The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #31: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Part X: West by West

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
January 11, 2016

Chronicle #31: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Part X: West by West

At age twelve, the summer before my 7th grade year in Osceola Middle School, I took my first trip alone, to visit my sister and brother-in-law at the far end of North Dakota. It started me on a lifetime of low-scale adventures, that combined both angst and anticipation every time on leaving home. For the first time, I left my hometown in Western Wisconsin to explore some then-unknown places of America beyond “my valley, my country.”

As the quiet observer, as an underground explorer and writer, I also came to know the people of places, see wondrous things, and build my worldview of life. Somehow, beginning with that trip in late July that young summer, I turned out human years later, and learned to see things in empathy: through different eyes.

My trip to the bad-land reaches of North Dakota started with a late night drive to the bus station in St. Paul, MN. Accompanied by my mom and a couple of siblings, I waited with that anxiety that pervades me on trips. “Will everything go okay? What if something goes wrong? What if I sleep and miss my stop?” Boarding the bus, I sat in the very front seat, next to next a grandmotherly looking lady.

After we left the station, we traveled points west, for only my second trip-ever trip to Bowman, ND, where my sister and her husband lived on a ranch outside of town. The anxiety, as I learn every time, served no purpose. “Go West, young man!” someone in American history said over a hundred years previously. On Interstate-94, I did, on a metal carriage stage coach, named for a sleek and fast dog breed.

The woman disappeared, debarking in the wilder-depth of a small western Minnesota town. A U.S. Army soldier on leave replaced her in the seat. He traveled from the East Coast to Seattle, instead of flying, to live the experience of distance in time and space in a different way—on the ground. Since I thought I would join the military after graduating high school six years later, in 1989, I asked him many questions about service life, and what got him there.

He had worked in private industry as a computer programmer, then a cutting-edge career, and lost his job in the recession of 1981-82. He did the “Stripes/Bill Murray-route,” and he loved the Army career. When the bus stopped for breakfast, he paid for my meal. After that, the sun rose, and I looked out the front window at country down both sides of the freeway. Not many settlements, but some clumps of houses, with some awfully gnarly cotton-wood trees that lived on little, foul water.

The long flatness and the yellow grass of dry, hot, hot weather; the huge, rock-strewn flat-topped hills called “buttes;” the treeless cereal fields of wheat and oats; and hay; and cattle grazing on fields next to metronome-like oil pumps of the earlier Dakota oil boom; these views I hold in memory still, of that first of many lifetime adventures. North Dakota had few people, and seemingly fewer trees. I came to appreciate and love that land, and it remains a refuge for a need in solitude.

At the bus stop in Bellfield, ND, thirty miles from Montana to the west, my brother-in-law met me, driving his black Ford pickup truck. The soldier-friend, who had adopted me on the trip, stood in the bus doorway to make sure I had my ride and the right person. He and I waved, said good luck and goodbye, and I thanked him for helping me overcome the fear of that first-ever “big trip.” I had five weeks in North Dakota, to explore, on the cusp and in the Badlands. The adventure, and growing up, continued. . . (see the next installment of Sub Terra Vita).


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