Northfield, Minnesota is the town that inspired the setting for my novel, Fifty Days to Sunrise. Northfield is the home of St. Olaf College, Carleton College, and the bank building bearing Jesse James’s bullet holes. And my home from age nearly zero to three.
“The long and winding road,” the Beatles sing—not this one. I90 through southern Minnesota and South Dakota barely makes a curve until the Black Hills on the western side of South Dakota.
The road is really boring, and much of it is either in bad shape or under construction. We laughed though, the speed limit in construction zones in the West is 65 mph, 55 if it’s really torn up. In the West the cowboy spirit still prevails—they do things their way, and we like that about the West.
These plain states are also beautiful. As soon as you leave the Mississippi River valley the land flattens out to crop and grazing land. Southern Minnesota and South Dakota are part of the Bread Basket of the US, they keep us fed. I’m from Minnesota, but this southern hemisphere of the state is foreign country to me. I know the Minnesota of woods and lakes.
The colors on the plains are stunning. I’d like to weave a plaid of the colors. If you focus on how boring the road is, you miss the beauty of the fields of sunflowers and sorghum, the black angus cattle, the variegated greens and tans of the grasses, the cerulean blue of the sky, and the vast majesty of the clouds. The color of the dirt ranges from tan to rust red, sometimes sedimentary stripes of many colors. Beautiful!