Out in the hinterland, people careSam Cook column: The hinterland is somewhere far from home, preferably where there is at least a mile between houses as the redtail flies, where the nighttime landscape is dappled with a handful of yard lights below and about a million stars above. And with good people, who still have time to visit.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
I have been to the hinterland, talking to the people.
The hinterland is somewhere far from home, preferably where there is at least a mile between houses as the redtail flies, where the nighttime landscape is dappled with a handful of yard lights below and about a million stars above.
And with good people, who still have time to visit.
At the little farmhouse where we stay in southwestern Minnesota, a farmer we know and his grown son come over to chat before the morning hunt.
First, we talk about the pheasant numbers because they know that’s what we’ve come for.
“They’re way down,” the farmer says.
He tells us how few he has seen while harvesting soybeans. His son has been to South Dakota to check the population there.
“Bad,” he says. “Bad.”
But we also talk about his granddaughter’s volleyball team, and how her season is going. We know this teenage girl and her younger brother. We’ve watched them grow up. We’ve seen their photos with nice bucks and had them come trick-or-treating at our farmhouse.
We go to the hinterland to hunt birds. But we find family.
On to the hinterland of North Dakota. Another pheasant hunt. A modest motel in a town of 450. Two duck hunters from Michigan are in an adjacent room.
“Been coming here for 13 years,” they tell me. “Lots of ducks around. And they don’t seem so wary out here.”
Out here. In the hinterland. Wide, rolling pastures and wheat fields and little potholes in every low spot. Duck country. Worth driving for.
From the room on the other side of me, on a rainy evening, a shirtless man comes barefooting out in the rain wearing only a pair of plaid pajama pants. He’s headed for his big white pickup.
“Need to have a smoke,” he says.
He’s on a power-line crew, he tells me later. Up from Texas, pouring concrete footings for the big towers marching down from Canada. Been here most of a year. Company flies him home every weekend. Commercial, out of Bismarck.
Most of the crew is from Minnesota, where his outfit is based. They fly those guys home every weekend in company planes.
Electricity. Good business, I guess.
Works all winter, he says, pouring concrete. Colder than — well, it’s really cold.
“Locals think we’re crazy,” he says.
Stop at the little grill for breakfast, and folks want to know if you’re getting some birds. Stop at the grocery store and talk to Diane, the proprietor. Same thing.
“Finding some birds? I saw three of them on Main Street the other day,” she says.
A local man sits down up front. Starts talking about pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge.
“I haven’t seen a partridge in years,” he says.
We have time for these conversations because the pace is different out here in the hinterland. Not so hell-bent. No lines at checkout counters. Time is like the sky out here. There seems to be a lot of it.
But it’s more than that. People seem genuinely interested in what you’re up to and how you’re doing. Not in some chamber-of-commerce way. Just in a fellow-human-being way.
As if we all were important to one another.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”