You just can’t make this stuff up.
Last we knew, it was almost time for the South Dakota Festival of Books and Mom and Dad were off to ride the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Dad’s 70th birthday.
I made it to the Festival of Books and called Dad that morning for his birthday. He had loaded the horses and was headed to the Buffalo Roundup three hours away.
An hour later, Mom called. “Perfect timing,” I said. “I’m right in between workshops.”
“Not really,” she said, calling from her own vehicle. “Your dad’s truck is on fire.”
“Fire. That’s all I know. I was on the phone with him and he said, ‘Whoa, there’s flames,’ and we lost our connection. I left early to drop Ginny (her dog) off with Kelly. The wild thing is, I had a premonition that we needed to take two vehicles. It didn’t make any sense at the time.”
“I was stopped for road construction,” Dad told me later, “and all of a sudden in the rear-view mirror, I saw flames flying out of the side of the wheels. Then, flames were flying up through the dashboard. I jumped out and unhooked the trailer and a road grader pushed it back away from the truck.”
With the horses safe and the pickup a smoking husk, a friend offered Dad a pickup to make it to the roundup yet. Dad hooked up the trailer to the loaned pickup, and he and Mom headed to the roundup. When they reached town 80 miles away, Dad found the one of the wheels had come off the trailer. “Usually, you know when you’ve lost a tire, because they’ll roll by and pass you on the road,” he mused.
At this point, Mom is thinking perhaps God is trying to tell them something about riding in the roundup. “These are not subtle signs!”
Onward. The next day I received a text from Dad. “We’re off.” I texted back, “Enjoy! Be careful.” As I listened to workshops and wrote through the morning, I kept checking my phone for the next text, which I finally received—a photo of Mom and the word, “Done.” I exhaled deeply for the first time that day.
Friend and photographer/writer, Sherry Bunting, captured this image of Mom and Dad.
At an event that evening, the speaker introduced the birthday boy, still in his riding gear, to the 300 people in attendance. I told Dad, “I think it’s only right that the state of South Dakota throw a birthday party for what will now be known as Dean Wink’s Smokin’ 70th!”
In Sioux Falls, SD, across the state from the flames and buffalo, the South Dakota Festival of Books whirled into full swing. The panels and presentations were marvelous. I immersed myself in listening and learning from others.
Rachael Hanel (We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter) spoke on the craft of memoir and through evocative photos guided us to memories long-hidden and rich with potential for writing. Gwen Westerman (MniSota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota) on the history of the Dakota,”I dreamt about it, as if all these stories were in one voice. It is our Genesis, little ‘g’ and big ‘G.'”
Malcolm Brooks (Painted Horses), whose book I now read, “The sun pools like a molten ingot and then drips progressively away, its color changing as it descends and changing in turn the hue of the sky around it.” Ashley Wolff (Miss Bindergarten Goes to Kindergarten) led us through how life and family infuse her art and writing. Jon Lauck (The Lost Region) gave voice to the revival of Midwestern history to highlight why the Midwest matters.
I spoke on “Writing the Land” and “Meadowlark: In Word and Image,” so grateful to share the journey of both with those who attended.
Two of the greatest blessings of my time in Sioux Falls were the time spent with my Aunt Elaine (Dad’s sister) and Uncle Ray, who drove from Iowa and a surprise visit from dear friend of my parents and me from forever Mary Jane Lunetta, who completely surprised me by appearing from Minneapolis.
All in all, an incredible weekend—filled with friends, flames, festival, buffalo, birthdays, and books.
You really can’t make this stuff up.
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October 30, 2014 at 3:21 pm
K. Lyn, I hadn’t realized that you’d lived in South Dakota for ten years–and we share the common experience of flaming rural pickups! 🙂 Yes, if I ever put together a panel on this, we’ll make sure to include you and Old Blue. Thanks so much for connecting and for the good wishes and a good pickup for Dad here!
October 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm
Great story and great pictures. That South Dakota landscape is familiar, as I lived in the state for ten years. Dawn, if you ever put together a panel or workshop on writing about flaming rural pickups, let me know…eight years ago, on the day my husband and I moved from our small town out to the country, his old Ford pickup stalled, let out a puff and pop and burst into flames at the intersection of two highways. The volunteer fire brigade turned out in full regalia and had a marvelous practice run, but Old Blue was blackened and lost. Since that day, her stand-in answers to Old Red. A pickup is a big part of a farmer’s or rancher’s life, the modern horse of the West…I hope that now, in his seventy-first year, your Dad finds a good old truck to carry him for at least another thirty good ones, and to many more roundups.
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October 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm
Oh my goodness!!!! What an adventure and so well told, dear Dawn!! I’m so glad everyone survived and that they got to go on the round-up……if only for the pictures!!!!!!
October 16, 2014 at 11:09 am
Susan, I love this…”I’m so glad everyone survived and made it to the round-up.” Now THERE is a sentence! 🙂 Love, love to you.
October 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm
Angels are definitely at work in SD !!!! Cathy
October 16, 2014 at 10:55 am
Cathy, yes—angels definitely busy in SD! I’ll send you the photo of Mom and Dad together horseback. Love you! Dawn
October 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm
Oh my goodness !!!!!! What a birthday—-material for fiction ! Just love all of the pictures. I would love one of your mom and dad on horseback together. love you cathy
October 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm
So glad your dad had a memorable birthday! Thanks for heading to my home town to participate in the SD Festival of Books. Sounds like a fabulous event and one which I must attend in the future.
October 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm
Judy, the SD Festival of Books a marvelous event! The Festival rotates every other year between Sioux Falls and Deadwood. Yes, a must for the future.
October 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm
Wowww What a movie episode! Thanks God you are alright! Many Blessings and greetings from Guatemala C.A.
October 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm
Rossanna, Hello in Guatemala! It was an amazing day, wasn’t it? 🙂 Thanks so much for connecting and blessings to you!
October 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm
Barb, what you wrote here made me chuckle out loud! Thanks so much. Grateful to share the ebb and flow of all with you. xo
October 6, 2014 at 1:09 am
I love the “ebb and flow” of how Wink life goes on in the midst of “you couldn’t even make this stuff up”-ness!!
October 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm
Belle, the rangeland can only sustainably maintain a certain number of buffalo. After the buffalo are rounded up, some of the animals are sorted from the herd and then sold at auction. Yes, grateful for the safety of all, as well. Thanks so much!
October 5, 2014 at 2:36 pm
What do you do with the buffalo once they are rounded up? Glad to hear the Wink family has such an exciting life and that all are safe!!
October 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm
There is certainly never a dull moment in the lives of the Wink Family. 😀 Hugs to all – so glad everyone is safe and sound. BTW – this is great fodder for another book. 😀
October 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm
Lindy, and some moments even less dull than others. 🙂 Yes, grateful to hear that all were safe and sound, as well. Fodder for another book… I can’t imagine this won’t find it’s way in somewhere, sometime. xox
October 5, 2014 at 7:40 am
This is just incredible!!!! Sent it to my grandson. Tove
October 5, 2014 at 5:19 pm
Dearest Tove, So grateful to share all with you—and your grandson! XOXO