Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Easeling in North Dakota

As I headed out of Bismarck yesterday, I pictured myself pulling over at a rest stop to capture the huge sky with the flat grasslands beneath.  Funny thing - North Dakota is not flat.  That must be Nebraska. The rolling hills were spectacular, gold fields stretching far... and the speed limit is 75. Woohoo. I am now a citizen of the West!

I had a room reservation in Medora, a small town (population 112) adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Roosevelt came here in the 1880s to hunt. He fell in love with the wilderness and bought a ranch, then started another.  I pulled into the park, slowed for bison in the road and got a map depicting the 36 mile loop around acres of badlands.

Prairie dogs were all over the flat spaces, the same blond color as the bleached ground. They brought their little paws to their mouths, as squirrels nibble at nuts.  Same size too, only where is the tail for balance? Only a short stub, tipped black. I laughed to see them sitting alert and motionless. I thought, "They take themselves so seriously!"

I drove the winding road, looking for shade in which to paint. It was HOT - 85 or more. Every vista was amazing. Soft, rounded rock, rising from far below to grassland height. I set up in the blue shadow of a lone tree.  I started with a drawing, then value, as always. But the colors were a trick. It was high sun. Was the shadow of the rock purple or blue or some odd red-family-mix? Gawd! I painted for 3 hours then collapsed in my car.  I couldn't drink enough water. Cheap hotel, here I come.  There is nothing like clean sheets, air conditioning and a shower. By 5 o'clock - Mountain Time - I sat myself at the Old Missouri Saloon and ate a bison burger (lean and dry) and drank 2 wheat microbrews from Montana. The cole slaw was fermenting on its own.

I head to South Dakota today. I look forward to meeting up with Allen for a mini-vacation. We will ride his motorcycle around the Black Hills to Mt. Rushmore and other spots that I can't remember but he knows.  At the end of three days, we both head back, taking our time, me painting and he - cruising the back roads.