I’ve driven South Dakota roads all my life, but until last Wednesday evening I had never seen a rising full moon in a sky otherwise black with storm clouds and torn by spectacular bolts of lightning.
We left Soldier Creek on the Rosebud Reservation for our home in Fort Pierre a bit before sundown that evening.
The day had been sunny, with occasional soft clouds floating slowly in a light breeze. As evening approached, though, thunderheads began to build far off to the northwest, and by the time we turned north on Highway 83 west of Mission, it was obvious there’d be a storm somewhere up ahead during the night.
I thought of that old Tanya Tucker song, “Lizzie and the Rain Man,’’ the story of the guy who told the residents of a drought-stricken community that for $100 he could make it rain. One of the lines repeated during the song goes, “I swear before this day is over, you folks are gonna see some rain.’’
Bits and pieces of old songs pop into my head at times such as when I’m driving down a highway with Nancy and our 11-year-old granddaughter in the backseat of the pickup.
It should be a blessing to remember stuff like that, but I worry sometimes that it crowds out any new information, maybe even actually important information. After we crossed the White River valley and drove the curving road up and down the last set of steep hills south of Murdo, we hit a construction area that included a stretch of packed dirt. Well, the rains have come uncommonly often to this usually dry part of South Dakota this year.
The highway crews trying to rebuild that stretch of road must be tearing their hair out as pelting rain turns the dirt to mud and the big trucks churn it into a rutted, swampy mess. I don’t envy them this piece of work.
We hit the stretch when it was pretty dry, but some of the ruts were deep enough that the bottom of the pickup was hitting the ridges of dirt. Apparently the rains came to that area, because when I got home, I saw on Twitter that the road had been closed for the night.
We navigated the patch of trouble safely, though, took the interstate at Murdo to the Vivian intersection and headed north.
I’d been thinking the storm would stay to the west of us, but in no time at all, the black clouds rose in the northern sky. Sheets of lightning played relentlessly over the jagged clouds, and every so often a bolt of lightning shot from the clouds and smacked the ground. Those were some of the sharpest, widest lightning bolts I’ve ever seen.
Nancy and the granddaughter (who should have been asleep an hour earlier) kept up a whispered, running commentary on the storm ahead and to the west of us.
Just as we came to that flat stretch of high prairie north of the goat corner and County Line Road, Nancy said, “Look, there’s the full moon.’’
Indeed, there was the full moon. It was rising above a low bank of clouds to the southeast of us. It was one of those moons you wish you could do justice to with a photograph, reddish orange and as big as ever a moon gets. Storms may have owned the western sky, but over to the east the moon was in charge.
Being right there in the middle of it all was well worth the long, dark drive and the uncertain stretch of construction. That magnificent moon soon disappeared behind a bank of clouds. We reached the Bad River just as the rain began.
The shower had turned serious by the time I drove into our garage, and when I closed the door, the rising wind shook it angrily. A cloudburst accompanied by a big surge of wind bent the tree out front, and I couldn’t see as far as the street for five minutes or so.
Then the wind died, the rain stopped and we were left with the memory of a marvelous moment on South Dakota’s prairie.