A full moon settling toward the river bluffs when I got out of bed a couple of days ago reminded me how much I love this part of the country.

Dawn was a couple of hours off, but the slanting moonglow, reflected from the unseen sun, spilled through my bedroom window and across the wood floor. It was as if a vehicle sat outside with its headlights shining through the glass. When I went to the window, the landscape around my place was barely visible but a brilliant butter-colored path stretched across the river straight toward me, its glow shimmering over shadows of light waves on the river.

I had two thoughts. First, that Ricky Skaggs nailed it with his “Cajun Moon’’ song some years ago. “Cajun moon, nugget of gold, river of light on the bayou.’’ Simple, elegant lyrics.

My second thought was, “I should get dressed quickly and drive up to the Interstate 90 rest stop and get some great photos of this deal. I could send a couple of images to that Minneapolis crime writer, John Sandford.’’

If you know me at all, you know I didn’t follow through on that thought. At 6 in the morning, on a chilly November day, I’m not the kind of guy who fires up the pickup just to drive to the top of the hill and see a moonset that I can see from the comfort of my bedroom. I know some people who are that way. The ones I know, though, have half a dozen expensive cameras, a wide selection of lenses, tripods that bend and angle every which way and considerable knowledge and experience with night photography. Me? I have a seven-year-old iPhone and good intentions.

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I thought about the moonset off and on during the day. What an incredible view I’d have had of that moment from up on the eastern rim of the river. One of the huge positives about life in Chamberlain is the ever-present, ever-changing river view. Who can be gloomy for long when the grandeur of the world is all around?

I’m sure residents of other towns along the river are proud of the scenery where they live. I’m not putting anyone else down. I just think my place is the best. You needn’t believe me. Just ask John Sandford.

He’s the guy I mentioned earlier in this essay. Sandford is a highly successful, highly popular author of crime fiction. His most familiar novels include the characters of Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. His novels are set in Minnesota, and he has a way of describing that state’s natural beauty that makes a guy want to see the places he mentions.

But Sandford is no stranger to South Dakota, nor to the view from I-90 at the top of the Chamberlain bluffs. I was surprised and pleased to read that in a brief article in “Parade’’ magazine. About 10 or 12 years ago, the magazine carried Sandford’s thoughts on what is best about America. He said he really liked the physical presence of the country he has seen through his travels. He mentioned some of his favorite places in the United States.

And he said this: “It's the rush you get when you come over the hill on I-90 at Chamberlain and see the Missouri River curling in the sunlight."

The Wheeler Bridge, also known as the Chamberlain Bridge or the American Legion Memorial Bridge, connects Chamberlain to Oacoma without the need to hop on the interstate. (Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic)
The Wheeler Bridge, also known as the Chamberlain Bridge or the American Legion Memorial Bridge, connects Chamberlain to Oacoma without the need to hop on the interstate. (Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic)

I wrote of Sandford’s comments at the time. His words closely mirror feelings I had for years whenever I reached the I-90 bluffs returning to Pierre from newsroom meetings in Sioux Falls. From the highway near the rest-area exit, a traveler has a breath-taking view up and down the Missouri River valley and on across the water to the west-river plains where I grew up.

In the time since Sandford’s magazine comments, South Dakota has added Dignity to the eastern rim of the bluffs. Dignity is the gleaming, 50-foot statue that depicts a Native American woman whose star quilt shimmers in the sun and wind. Created by Dale Lamphere five years ago, Dignity has prompted travelers from across the country to pause in their journey to admire its beauty and meaning.

I wonder what Sandford would think.