Real Work In Deep Snow


When my father died, a big storm swept through South Dakota a few days before his funeral. We buried him on a day of bitter cold, on a hillside looking out over the tundra of the Great Plains. Following the interment I got into his car and drove aimlessly west, out into the country along the Missouri River. It was a brilliantly clear day, and when the gravel road came to a dead end I looked out into a field deep in clean, white snow. A farmer was on horseback, trying to round up a lone steer that had gotten loose. He chased him back and forth in the snow until the critter finally, reluctantly got the message and headed through the gate. The farmer rode by me and laughed, shaking his head in mock frustration.

My father would have loved everything about that moment: the cowboy farmer, the ornery steer, the real work being done in deep snow on a cold day. As I turned his car around, I was melancholy until I realized we had enjoyed it together. He was at my side as we drove back across the familiar, frozen landscape.