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Finding Home in Flyover Land
Jul 14, 2015
Editor’s Note: Michael Zimny is the social media engagement specialist for South Dakota Public Broadcasting in Vermillion. He blogs for SDPB and will contribute arts columns to the South Dakota Magazine website.
I’m honored to write for South Dakota Magazine. Ever since the Black Hills pulled me from the city, I’ve been relentlessly stupefied by the breadth and diversity of natural beauty secreted away here from the wider world.
I’m a native of a seen-better-days suburb south of Chicago called Harvey. My alma mater is the University of Memphis, but I learned more in four months at Fort Benning.
My immersion in Dakotiana has only begun, though I’ve tried to make up for lost time. Fourteen months ago, the love of my life and I left Harlem, bought a ’96 Infiniti and took off for the Black Hills. I had spent seven years rebuilding my writing career in New York City — after a stint in the Army at Fort Hood and in Iraq — as a creative copywriter.
New York was good to us, if not in a material sense. But beneath all the cosmopolitan sheen was the reality that a kind of insularity can thrive even where the rents are high. When that itch sets in, you start batting at some flitting notion of the flyover as a place to be you again.
When you commit to leave manufactured experience behind — and having worked in the factory, I think I know it when I see it — you want to settle on a place that speaks to you matter-of-factly, and here’s where South Dakota has a chance, as a place where pretense never bothered to plant a flag.
So we bought a jalopy in Tennessee and drove through St. Louis, crossing the Muddy as it snakes through St. Charles then Kansas City, then across the Plains of southern Nebraska, through the Sandhills and up across the Cheyenne where the Southern Hills begin to bristle with Ponderosa pines, and into Hot Springs, where I spent a sopping wet fire season at Wind Cave, falling back on Infantry experience and writing the occasional PR piece for the NPS on the side. That led to an opening at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, where I attempt to stake a claim for the polite world of public media in the cutthroat social media space, write for the Art & Culture blog and some other things.
In a short time, I’ve seen four corners of South Dakota, from the buffalo ranges of the Southern Hills to the sunny butte country of Perkins County, across the glaciated plains to the Coteau des Prairies, back down to where the Mo holds the Loess Hills at bay. I sincerely hope to be stop-lossed on this tour as long as possible. The people I’ve met, and the land I’ve only just begun to befriend, take time to know.
There’s so much still to do — kayak Split Rock Creek and the Belle Fourche, and ride the Mickelson Trail — and journeys started that have longer to go, like exploring the arts communities of Sisseton and Agency Village, digging into the history of the cowboy Atlantis under Oahe once known as Le Beau, and rediscovering artists like Charles Greener and Hazel L. Drown Sawinsky Hoven. If you’re thumbing, I’d be glad to have you ride along wherever this road takes us.