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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.