Great Northward Pilgrimage, Day 4, Nebraska and South Dakota – 21 June 2008

by Jim on 2013/06/21

This is Day 4 of Jimbaux’s five-day outbound trip of his Great Northward Pilgrimage of the summer of 2008.  Just like with Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3, most of what is written below was written in North Dakota a few weeks after the pictures were taken, and, as stated before, photo essays like this one that was originally in the form of an e-mail message and the feedback from those messages is what led to the creation of Jimbaux’s Journal a few years later.  Enjoy.

The Sky

The Tomboy in Lace wrote to me after the last photo installment to say that she hoped that I was taking pictures of things other than trains.   Baby, you’re in luck, since on day 4, which has more pictures than any other date, there are only two railroad-related pictures, and you won’t see them until the end.

My departure from Manhattan on the morning of Saturday 21 June kept getting delayed, and by the time I rolled out of town, I was already well behind schedule. Dammit!

At that point, my schedule was primarily dictated by a lunch engagement in Lincoln, Nebraska, with Grumpy, the Mighty Quin, and The Alien.

Also, as much as it shames me to admit this, I didn’t have a map of Nebraska.  As many of you know, this really isn’t my style.   Although I’m too damned cheap to have one of those US maps, I pack the detailed page-by-page DeLorme atlases, and I love those things.   When I ordered the DeLorme maps for the states where I was traveling but didn’t already have maps (Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois), only the Nebraska map was unavailable.  I figured I’d address this by buying one of those foldout maps at the state line, but I needed to know where I was going to cross the state line for the best route to Lincoln.  Captain Grumpy told me that I could take US 77 all the way into Lincoln, and so I did.

I was hauling ass northbound on US 77 trying to make up time when I hit yet another snag: the road was closed and there was a circuitous detour through state highways!  Son of a beezzzotch!


At 11:23, I entered the state of Nebraska for the first time since I was 12 years old.  By nightfall, I would enter yet another state to which I had not visited since age 12.

At some point, I stopped at Beatrice to grab a soda and a candy bar, since my thirst was intense, and I was having a little trouble staying awake.  After gazing on a few local dirtbags, I sped out for Lincoln.

At 12:21, I entered the city limits of Lincoln.  I phoned The Grumpster to give me landing instructions, and at 12:35 I arrived at Mr. Goodcents.  The Mighty Quin suggested a sandwich to me, and I got it in the largest size possible.  I was damned hungry.

‘Twas really great to meet these guys.  We chewed the fat for a couple of hours, and a good time was had by all.  The Alien informed me that the Missouri River bridge at Yankton, South Dakota, was out of service and that there was a crossing at the dam just upriver.  I needed to get my hands on a DeLorme map, and I asked the Lincoln gangstaz where the local Whore Mart was.  [Oh, the Old Otter just handed me a glass of wine; thanks, dude!]  We finally bid farewell, and I’m tentatively planning to do some foaming with the guys in Lincoln in a few weeks on my way back south, but that may not happen.

In the process of hauling ass to try to get to Lincoln, I did not once take out the camera.  My first shots of the day come from north of Lincoln.

It is often thought by both people from other parts of the country as well as people from The Great Plains that this area of the country does not have much to offer, that it is boring, that it is not worthy of inspection or investigation.   But, here, east of the Rockies and west of the timbered regions of the Mississippi Valley, the land and the sky speak to you in ways that they do not elsewhere.

These first three pictures show the Nebraska sky with her intentions bare.  Here, the signals that come from the heavens are not cryptic.  The sky speaks to the observer from great distances, as the observer usually isn’t distracted as his cornfield is watered.  “His” cornfield is our cornfield; we all share in its bounty and its harvest.  All of us are harvesters of this land, even if we do not live and work on the land.

Here is another one of those shots taken while driving.

Here are some of the many cornfields of Nebraska.

Here is another shot made while in motion, as I need a machine-gun-style turret on my dashboard for the telephoto lens.

The land here is anything but superfluous.  The stark beauty rewards the patient eye, and the patient ear as well.

We’re getting very close to South Dakota as we descend into the valley of the Missouri River.  Here, we see the impromptu traffic light leading to one-lane crossing on Gavins Point Dam.

I’m thankful to The Alien for letting me know about this dam problem.

We’re in Nebraska looking across the great Missouri river into the great state that sits to the north!

Now, we over the Lewis & Clark Lake on the Nebraska-SD border.

The cloud formations were magnificent.

The skies of the Great Plains are great, too, indeed.

Holy Hades!  People in and around Yankton, South Dakota, are horrible drivers!  I saw people running stop signs and nearly got hit myself.  I witnessed this same weirdness nearly four years later in Sioux Falls when I returned to this part of my home country for the first time since then.

Once we were out of Yankton and moving northbound, it’s time to get more pictures.

I love this harvested cornfield hill under a sky.

The little farm structures made great photographic subjects; this is from where much of your food comes, people.


Howard, South Dakota, seen below, is where I made a turn, as I recall.

The two women in that car were really staring at me, apparently wondering intensely what I was doing.  I guess they don’t get many visitors here.  Anyway, let’s keep going.

I spied some cows on the west side of the highway, and I stopped to take some shots.  I guess cows aren’t accustomed to photographers as they seem to walk towards me and look at me as I approached them.   They were looking the other way when I stopped, but then they came toward me as I approached them.   I guess I’ll see you guys at Taco Bell.

Hey, I have a question about the next two photos of the same subject, one more zoomed-in than the other.

What’s that little stand out there?  Is that some sort of hunting thing? or is it some sort of feeder for the animals? or a fuel tank? or a water tank?

It seems odd sitting out there by itself.

Soon, the heavens spoke.  The photographer became captivated by the sights of the skies to the northwest where he was destined.   Destiny, it seemed, drew the camera and lens toward the sky, like a sunflower drawn to sun rays, this despite the photographer’s lack of faith in destiny.  “Hey, I’m here with a camera,” he says, “and the sky is here too.”

The skies of the Northern Plains are fabulous indeed, and I have since been blessed with the stunning starkness of the skies of North Dakota and Saskatchewan.

The shaded cows seen above show the interplay that exists between shaded areas and sunlit areas, between sunlight and clouds, showing, ergo, the ever-changing contrasts that can exists in such a “plain” landscape.

Hey, look, sheep!

My destination this evening was Huron, South Dakota.  Anyone studying a map will note that Huron, South Dakota, is noticeably west of the direct path between Lincoln, Nebraska, and Fargo, but there’s a really good reason why it was where I spent that night.  Huron is a terminal on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, an obscure but extensive regional railroad that operates trackage formerly of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway from Chicago out toward Wyoming.  It’s the largest railroad on the continent after the “Big 7” Class I Railroads.  Its obscurity, especially in these parts, is part of why I wanted to witness and photograph action on it so badly.  Furthermore, it’s a true granger railroad, much in the sense that the C&NW and the Milwaukee Road were.

There is yet another reason why any serious railroad photographer would want to target the DM&E right now.  The railroad is not long for this world, at least not in its independent form.  Before the close of 2008, the DM&E will likely be absorbed into the Canadian Pacific Railway, which announced late last summer its intention to purchase the DM&E and its sister railroad the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern.  So, before long, this will be the domain of the beaver and the candy-apple red locomotives.  Until then, I want to take advantage of the brief opportunity that I have to photograph it as it still is.

Next, I had just turned west on US 14 at DeSmet (which would lead me to Huron), and this farmstead west of town really caught my eye.  I’m looking about a half-mile to the south here.

It’s 20:28, and we still have some daylight left.  DeSmet is where I met with the east-west running DM&E trackage, and I hoped to find a train between there and Huron.  If not, at least I’d scout some shots for the morning.

As I said, though, this wouldn’t be a train picture day. As fast as I was driving, I still couldn’t get any DM&E action before sunset.  There were no trains this evening.  That’s okay, and it’s to be expected on this not-so-busy regional railroad.  All along, my expectations had been low.

I arrived in Huron just after 21:00, and I just loved how there was still sunlight available to take these two shots.  I scouted the place out in hopes of getting some action in the morning.

How about that?

That’s it.  I was tired as hell.  The town of Huron is really interesting.  There are some old buildings and a nice old downtown area.  I was really hungry too in addition to being tired.  Normally, I’d try to find some non-chain local restaurant and experience some local charm while filling my stomach.  However, I was damned tired; all of this ass-hauling and picture-taking plus a lack of sleep from the night before makes a young fella tired.  Therefore, as much as it shames me, I sought some familiar fast food.  There wasn’t a Taco Hell or a Suckway nearby.  All that this town seemed to have was a Murder King and a McDumbass.  Oh, well, I guess I have to pick my poison.  I went to the Murder King for my 21:30 supper.  I got the loaded steakhouse burger combo and slowly chewed it down.  I then made my way to the hotel and got a badly needed shower and some cool sleep.

What would day 5 — the final day of the northward pilgrimage to Fargo — bring?  Stay tuned to learn.

Until next time,

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angeline Castilloux September 3, 2013 at 21:12

I really like these pictures, the clouds especially. I’m amused by your dislike of cows. I think I remember reading another post about them, it made me laugh.


2 Reda Ford June 21, 2020 at 06:11

Enjoyable photographic journey. I’m with Angeline, the cloud pictures are especially nice.


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