Monday, October 29, 2007

A Very Long Western Story, Part Two: Black Hills Fever Dreams

When I was a child, I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now, I've got that feeling once again.
I can't explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
--Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"

When I was a small boy, I had some disease. My mother once told me it was Scarlet Fever, but I was under the impression that that was fatal, so let's say it was something else. At any rate, I remember very little about the time except these amazing fever-induced (I'm assuming) hallucinations or visual interpretations of images from the television.

During my convalescence, it seems, according to my memory, that I watched a great deal of TV. I remember a cartoon about a girl choking on a chicken bone. That was vivid and very blue--it had a Shel Silverstein meets Maurice Sendak kind of feel. When my grandmother was pretty sick, she used to like when I read Where the Wild Things Are to her. Ironically, it always reminded me of that dreamy childhood sickness feeling. Strange, but I just thought about that. Anyway, I also remember an episode of Soul Train in which every one had very large heads and they were levitating. Then again, that could have simply been the hair- and shoe-styles of the day making them look like that. I still to this day, when I have a fever, feel as if my own body has grown immense, and that, while I know if I look at my feet they will be right there, five and a half feet or so away from my eyes, they feel like they are a hundred feet away. It's a weird feeling, let me tell you. One other thing I remember is an image, from what I cannot recall, in which a metal, robot-like, pterodactyl-looking thing with orange wings fell burning from the sky. It writhed and roared on the oily street as reddish flames engulfed it. I was horrified.

The farthest one might be able to get from the oily street, writhing, burning pterodactyl or not, might be a long stretch of the plains of southwestern South Dakota. It was a veritable sea of rolling brownish hills, resplendent in its dry grassiness, as it crested and receded under the wide blue sky. This was the predominant view as Monkey and I drove through Wind Cave National Park, where visitors can find Wind Cave (which I'll tell you about next time). In addition to Wind Cave, the park is home to a host of free-ranging (at large, they like to call them) prairie ruminants. We literally stopped the car in the middle of the road at the first sight of pronghorn antelope, not 300 yards from the road. We also saw, on a forty-five minute trek up US 385, through the park, bison, elk, coyote, and prairie dogs.

Yes, prairie dogs, as far as the eye could see, acres and acres of prairie dog town. Time would show that these towns were merely villages, compared to some, but that is (like Wind Cave) another story for another time. However, at this particular point in time, it was a thrill to see these little sentries of the plains up close. Monkey and I had seen prairie dogs (not dogs at all really, but, I think you know that) on our treks back and forth to Oregon. Once, in Wyoming, a little scamp ran out in front of Monkey and nearly wrecked her. Boy, that was fun!

Passing out of the park, however, did not end our views of nature, nor our startlements (as the Tiresias-blind railway handcar driver says in O Brother Where Art Thou?). With so much land and so few people, there are a great number more deer and elk and such running loose up in SD. The side of the road is like a waiting area for wild undulates, looking to collide with a speeding vehicle. Lucky for us, we never met with one of these suicide mammals, but we kept a nervous, watchful eye while in the area.

As we approached our destination, Hill City, SD, our nervous, watchful eye gazed upon the unfinished (perhaps never-to-be finished) startlement known as the Crazy Horse Monument. Really just a face and an arm pushing forward out of a mountain side, the monument seems to rise up above everything nearby. From a business standpoint, that doesn't seem very wise (especially when you're charging ten bucks a pop and your sculpture isn't done yet), but for the roadway gawkers (hello!) it is a boon, let me tell you. We had plans on visiting the monument proper on Tuesday, so we just snapped a few polaroids at seventy miles per and kept on rolling. After all, we had been rolling for about eight hours at this point, and the driving was getting a might tiresome. Little did I know that by the time we were done with the trip we would have covered two thousand miles over five days, but, that's another other story for another other day.

Of course, we rolled into Hill City at about four o'clock, an hour ahead of schedule, because we missed the damned Carhenge. We couldn't check into our lodgings, so we decided to wander about the town for a few minutes. It's a small town, with a population of about 700; we figured it wouldn't take long to see what was to be seen. After a brief pause for the cause at the local Exxon, we came upon a sight that filled me with wonder and awe. A true startlement, inducing dizziness, fainting spells, and pseudo-fevers in the author. For there, perched upon the Black Hills Dinosaur Museum, wingless, and no longer aflame, was a thirty-four year old vision from my past.

1 comment:

La Fashionista said...

That is a truly exceptional arc in your blog post, Reda. There are hints for future posts, leaving us faithful reader(s) in eager anticipay, along with an intriguing arc of wack childhood hallucinations and dinosaur lore. This post just about has it all, I say!

My only grumble grumble wah wah about it is your rub-salt-in-the-wound picture of an OMM wannabe. You know a sister's all about the old school organic profiles in the mountains!

I salute your weirdness as always. A well-writ, enjoyable post. Tell us more more more about your adventures!