By Scott Shephard
When you turn south off of US 212 and head towards Miller, SD, you will pass an old farm house that sits on the crest of a hill in a part of my state that otherwise seems flat and limitless. The two story structure faces east and seems to want to bend down on one knee. But it is still stands and breathes. And it always talks to me.
I figure I've been by this place over 200 times. And every time as I pass it, it quietly calls out. "Look at me," is what I usually hear. But sometimes in the morning or evening darkness, without seeing it, I only hear it say, "I'm here." For, you see, even in the dark, when I drive on highway 45, I know the country road it lives on.
Yesterday morning, as I approached on my way home, it said in an pleasantly insistent tone, "Let's talk." And so I slowed and turned. It was sunny and warm and when I got out of my truck, camera in hand, all I heard was birdsong, distant cattle and the sound of other vehicles speeding towards their destinations. Their drivers hadn't answered the house's call.
Photographing a place like this is a reverential act for me. I feel like I have been asked to take a portrait of someone who may not be around much longer. And I have many questions. "What is your name?" "How long have you been here?" "What can you tell me about the craftsmen who build you?" "What's it like to spend a winter here?" And, ultimately, I ask, "What joys, what sorrows and what triumphs have you witnessed in your long life?"
When I asked these questions yesterday, I was met with a friendly, and perhaps stoic, silence. We might expect that from an aged South Dakota Flatlander. But even in its silence it had much to say to me.
I listened as I walked around and took a few photos. When I left I said, "I'll be back. Will you wait for me?" All I heard in response was the pleasant birdsong and the silence of the beautiful South Dakota prairie.
Canon 5DIII 1/250s f/11.0 ISO250 24mm