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Thursday, 8 September 2011

‘You drive, and I’ll tell you where to go.’ Kitty’s mother, L., had offered to take me to Rapid, but didn’t want to drive both ways. She has a large truck with manual transmission and a six-speed gear-box, so it took me a while to get adjusted. Kitty had driven me to her mother’s house, and her parting words to me were a conspiratorial, ‘Y’know, my mother likes to… talk.’ Ha. So do I – especially after another week in solitary. I don’t think L got a word in till we were through Gordon, where she had to drop off some library books.

We went the scenic route, through the Pine Ridge reservation and past the Wounded Knee memorial. I’ve been that way once before – when a buddy and I were up here in 1996. I remember that I didn’t feel comfortable. But he’s a former news reporter, and has none of my reticence, so we parked the car, got out and went to look at the monument, the graves. All I really remember of that brief visit is the contrast between a site which commemorates a landmark event in Native history and, say, any U.S. military cemetery you care to go to. To put it bluntly, Wounded Knee looks shoddy. But then you could say it was a pretty shoddy event that took place there.

I lucked out at the airport. As I always do, I’d booked the cheapest smallest car that Alamo offer – and got upgraded to a nice, comfortable Ford Focus. This time they didn’t even try the old ‘We have a special offer today’ to try to get me to pay for it. I’ve only once been caught out – and that was when I flew into Albuquerque with two friends, six cases between us, and found that they did indeed have one tiny, two-door sedan. We paid up, and took the SUV option.     

After a large Mexican lunch I went to Wal-Mart, spent $103, mostly on seasonal fruits and other produce, and headed south. At Chadron I had a number of calls to make. First, Lariat Liquor for a smile and some beer, then the Bean Broker for coffee and what they call a fruit scone but I call a rock bun. My grandmother used to make them, and this was every bit as good as hers – only twice as big. I got a very warm welcome from Andie, who runs the place and has that gift of making all her customers feel special. Now that the college is back in session she has a series of music and poetry gigs going on a Friday night. I told her that since I plan to do some more archival reading I may well drop in on one.

From there I headed across to the Olde Main Street Inn where Jeannie’s mother pulled out the paper and showed me a story about a certain Yvonne Sandoz from Switzerland who’s coming over shortly and will address audiences in Alliance and in Chadron – at the Bean Broker. Since I’m going home in less than  four weeks I may as well record that my initial response - ‘Hey, that’s great; I need to talk to this woman’ – was followed by, ‘Why the hell didn’t anybody at the Sandoz Society bother to tell me about this?’ Ho hum….

I rarely go into Jeannie’s place without bumping into another character or two. I’ve occasionally wondered if there isn’t a sign on Hwy 20 saying ‘Waifs, Strays and Interesting People This Way’. They all end up there.  Bill and Jackie Callahan  - they call themselves ‘Perpetual Honeymooners’ – were passing through on their way back to southern Illinois. They have to be in their fifties, maybe even my age. It’s hard to tell. They ride a big, mean Harley, and make a western trip most years. This time it’s been L.A., Fresno, Sundance and back through here. Bill, a highway maintenance guy – in fact, he’s the county commissioner -  wanted to buy me beer and it all but broke my heart to turn him down, but I was tired and still had a ninety-mile drive ahead of me

By the time I turned in of Hwy 61 the sun had gone. In the ranch yard I transferred my ten bags of groceries and two packs of beer to Mercy, and drove home.


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