sites with painted iron crosses close to the ground marked “Unknown.” Even these have flowers.
The well-kept cemetery is on a hillside covered with Ponderosa pines.
Family plot areas are often enclosed with fences, wooden or wire or chain-link. Some have benches, mostly wooden, where one can sit to contemplate mortality or other things at the site of the burial of loved ones.
I notice a headstone with the engraved, “To Thine Own Self Be True” above the woman’s name. There are engravings of a cat and a dog and a small seafaring vessel between them. The date is Aug. 7, 1927.
I appreciated, “At Home in the Mountains” on one gravestone.
I pause by the grave of a patriarch, the “Founder of the 100 German Colony of the Wet Mountain Valley.”
I walk up to the grave of a Confederate soldier. There is a Confederate flag. I cannot read the tombstone because the writing is now illegible.
There are several veterans buried there. Their sites are marked by flags. One has a pinwheel with the flag image on it.
My favorite site is up a hill. It is in a circle of pines and ringed with black rocks. The inscription is “Loving Father, Son, and Brother.” (I wondered why there was no Husband in the listing.). I enjoyed sitting on a bench there to rest. His life was short, 1978-2015.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Mark Doty, What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life. W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.
In the preface, Doty states his two purposes in writing the book: “to account for his [Whitman’s] presence in my life” and “to seek out the wellsprings of the extraordinary flowering…in poems that look, sound and think like nothing else before him” … that have “reshaped American poetry, and the poetry of other countries and continents” and have caused us to think “of what it means to be oneself, to be anyone at all.”
The five sources that have made Whitman’s poetry significant are “a radical experience of reality, magnificent and disruptive,” exemplified in “Song of Myself”; the declaration of “queer sexuality,” his presentation of the “transformative power of a life of uncharted desire”; the influence of New York City at the time; the “energy of a new vocabulary,” American speech; and a conception and expression about the meaning of death.
In discussion of each of these influences, Doty writes about relevant experiences in his life. I particularly enjoyed those in which he describes mystical experiences, including one involving a tree when he was seventeen. He writes, “Visions are not as far from ordinary life as we somethings think…” The comment recalls Steinbeck’s chapter title in Sweet Thursday, “There’s a Hole in Reality Through Which We Can Look If We Wish.”
What I most enjoyed is Doty’s analysis of techniques of free verse, illustrated by “Song of Myself,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.”
Thank you for reading. I welcome comments, posted here or in an email to me.