MY SLICE OF HEAVEN — SPEARFISH CANYON

by Steve Clem on April 26, 2010

As the summer inches closer to reality, my mind drifts away to a favorite spot that I don’t take advantage of often enough.

My little slice of Heaven, nestled into the rimrock of Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota’s northern Black Hills.

My brothers and I inherited our family cabin from our great uncle Herman. It is a place where I can essentially melt into the canyon’s always changing colors and forget that a problem exists in the world.

Herman was quite the character to put it mildly. He stood all of about 4’10, I’d imagine, if that. He wore horn-rimmed glasses, and walked with a humpback gait. He’d always be telling jokes, even if half of us never got the punchline. He was known for squeezing your knee and saying “Do you like girls? If you like girls you’ll squirm when I do this.” As my oldest son, Nile, used to say when he was 5 years old “Herman looks like Yoda.”
The cabin was Herman’s pride and joy. He had hand-built it after moving to the Black Hills to work as an x-ray technician at the VA Hospital after serving in World War II. He went and collected every rock that forms the foundation. He found every wood plank that covers the floors and walls. He religiously chopped down trees on the property to provide fuel for the wood burning stove and fireplace, and to help take away fuel from the constant threat of fire in the canyon.

What makes the cabin so perfect is the tranquility. Hearing the gentle sound of the water cascading down the canyon in Spearfish Creek. Seeing in every direction that you look a watercolor mix of pale white, rust-like orange and charcoal gray rocks that have been chiseled down by years of Mother Nature having her way with them. The smell of evergreens and wild flowers from the creek bed combine to give a hint of nature’s perfume to the air.

If you want to get groceries, you better plan for at least an hour long round trip. If you forgot something at the store, you’re more apt to adapt and figure out a way to make something out of what you have.

Going for a walk at the cabin might mean ending up scaling down rimrock while only inches away from falling down to your certain hospitalization, if not death.

Time moves at it’s own pace at the cabin. Nobody is calling you. No computers to distract you. There’s TV, but that’s really only for the rainy days, if you don’t have a good book to read.

When the time comes for me to sit down and take my collective life experiences and craft them together into the great novel I know I have in me, it is a safe bet that you’ll find me in Spearfish Canyon. Sipping my coffee or beer on the front deck, watching the world slowly pass by like the clouds above me.

And you can rest assured that somewhere in the book, there will be a humpbacked man with a “unique” sense of humor who looks like Yoda. Thank you, Uncle Herman.

* * * *

Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: