An Overlooked Overlook

We are taking a road trip today to a place many of us baboons have been to and even lived on, but maybe never knew of or noticed. The trip starts in Fargo, elevation 904 feet. Remember that number.

We travel south on I-29 on a really straight road, passing the little towns, crossing the Wild Rice River several times, saluting the fireworks emporiums, and admiring the potato and sugar beet fields. We are at the bottom of ancient Lake Agassiz. The soil is some of the world’s best.

After an hour we pass the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribal casino at the border and cross into South Dakota. The landscape is quite similar to what we have just passed, but there are increasing wetlands now and the terrain starts to roll slightly. We cross the continental divide, so now all the water flows south to the Gulf of Mexico instead of north into Hudson’s Bay.

It is then we notice something looming to our right. In the distant west we see a dark line of hills, a ridge that seems to pop out of nowhere. We drive closer and start to climb, and by the time we get to Summit, SD, we are at an elevation of 2014 feet. We are a thousand feet higher than we were in Fargo. This is a place where the wind howls all year long, it seems. It is no place to be in a snow storm. There are wind farms here. We are on the Coteau des Prairies, a triangular-shaped plateau that starts in northern South Dakota and extends into southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. It is 200 miles long and 100 mile wide. You can see the extent of the Coteau on the map.

Anyone who has been in Rock, Nobles, Lincoln, Murray, or Pipestone counties has been on the Minnesota section of the Coteau called the Buffalo Ridge. It is the drainage divide between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. My father knew all about the Buffalo Ridge. It was significant to him and he loved his first glimpse when ever we drove from Dickinson to Luverne last year.

Lewis and Clark noticed the Coteau des Prairies, and described it in this map from 1814.


I grew up on the ridge and had never heard about it! I had looked at it over the years on our too infrequent trips home on I-29, but never really thought much about it until this past year when I drove home so many times during my parents’ illnesses.

How many baboons have been in Worthington or Pipestone or Luverne and known they were on a big plateau? The ridge is something you don’t notice until you are off it. You have to be away from it to really see it.

When have you failed to notice something that was all around you?

74 thoughts on “An Overlooked Overlook”

  1. Nail shops. My awareness of them was heightened by several NPR reports on the low wages paid to the workers and another item about an entrepreneur developing a nail care franchise. Since I have always bitten my nails, I have no need of their services.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It seems like every little strip mall has a nail salon. I can’t imagine who they all stay in business. I heard one of the NPR reports – they said in NYC the nail salons are open 24 hours, and the workers live and sleep at the shops and take turns being on call for the overnight shifts. It all sounded horrifying to me. Who has their nails done at 3AM?


      1. My guess I’d that is a way to allow workers to sleep on sight. If they worked there but had to go home at the end of the day they would have to pay rent. The days of living bove the store or in the back room are supposed to be behind us but for these people they
        live eat and sleep their existence in one place until the American dream comes true.min the rest of the world many third world lives have the business in the living room and on the porch.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. When you drive west from Lake Benton, MN, you immediately rise up un the plateau on US 14 in exactly the place where Custer found to climb up on it. The wind turbines were first built around Lake Benton, I believe, by Enron, and trunk spread SE an NW. I have drive through Lake Brnton on 14 a couple hundred times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Morning-

    Stop me if I’ve told this story before.
    Not exactly missing what is *all* around, but certainly missing a large chunk of it.

    Kelly leaves for work and calls me that there’s a truck parked in the middle of the township road, engine running, but no one around.
    I leave a few minutes later, and it looks like they were doing a ‘three point turn’ but stopped after two and just stopped there.
    I look around the truck and take a quick glance in the driver’s door and I see a mans bare chest and then his genitals — ACK! I turn around and head right back to my car and call the deputies.
    “Naked man in a truck!’
    I’m waiting up the road when the deputies arrive and I watch as they walk around the truck, then tap on the window and a moment later, the guy emerges from the truck and walks around and gets in the passenger seat. And then the truck comes up the road past me and there’s a woman driving!
    I ask the deputies ‘Where was she??’ Right there next to him. Naked as well.

    Wow— missed her completely.

    I think about that every time I hear ‘eye witness report’… I would have sworn the guy was alone.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. This story leaves a few additional questions Ben
      Why was the truck running
      They weren’t passed out drunks or they wouldn’t have gotten to drive home
      The sheriffs just told em to drive home naked
      There are people who look better with clothes on than off, who were these people people with 3 teeth and loads do extra skin or the bachelorette does southern Minnesota
      Eyewitness news does some reporting even when a few details are missing


      1. I did leave out a few things but they were mere facts that get in the way of a good story.

        1) This happen in March, so it was cold enough they left the truck running for warmth.
        B) They had a history with law enforcement already. Nothing serious. Minor drug issues and they were homeless and had been kicked out of a park the night before.
        III) When told the woman was naked in there too, one of the officers shuddered.
        Four) They did get dressed before driving away.

        So our guess is they parked here, smoked a ‘j’, had sex and fell asleep. But really; parked in the middle of the road??
        I can imagine her telling him ‘WE ARE NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!’

        After I discovered the guy, I did briefly wonder if he might have CO2 poisoning but I was pretty sure I saw his chest move… just before I saw his other stuff.

        The best part of the story to Kelly and I:
        I tried calling Kelly to tell her what was going on. She didn’t answer her phone so I texted her, “Well. He’s naked.”
        By the time the full story was resolved she had a crowd around her desk waiting to find out about the naked man in the truck on our driveway.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Very nice blog, Renee. One thing that is all around me that I fail to notice is the love and goodwill of many good-hearted people. In this crazy world, it’s far too easy to see and dwell on the negative aspects. The “news” is mainly a recitation of all bad things happening locally and around the world so I generally don’t listen or pay attention, otherwise I would be heavy-hearted and sad. Of course, I keep up with the basics.

    A woman I know who was very active on FaceBook, decided to just turn it off and delete it off her phone, tablet, etc., because of all the bad feelings and negativity being vented on FB (she is a woman of color). I will miss her presence of love and insight, but I totally understand. What you pay attention to, persists in your awareness.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I would probably quit FB, too, if I was your friend. Privileged white people have no idea of what it’s like to be non-white in this system – yet they spew out the most ignorant rants and vile comments. Ugh.


  5. Good morning. Last year I planted Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass as part of a landscaping plan for my yard. I had never heard of this grass which is an attractive tall clump forming grass. Now I see it everywhere. I don’t know how long this grass has been in use for landscaping. It can be used to fill in spots where a nicely formed tall perennial grass fits. I was amazed that I hadn’t noticed that this plant is so widely used. However, I know that are lots of things that are very common that I miss. I do know about the Coteau Ridge mainly because I read about, although I have been there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A wonderful mature stand of it along many yards of the Sakatah Trail, which I have painted. Now I know the name of it.


      1. Yeah. Since I got a Honda Fit a while back, I now see them everywhere. Weird thing is there are two others that are the same color that both live within 2 blocks of me. And one time I was at trader joes and when I came out, there was not only a car exactly like mine just a few feet away, but the license plate had just one digit different than mine. Weird….


  6. I fail to notice many sorts of things. What I miss most often are all the “that’s and thoses” that Sandy sees. “What was that? What were those?”
    What I notice in malls are all the stinky places, like nail salons, which destroy me. I chart the odory places to avoid them. But now about 10 – 15% of mall stores are scented.


  7. Very nice subject and prose, Renee.
    There is a minor ridge line running east to west below US 14. The painted rocks are on its slopes. When you drive north or south on US 70 you come to the place where the ridge line crosses, if you notice, you have a 360 view of the farmland prairie. My family thinks I am odd for always stopping there to look. Not spectacular to others, but to me. I do not think there are many places like that. You can see for many miles, especially to the NW.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I drove from Mahtowa to Duluth and back five days a week for 23 years to spend 8 hours in a windowless office. I cannot tell you how many times on that drive I would see something I had “never” seen before. Did I really not see it…or, did I just not take note that I was seeing it? And why after not seeing it for days, weeks, months and/or years, was I seeing it that one time for the first time?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I Iive near of the Laurentian Continental Divide in eastern MN right before it heads back into Canada…the river that flows through my land ends up in the Mississippi via the Kettle and St. Croix Rivers. I lived in Leadville Colorado near that other continental divide. Significant places/divides in my life, too…perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. And don’t forget to come up with some kind of art so Dale doesn’t have to go hunting for an image. You can send him an email with the article and art as attachments. If you need his address, say so and someone will send it to you. I don’t think I have your email address.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Rise and Just Don’t Notice Baboons!

    I have been to the Pipestone area many times. My mother’s family lives there still. The elevation does rise and the wind is relentless. Every outdoor picture of my mother’s family is marked by wind.

    I think I start to ignore many everyday events when they become too available. When something is too available or the elevation is gradual it just fades from awareness. This is human nature; however, it does cause us not to value some valuable experiences we just start to take for granted. Entitlement, I think.

    I think when Dale did the blog daily, it became too available and I did not value it enough, for example.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Completely OT. I just read the Omar Sharif has passed away and I am officially in mourning.

    I saw Lawrence of Arabia in high school and after that named all my mice after him; just one mouse at a time (Omar, Omar II, Omar III and Omar IV).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Recently watched it again…after reading recently published Lawrence in Arabia. I had forgotten how blue Peter O’Toole’s eyes were. Sad to lose Omar.


  12. Reporting the snit I am noticing at this very moment.

    I am just in from the garden where I picked raspberries and kohlrabi. My raspberries have signs of an un-named disease that infected them a few years ago.

    Pizzle rot. I think will name the disease Pizzle Rot. Snit. Snit. Snit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do you remove the old canes when they are done bearing every fall? We do that and we haven’t had any raspberry disease. Ours are summer bearing berries, not fall bearing berries.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think we need to have a serious talk about tomato blight. That is something you will find yourself with unless you spray before you even see it. I spray for it once a week and also spray the cabbages with thuricide, an organic solution for cabbage worms.


    3. Pizzle rot reminds me, this morning as I was pulling up the shades in the dining room, on the fence right outside sat a big fat squirrel with a whole, big slice of pizza in his mouth. He was having cold pizza for breakfast, I guess; didn’t see no warm Coke, though.

      Liked by 7 people

        1. I found it Who knew?

          But my real name is Jacqueline. I wonder if that Jacque River is a misspelling of the French name Jacques?


        1. Husband points out the the Jacque river is probably the James River. It flows south out of Jamestown, ND into South Dakota. It goes through Aberdeen and Huron and Mitchell.


  13. I just noticed the Jacque River on the map at the top of the page. It is in the middle of the map. I also see the Red Pipestone river and the River of the Rock, which I assume is the Rock River that flows through Luverne and Rock County.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I want to answer the question about failing to notice something obvious. What comes to mind is a somewhat different sort of “noticing,” namely noticing history.

    I once spent time in De Smet, South Dakota. The town isn’t visually memorable, but it has interest because of history. Many town residents know that Charles Ingalls and his family moved from Walnut Grove to De Smet. The town was the setting for several of the “Little House” books, including The Long Winter, a winter when the Ingalls family was close to starving. The South Dakota tourism industry pushes information about this association.

    I asked a lot, but found nobody in town who knew a thing about the town’s name. It was founded and is named for a Belgian Jesuit priest, Father Pierre De Smet. For some reason, almost the only people who took an interest in native Americans in this part of the world were Jesuits. Father De Smet was sympathetic and helpful, becoming one of the very few white men who earned the trust of Sitting Bull and other Lakota leaders.

    That’s the way it goes. Many people–most people–do not see history.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Walking around my South Minneapolis neighborhood, I find I am surrounded by intimations of the past– hints that the neighborhood was once quite a different world. For example, a few blocks from my house, on the edge of a park, is what I am pretty sure is the remnant of a hitching post. The decorative finial or horse head is missing (and probably sold on eBay), but I can’t imagine any other use for this obviously old and solitary cast iron post.

    Walk down almost any street in south Minneapolis and within a block or two you will pass a residence, often on a corner, often with a square facade near the sidewalk and often with the front door placed diagonally on the corner. These are, of course, former storefronts from a time before supermarkets when neighborhoods were liberally sprinkled with little family shops. A different world.

    Often in my neighborhood you will see small houses placed far back on the lot near the alley. These alley houses, as with most of the neighborhood, were built in the 1920’s. At that time, zoning regulations permitted the construction of a small “temporary” house that would presumably ultimately become a garage when the big house was built on the front of the lot. I imagine that, in many cases, families were saving up for construction of that big house when the Depression hit and by the time the economy started to improve again, perhaps the children were grown and the need for the big house had passed. Anyway, I look at those alley houses as someone’s dream deferred and ultimately unrealized.
    Whether or not my neighbors experience the neighborhood in this way, I don’t know. The clues are all around but easy to ignore unless you are attuned to them.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. OT Liam story. My daughter instructs businesses about human resource legislation. Yesterday she had to stand for seven hours before a crowd of strangers and teach them about such things as hiring & firing law and laws about sexual harassment. And for those seven hours, she had a crashing headache. Afterward, she went home and crawled into bed.

    Liam isn’t used to seeing his mother incapacitated. He kept coming in with glasses of water for her. “Here, Mom. Here’s some chamomile tea for you.” Molly finally asked where he learned that this was a cure for illness. “When Peter Rabbit got sick, his mom made him chamomile tea,” Liam explained. And then he sat down to read Molly a book.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I used to stand for seven hours to teach strangers, some of whom were not welcoming to me content. You brain goes a million miles an hour as you are doing it. We used to work east of Pittsburgh. Then rush through Pittsburgh to make our flight. Rush through getting the car back. Rush through check in then collapse on the plane.


  17. This is also called Dakota Hymn. My husband and I sang this hymn last Sunday in church for special music. Our congregation was having our yearly special service out on the prairie at an old church near Northfield called Valley Grove. We sing with guitar and bass. This choir on youtube does it justice, too. I had just been to Jeffers petroglyphs and then Pipestone National Monument the weekend before. I became very aware of the people who were here before us and wanted to choose a song that would honor them. This is so cool that Renee has posted about this area.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. There is something called “house blindness”, where you get used to how things look around you, no matter how worn, spotted, tacky… You find out about them when you have a realtor in to help you sell your house.


  19. Thanks to Renee’s guest blog and HVS’s comment about overlooking history, for the inspiration to write a guest blog…yet to be written, but taking form in my mind.

    Liked by 3 people

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