It's an aberration really, a odd little mole on flatland prairie, a strange little pile of glacial till, I guess, from which, bountifully, you can see for miles.
Spirit Mound get its name from the Yanktons, who insisted a whole tribe of devils lived on top that hill, little guys no bigger than a foot tall, who were regularly unkind to anyone who dared venture up where they were kings of the hill. The Yanktons told Lewis and Clark about these pint-sized menaces, so when the Corps of Discovery was here just about exactly 210 years ago, they left the river behind for an excursion and hiked a half-dozen miles north or so to check out the demons.
What they found was a great place from which to scope out the territory, which they did--and to their delight, they spotted buffalo, the American bison, probably in the hundreds or thousands, the first time they'd see them on their river trip west. But no little demons filling them with arrows. Nary a soul--not a one.
All of that happened not that far away from where we live, just across the river and tad south. Today Spirit Mound is a historical site and sweet place to hike on a sweet day like yesterday. So we went.
My father used to tell me that growing up in the preacher's house made him dislike every terminally-boring Sunday because there was so much the kids--and the preacher and his wife had ten--couldn't do. True story.
Still, when I was a kid, if I'd play ball somewhere on Sunday afternoon, I'd have to sit for a half hour to stop sweating enough to dare walking into our house, lest it become sinfully clear that I'd been playing ball somewhere on Sunday. I'm sure Sundays were less straight-jacketed in our house than they were in my father's, but he was hardly an apostate.
Somewhere in Stages of Faith, James Fowler claims that some of the spit and vinegar believers may have lived by and with during their earlier adulthood eventually dissipates. We get a little more, you know, "hey, whatever. . ."
I'm embarrassed to admit that our Sabbath on Spirit Mound yesterday might well have been something I wouldn't have undertaken years ago--after all, there was church at night. It's hard for me to believe that I would have been agin' such a hike up the mound, but I likely wouldn't have done it, on a Sunday afternoon because. . .well, I'm not sure why, maybe just because.
And, of course, after church at night, I had to work, to get ready for school, correct a few papers, read a chunk of the Scarlet Letter maybe, figure out how I was going to navigate my Monday classes. It's more than mildly ironic, but I probably wouldn't have spent a Sabbath as I did yesterday because I had too much work to do.
Yesterday, the September air was dry and clean but still warm in a way that says summer is already a couple days' journey south. Harvest has yet to start so there was no dust to speak of, endless fields still enrobed in emerald. Seriously, there were no devils atop Spirit Mound, and you could see almost forever. No buffalo either, but with that much open space all around you could see how they might just be there, a couple of thousand maybe.
I'm a child of my parents' way of life. It's in me for as long as I live. If yesterday they were there seated on a couple of heavenly lawn chairs, watching us hike, I don't think they would have disapproved. They would have smiled.
After all, they're the ones who taught me sabbath.