Around the Bench

After a wheat truck bounces past the ranch house and the dust that it raised settles, I can hear bird song coming from the shelter belt. Meadow larks and red winged blackbirds, perched on the bare tips of blend in their songs. My grandfather planted the row of Russian olive trees to give the house some protect from storm winds. Today it shelters meadow larks, pheasants, and the occasional deer.

I ride toward the site of the one room schoolhouse that my mother and uncles learned to read and write. The building is gone now. Some of the bench families have buried their dead in a small cemetery near the old school site. It offers a beautiful view of wheat fields and Square Butte beyond.

Even though the road toward Square Butte is just drying out from a recent storm, I take it. Two prong horn antelope trot across a wheat field and seem to pose with the butte as a backdrop. Later I surprise a mule deer reclining in some summer fallow. It will stand up, shake off sleep, spot my bicycle, and run full speed toward the nearest shelter belt.

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