North Dakota
Lord of the High Lonesome

Close to the center of the canyon floor Reese drew his horse to a stop. Kit halted, also, to see why. He was looking around him at the rich grassland, the sage-dotted slopes and the distant buttes looming on the horizon.

"And they call this the 'badlands' of North Dakota," he mused.

Kit understood the skepticism in his tone because she, too, found it wildly beautiful. "The Sioux Indians gave it its name—Mako Shika, which means 'land bad.' The French fur trappers referred to it as the 'bad lands to cross.' It probably seemed that way after the vast stretches of gently rolling prairies. But it is nothing like the barren and forbidding wasteland of the South Dakota badlands."

"You've been there?" He sat easily in the saddle, a hand resting on his thigh.

"No, but I've heard other people talk about it," she answered, not in the least bothered that she had been no farther than a hundred miles from the ranch in her life. It held everything she had ever wanted. "If you want to see some even more spectacular scenery, you should drive through the Teddy Roosevelt National Park, north of Medora." Kit was warming to a subject she loved best—the land. "We had a cowboy from Texas work for us one year. He said he's seen some high country before, but this was the wildest, lonesomest land he had ever known."

"He could be right," Reese agreed.

"It hasn't changed that much since the time that the Indians roamed it or when Teddy Roosevelt had his Maltese Cross ranch north of here on the other side of the Little Missouri River. The advent of the railroad brought the ranchers. The only major difference between those times and today is that instead of the longhorn cattle from the trail herds not getting fat on the grass, we have Herefords and Angus grazing on the land."

"And the buffalo and the Indians are gone," he reminded her dryly.

"Yes," Kit admitted in an offhand acknowledgment. "That's another interesting thing. The Sioux were a relatively weak tribe, driven west by the Chippewas. But when they acquired horses they became one of the most powerful Plains tribes. Some consider that they were the finest mounted cavalry the world has ever known."

"You love everything about this country, don't you? Its past, its present." Reese omitted "its future."

Kit was suddenly reminded that he owned this land. "Yes." Her voice vibrated huskily with the fierceness of her feelings. "And when you love something, it rightfully belongs to you."
[ close ]