Zephyrus, the Greek god of the gentle west wind appeared at our Redwater Revival Camp last night just a stones throw over the South Dakota border into Wyoming. As one local proprietor in Spear Fish phrased it, “I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for the rest of South Dakota.” It’s beautiful here. Tomorrow we will drive to Graybull, Wyoming across the Big Horn Mountains but for now we hunker down next to a fast running brook and a brilliant red cliff. Hipcamp.com (I’m not kidding, it’s a great web site for off the grid camping) has gee whiz technology with a link to campsite directions but there was a disclaimer that it would only bring you within 200 feet of the turn off at Redwater Creek Road to Dan Paul Lane where you will drive slowly until you see a red 1939 Ford tractor, the first year Ford made tractors, (Dad had a 1946 model) then down a steep hill to camp.
It is Sunday and I showered in full view of the prairie dogs but as I captioned the description my phone autocorrected to praise shower instead of prairie shower. Which seemed right. The rocks and streams and grass calling out to God and me beginning the day in nature with nowhere to hide. I’m trying to channel my inner Lewis and Clark. We’ve seen so much of America in 24 hours. Beautiful spacious skies, amber waving grain, mountainous multi-hued majesties, plains bearing both the fruit of plenty and the failed harvest and abject poverty seen through the long lenses of century old wounds, the Redbud Reservation and Wounded Knee.
After two days of RV life, I’ve determined that this is not the life depicted in Downton Abbey and if Robert or Mary magically appeared and asked who will dress me today, well, I would tell them you are on your own.
Serendipity arises and asks will you join. I said yes twice and no once. I said yes to a brisk morning prairie shower aided by a solar heated bag of water hanging from a tree limb, my shower screen minimally provided by an upright picnic table.
I said yes to the touristy campiness of Wall drug where my family stopped fifty years ago.
I said no to the indulgence of mountain oysters eaten alongside leather sporting bikers.
There is a certain level of grit and heartiness to the RV life. Steps, levelers, water and waste hoses, canopies, chairs, fire pits, and refuse all are put away and secure as we left Saturday morning for with Spear Fish SD.
There is a spare and simple beauty to this land. This is unexplored territory for Bob. He has never ventured into the Great Plains farther north than Salina, KS. There are cattle, black and red and white roaming these Badlands and a river called White just like in Arkansas, only this one really is the color of creamy chalk. The name of the river in the Lakota language Makhízita wakpá, or “White Dirt River” from the sediment it carries from erosion, especially limestone and volcanic ash from the Badlands.
I often think of myself in Wendell Berry’s phrase, “As a young man with unforeseen debilities.” Time is neither young or old, but simply new always. And as we travel it is thusly so, time is new. We get up each day wondering where we are and where we came from and where will we go. Luminous clouds drift over Redwater Camp mingling with the pastel reflections of the setting sun and red cliffs. We talk over citronella candles and the whispering brook about children tonight until stars light up over us like magic. The zephyr refreshes then is still. Just like love. It comes without asking bringing cool refreshment and then gently subsides. I am astonished at how I love my children still, so deeply, and my wife, almost as old as me, I love as I loved young. And this land I love as I was young also, seeing it anew, I am changed, I am grateful. Thanks for riding along and see you in Graybull, Wyoming.