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Morrene Wisdahl recalls how the well on her people’s place was hundreds of yards from the homestead, and the water froze in winter. She tells of how in summer that well was circled by wild mint and yellow buttercups, smiling at the memory, and suddenly the beckoning of the land to its first settlers fills the room.

Melvin explains the drive behind settlement by recalling what his uncle told him of Norway: “They starved us out.”

“I saw Corinth in its heyday,” he reports, “and I saw its dissolution. Blacksmith, two groceries, lumberyard, pool hall, hotel, hardware, bank, International Harvester dealer, dance hall—the biggest one in all of the local towns—all the toughs would come and fight all night.”

The town and Melvin and Morrene are bedrock America, but here the rock is shattering. He and his brothers and his late friend Oscar all served in World War II. Every winter he’d go by Oscar’s and say, “Well, do you remember how you were years ago at this time?” and Oscar would always answer, “Cold.”

He stops, pinches his nose, and all but weeps, and says, “I’m sorry.”

Then he continues, “I saw boys in a fetal position. They were afraid to move. And they wet themselves and soiled themselves.”

In the neighboring house, an infantry uniform hangs in the closet, the campaign cap perfectly folded on the shoulder. Sometimes in winter, snow drifts in.

Something is ending here that no one ever saw coming. There is nothing to be done: It is simply the acting out of an economic reality.

It is hard to watch. Yet it is impossible to look away.

In Alkabo, the two-story public school still stands, fully equipped with trophies, musical instruments, and books. The students have long gone. The neighboring baseball field is named Field of Dreams.

Just south is Writing Rock, where two stones bear prehistoric drawings. The native people said the rocks could tell the future, but then scholars took one stone away for some years. Since that time the stones have been mute.

Charles Bowden is a Tucson-based author who writes frequently about human migration. Eugene Richards is an award-winning photojournalist who journeyed across the High Plains to document the "transient nature of things."
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