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The Mighty Oahe at Swan Creek Recreation Area.
The Mighty Oahe at Swan Creek Recreation Area.
Fishermen calling it a day and heading for the dock.
Fishermen calling it a day and heading for the dock.
Sunset from edge of Lake Oahe.
Sunset from edge of Lake Oahe.
The last light before the clouds and horizon swallow up the sun.
The last light before the clouds and horizon swallow up the sun.
This sunrise photo of the railroad bridge at Mobridge was taken with my iPhone while driving into town.
This sunrise photo of the railroad bridge at Mobridge was taken with my iPhone while driving into town.
A classic November sunset taken in Clay County.
A classic November sunset taken in Clay County.
A lone horse on the Harding County prairie south of the Short Pine Hills.
A lone horse on the Harding County prairie south of the Short Pine Hills.
Galloping along the fenceline in southern Perkins County.
Galloping along the fenceline in southern Perkins County.
A prairie windmill with a small Harding County butte in the distance.
A prairie windmill with a small Harding County butte in the distance.
The last light of day painting the tall grass a fiery yellow-orange on the northeast side of Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
The last light of day painting the tall grass a fiery yellow-orange on the northeast side of Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
If you look long enough, the clouds appear to be a great sky dragon chasing the setting sun out of the sky above Lake Alvin.
If you look long enough, the clouds appear to be a great sky dragon chasing the setting sun out of the sky above Lake Alvin.
The setting sun creates art out of duck sillouhettes and rippling waves at Covell Lake in north Sioux Falls.
The setting sun creates art out of duck sillouhettes and rippling waves at Covell Lake in north Sioux Falls.
The detail of a leaf still clinging to its branch deep into November.
The detail of a leaf still clinging to its branch deep into November.
A fiery sunset above Thunder Butte in Ziebach County. This was taken on Christmas Day 2011, not quite a month after Uncle Jack passed.
A fiery sunset above Thunder Butte in Ziebach County. This was taken on Christmas Day 2011, not quite a month after Uncle Jack passed.
A little later, the colors changed to cooler pinks and lavenders.
A little later, the colors changed to cooler pinks and lavenders.
Every time I see this image of Haystack Butte, I swear it was taken from one of Uncle Jack’s paintings.
Every time I see this image of Haystack Butte, I swear it was taken from one of Uncle Jack’s paintings.
Running pronghorn over the prairies lightly dusted with snow in southern Harding County.
Running pronghorn over the prairies lightly dusted with snow in southern Harding County.
The setting winter sun painting most of the western sky with warm color.
The setting winter sun painting most of the western sky with warm color.

Making Memories

Nov 24, 2015

On my way to Selby to watch my nephews play in the high school football playoffs earlier this month, I took a side trip to Swan Creek Recreation Area on the mighty Oahe. That’s what my Uncle Jack used to call it — “The Mighty Oahe.” The last time I was at Swan Creek I was with him, and the water was so low it was one of the few places you could get a boat in on the northern part of the lake. As usual, we didn’t catch a lot of fish that day, but we enjoyed being on the water. Jack loved that lake, or more specifically, he loved catching walleye out of its waters. We didn’t get to go as often as he would have liked, but we did go enough to create many memories of fighting 5-foot swells, tangled lines and snags that seemed to take hours to undo. Every once in a while we’d catch a walleye or two to make it all worthwhile.

In late November of 2011, Uncle Jack passed away. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving. In hindsight, that could be why I took the 8-mile drive west of Akaska to see Swan Creek and the Oahe again. With normal water levels I hardly recognized it. I sat on the lake’s edge and watched a few anglers come into the dock while the sun set behind gathering clouds to the southwest. The slight wind was fresh and clean. I snapped a few photos and then drove on to the game.

November has a way of making me pause and think about those, like my uncle, who have been important in my life. Uncle Jack made his living as an artist. In my college years, I’d come home for the summers to help Dad farm, and it didn’t take long to get the call from town that Jack wanted to get together. When we didn’t go fishing, we’d often go into the Dewey and Ziebach County countrysides to scout scenes for his next painting. He had a nice camera and would often ask me to take photos of things that I normally wouldn’t think twice about — the play of light on the shoulders of a butte, or the deep shadows tucked into the folds of the creeks and waterways. It seems he also had an uncle who inspired him when he was young. I remember him saying a time or two after a particularly beautiful sunset that Uncle Orly painted that one for us in heaven.

Now that I’m older and Dad is retired, we’re the ones taking drives into the countryside when I go home to Isabel. Over the years, I’ve been able to capture some scenes that I think would have inspired Uncle Jack’s paintings. So in honor of him, I wanted to show a few of these images that remind me of him and our times together. Whether it’s the subject, like horses galloping across the prairie, or a classic South Dakota sunset, or various views of the Mighty Oahe, I think Uncle Jack would enjoy these photos, and that makes me feel good. May your Thanksgiving be filled with keeping and creating memories that your family members can cherish for many Novembers to come.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

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