By Paula Damon
Coming from near and far-off places, the rumbling of Harley-Davidson motorcycles cuts through early August air.
Awakening our tired summer souls, the sound of bikers is as a mocking bird rousing us well before the reconciling dawn and continuing long after the forgiving night fall.
Trickling in from points east, west, north and south some arrive early for first dibs on cribs and camping spots – head starts on breathing room before tens of thousands crowd into Sturgis, SD, for the annual biker rally.
Collecting in every nook and cranny of these otherwise sparsely populated parts, our visitors can’t help but make a scene: columns upon columns crisscrossing highways and byways, traveling here from big cities and wide spots in the road, from farm communities and megalopolises, from villages and capitals, from boondocks and bedrocks, from acreages and ranches.
Like a rapidly flowing river pouring into a grand spillway, men and women of all walks, faiths and colors channel forth to this place. Decked out from head-to-toe in leather and sterling studs, their uniform attire perhaps embodies alter egos ordinarily kept hidden at the office, on the farm, in the neighborhood or with the family.
Eager with anticipation, sunbaked riders with their wind sheered hair twisted and knotted, form simultaneously rhythmic parades – rolling marches sprawling forth on shiny metal hogs.
While most are strangers to us, feelings of kinship tingle down our spines as battalions of road-weary guests rumble into town.
“Long time, no see,” our hearts shrill and rise to our throats with the hearty thrust of embracing a long-lost friend. Loneliness surely would have paid us a visit if it were not for this August birthing, soothing our mourning cries, enlivening our days way past quitting time.
Happily disrupting our tranquilly, if only for a spell, this welcome invasion of sojourners seems more like our brothers and sisters.
Before they soldier on in a clean sweep across the land, we let them in on the grand simple life we have here, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere.
And then before they take off, we politely ask they please keep secret our vastly diverse and tranquil environ divided by the Mighty Mo: East River – untouched prairies, pristine vistas, endless farmland perfectly rowed with corn, beans, wheat, sunflowers, alfalfa, sorghum and the like, fields of promise nurtured along for centuries by golden hearts, rock-hard hands and determined spirits; West River – wide open spaces and unending ranches, moonscapes of rolling treeless hills all the way to the horizon and back, jagged shale and red granite quarries and further west over a million acres of forested mountains!
“Keep quiet,” we whisper with soft-spoken grace into the bent ears of new friends, tourists whose names we may never know. “Keep it to yourselves the virgin innocence you see in these smiling eyes. Don’t tell a soul of the real kindness that spilled out all over the minute you stepped foot into this place made sacred by trust.
“Yes, it is true! The generosity you quit believing exists lives here. The peace you stopped searching for inhabits this space, which lies well beyond your skyscrapers, high-rises and blacktop jungles.
“That humanity you thought was forever lost is full to overflowing in our towns – all the way down our Main Streets and carefully tucked throughout our dusty grids.
“That quietness that leaves you breathless, those endlessly blue skies that stun you and the piercing hue of sunsets that make you a believer again are as a doxology for your journey and a praise song for our richly humble, hard-to-reach existence.
“No snitching, now,” we warn new friends whose names we may never know. “Keep to yourselves the virgin innocence you see in these smiling eyes. Don’t tell a soul of the real kindness that spilled out all over the minute you stepped foot into this place made sacred by our trust.