His mother was raised to follow the meander of a prairie creek and find the meadows where sheep once grazed last century. Some things could be taken from the earth. Agates from a river bank or six scoops from a shovel filled her bucket with worms traded at a crossroads gas station for a cheeseburger and a malt or sometimes a darning needle and new cotton batting for another quilt.
In this way he came to follow the creases in the earth – the gullies and ravines leading to the river. Down river from the county dump he found abandoned appliances, gutted the copper lines and added them to the coils in the back of his father’s truck. After a month of riding the coulees, he could buy more books on his list: maybe an English/German dictionary or a used copy of Les Miserables.
He learned tracks were easier to find if he waited for the fields to burn. He found circles of rock, once –the remains of a teepee village. Arrowheads, elk teeth and beaded buttons. Stretched out on the prairie grass — earth between his fingers, he imagined hearing buffalo parties heading out, the snap from a campfire, and hides stretched against the poles. How many books would these artifacts buy? He pressed his ear to the ground, then held still and listened.