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Aug 25, 2011
|Pat Boyd is Executive Director of South Dakotans for the Arts, a statewide nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advancing the arts through service, education and advocacy.|
My first South Dakota home was a farmstead near Junius. In 1978, this was a Little House on the Prairie dream come true for a girl who grew up in Chicago apartments. After college, we had lived in Eugene, Oregon, a wonderful place -- but this move was going to be all right, despite the fact that you could see my heel marks on the Oregon Trail. My South Dakota husband wanted to return home. Kicking and screaming having failed to win the argument, I found solace in the notion that our two baby daughters would enjoy the freedom and spirit of childhood outside the city limits. We would have a big garden, many farm pets and the love of family, friends and community. We packed up our India prints, cotton diapers and Birkenstocks and set off for the fabled prairie.
One day that spring, the sun came out and the wind died down. I put the baby in her backpack, took her three year old sister by the hand, and headed out with Rover (actual name) for a walk in the pasture on the other side of our shelter of trees and thicket. Glorious! All that sky, prairie forever and nothing was taller than a windmill for miles. Why, the earth really was very big and round, spinning through deep space. I panicked. Rover launched a suicidal jackrabbit chase as I hit the ground and lay there flat on my face, clutching the earth, sure we would be thrown off it by centrifugal force. The baby gurgled with delight at this game as her sister, even then more sensible than I, helped us to my feet.
South Dakota is still home after 33 years evenly divided between East and West River. It has been a humbling experience. Harvey Dunn came to deserve more artistic credit for my successful transplantation than Laura Ingalls Wilder. Soon after that disconcerting hike, I found a rack of postcards in the Prairie Village gift shop. The Prairie is my Garden became my personal icon. That fierce young mother shamed me, and still gives me foolish strength in the face of the unknown. I later moved to Mitchell to head up the Oscar Howe Art Center, where I learned exactly how much I did not know about Native Americans in general and their arts in particular. Out here in the Black Hills with South Dakotans for the Arts, I have learned about the need to nurture, protect and defend beauty. I could not imagine rising to that challenge had I never stood up and followed her eyes to survey and confront the landscape without fear.
Pat Boyd is Executive Director of South Dakotans for the Arts, a statewide nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advancing the arts through service, education and advocacy. Pat and her husband, artist George Prisbe, live at Hanna Creek in the northern Black Hills.