As I Remember It: The Colors of the Prairie

im000690.jpgThese colors still fill that tapestry.

Sunsets might have been pale white or pink — or blazing red, with the remainders of thunderheads stacked sky high, a magnet for the heart and the eyes that had us standing out in the yard watching until darkness moved in.

Dry grass was not boring.  Not at all.  It might be a small tan color, or a hard gray-green, dried out and crunched flat against the ground.  Sometimes grass that dried out where it stood still waved in the breezes, ten inches tall, its design still beautiful, its presence still appreciated.

The grain bins were red.  Barn red.  The first year after they were painted, they were a deep and solid red, announcing with some sense of achievement that they were quite farmyard children chickenspresent, with new significance, looking good.  The second year, they looked a little more comfortable, perhaps a little calmed down? They had gotten used to their new coat and weren’t quite so flamboyant about making sure they were noticed.  As the years went along, the barn red turned to soft deep red and finally, to a bit of a gray-red, with flecks of the formerly stunning original coat of paint now falling to the ground — first here.  Then there.  Eventually, the grain bin stood quietly with some level of humility, looking forward to its next fresh coat of red.  Barn red.

The garage was white.  Big.  Double wide. Deep.  And sparkling white.  So white that it sort of disappeared in a blizzard, hard to see across the yard.  Whiter than snow almost.

The calico cats contributed a moving palette of browns and whites and oranges and, here and there, a splash of black, as they scooted around the barn, waiting for milking time when they knew they could sit a couple of feet off to the side and expect some fine warm kitten in flowersmilk delivered to them by careful aim from the human who was doing the milking.  The human and the cat trained one another with simple precision, the warm milk, straight into the cat’s open mouth.  There’s something good about that.

The double rainbows that arched across the buildings were infrequent, and nearly always photographed.  The appreciation that made us all get outside to see them also meant grabbing the camera.  Maybe this one would be the photograph.  One of the photos my Dad took in the 1950s did eventually take its place among the photographs of rainbows.  After his death in 1962, Mom entered one of his photographs of a double rainbow in the county fair, and it took first prize.  The sun was setting behind the west fields.  The photo was a south-looking view, so the low, after-storm sunshine was flooding across the yard, hitting the tops of the wood post and barbed wire fence in the foreground, and the beautiful rainbow fills the sky and the background, a ceiling under which the south field rested in the evening air.

chickensThe occasional black widow spider was beautiful with its distinctive red spot.  We were always glad not to see many of them, but entranced by those we did.

The Rhode Island Reds, our laying hens, had that dusky red feather cover that might have been called rust.  But they were reds.

So many colors on the prairie.

Full disclosure: the sunset photo at the top was taken in western Minnesota, where the prairie features more water. This picture taken from our deck.

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