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Giant Footprints

An act of kindness, small as it may seem at the time, even the giving of a cup of cold water to a stranger passing by, may save an empire years later. Though the empire of the Lakota had virtually been lost, another empire, of the spirit, had not. And the great-grandfather of a seer to come, by name Gabriel Tall Chief, was saved by his own Lakota people's chief enemy, the white man. The white man had no idea, in opening his door to a man fleeing for his life, that he was saving more than this one man from his pursuers. But Destiny and the Great Weaver of Destiny knew it.

Coming of the Dakota Sodbuster


Prairie majesty was grass

waving man-tall until the horse

joined tribes that were first to pass

into this land of glacial course,

where bison trod each water source,

eyed sharply by the wolf and eagle;

fangs and talons bred no remorse

as age on age they served to cull

the weak’ning cow, or aging bull.


Death as much as life enriched this earth!

Come Thaw, grasses sprang flowered, forest-dense,

and sheltered both prey and predator’s birth;

bright Joseph’s coat immense,

the Plains--yet to know a single fence--

stretched living and vibrant

around, beneath a multitude gone since

the gun and plow turned keen to hunt

the grass and bison magnificent.


Can you still hear music?

A million hoofbeats’ thunder

as bison rush a Platte salt lick?

Moonlit howls--no hearthside purr!

And milkweed pods’ ric tic tic!

Wing and wind strum from the sky,

each stem and feather a harp pick,

while drumming beat and chanting cry

fill the Prairie’s songbook by and by.


Everything about this Realm cried “Giant!”

The Frontier overflowed with richness.

Empire free of tax and tyrant

ranged with room for all to bless;

Horace Greeley urged, and Youth cried, “YES!”

The Argosy of Dakota had no doors.

Wealth beyond gold no man could guess,

gently rolling, or smooth as floors,

a Niagara that pours and pours!


East and south Civil War was waged.

A rail-splitting Lincoln led the way

to freedom for the slaves long-caged.

The Union, yea or nay?

A starry flag with stripes, not bars, was pay.

And America rose from Gettysburg renewed.

(One day thence, where Black Hills lay,

Mount Rushmore faces would be hewed

from granite cliffs a dreamer viewed.)


The honor was not made too great;

few would argue with the Four.

Even at this late a date,

the stone is speaking evermore:

“This flame of Liberty we bore

‘tis best served by loving power least,

lest men wax tyrant, oppress the poor.”

Yet men would still turn savage beast,

and drive the Indian out from the east.


Yet not all! David Guth--brave young man!--

trekking west, he left Wisconsin.

To Dakota Territory bison trails ran.

Parting from the last of kin,

he found a choice spot to settle in.

For fuel bison “chips”.

Water? Nothing that a pick can’t win.

From thick sod he shelter rips.

All else he brought along on trips.


No bride but lots of soda crackers.

A cow, a horse, three dozen chickens.

His wagon overturned on hay as warm as furs.

And snug beneath it, safe from cold winds,

he spent three years, and dreamt of corn-filled bins?

Now imagine yourself in his place!

This modern life, its sins and dins,

day after day the old rat race,

exchanged for a fresh, new lease on God’s grace!


What kind of soul was David Guth?

Independence, self-sufficience, and hard work

showed he had just the right stuff.

But wicked things in men’s hearts lurk

that can cut heads off like a Turk!

One day came an Indian

chased by enemies berserk.

Guth saved the bleeding, wounded one

just like the Good Samaritan.


It’s sad how some must lump men all,

the dross along with purest gold!

At risk to life a lesser man will fall;

but Guth, alone, proved firm and bold,

upheld the Golden Rule old.

He hid the man in a haystack,

and his pursuers, it is told,

chased his horse off down the track--

thus a life was given back!

Coming of the Iron Horse


Guth’s future bride came on the train--

Lucy Parsons to DeSmet.

In ‘88 weather turned insane,

a killer blizzard the country hit,

freezing housecats where they sit.

Frantic men crawled in deep snow,

passing homelights brightly lit.

At her schoolhouse door Lucy said “No!”

She saved the children, not letting them go.


The rail line brought boom to Bryant.

Settlers poured in from all parts.

Like Guth, hard-working, self-reliant,

they soon had churches, school, and the arts.

Filled with honest souls and giving hearts,

the Frontier city built up fast.

Produce poured from farms in carts,

a Cornucopia seemingly to last,

a New Lebanon from the Bible’s past.


David, Lucy, met and married;

the year was 1894.

Railways had not yet bowed to greed,

as a new century knocked at the door.

Anyone who worked could gain, and more;

Welfare was a neighbor’s hand, dependence non-existent.

No one thought himself was poor,

even though he might lack one red cent,

as along as he had able hands his Maker lent.

Coming of the Apples


Bread cast on waters will come back,

it is promised in God’s Book.

And what’s more, there’s interest in your sack,

compounded quarterly, if you look!

Thus, David Guth, on a trip took

to Rosebud Reservation in the west,

found long-ago kindness not forsook!

After five and twenty years at best,

the one he saved claimed Guth as guest.


Now a chief, he owed Guth all,

but David gave no room to greed.

After talk, the chief stood tall,

blessing his friend beyond need.

Homeward, Guth set off to lead

branded broncos, three train cars load.

Two he kept to till and seed,

the third he took, exchanged, not sold,

for Indiana apples red and gold!

Coming of the Broken Staff


Horseless carriages appeared,

and Lincoln Beachly with his plane.

Telegrams brought news you feared,

and telephones proved gossips’ gain.

Hestad’s “Due Bills” eased the pain

when hard cash took a vacation.

But then came Wall Street’s fall and scant rain,

and those who could, pulled stakes to run,

for all looked lost the years had won.


World War I seemed not this bad--

Dearth in tandem with great Drought.

Speculators lost all they had,

banks locked doors as guards stood about.

Progress everywhere was cast in doubt.

But along with misery and pain,

lil’ Shirley Temple’s dimpled pout

made folks laugh in the gloom

that filled the nation like a tomb.


“Crash,” Dust Bowl, and bank closures,

grasshoppers chewing up fence poles;

rich folk selling off mink furs,

Russian thistles gamboling like foals.

E’en pool hall men grew nervous about their souls.

But most folks pulled together despite empty bowls,

though some caved in, beaten from the first--

those were times that seemed accursed.


David the King in Psalm 69

cried to God in such darkness.

In distress he refused to resign

himself to heart heaviness.

“For God will save Zion!”

he ended up his plea--

an example of hope so fine

it lights dark times for you and me--

an R.S.V.P, Heaven’s call to dine.


Arrowheads in blowing soil;

“Baby Take a Bow” at the Strand.

No more washtub cabbages without toil;

George Washington looks over land

where hardship lays a heavy hand.

Lake Poinsett’s average is two feet.

Then Bryant turns a ripe fifty;

but don’t forget James Crossland’s feat:

he’s 94, a Civil War vet time can’t beat!

Coming Home of the War Heroes


And Dora Lundy arrived in ‘81,

to homestead Underwood quarter;

in ‘37 she’s 87 and far from done--

no pioneer you can name is heartier!

“Gone with the Wind” at Bryant Theater

just as war clouds darken Europe;

a madman went and seized the Ruhr--

a lying peace was full shown up,

and appeasement drank a bitter cup.


Bryanters fought jaws of tyranny

(“For Whom the Bell Tolls” was no jest).

Those who now make apology

never faced such foes in mortal test--

the kind that proves man’s mettle best.

Toughened, knit like strong-linked chain,

our soldiers served at Liberty’s behest.

All their sacrifice and pain

made double sure Old Glory’s gain.


Those who think world war a game

will no doubt count freedom cheap.

An Honor Roll Board shrines Bryant’s fame

in a vacant lot where hoppers leap.

They’re names of those the grateful keep.

Stars mark some with shining gold,

those whose blood was sown deep, deep.

All are heroes who walked bold,

treading footprints of giant mold...

treading footprints of giant mold.

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