We are South Dakotans. We got our drivers licenses in Vermillion, despite the best efforts of some circuit-riding DMV vets from Sioux City. They did their best impression of French government functionaries (Ah, thees receipt for your camping does not leest your Dakota address!” “Uh, I paid $5 cash; he had no reason to ask for my address.” “But eet ees not on official letterhead. How can that be a receipt?” “This is what Vermillion Parks and Rec people do. If you wish, I will go there and try to get something more official.” “Ah, good. Geet one for Betty, too.” We got the stuff they wanted, and after a couple of hours they gave in to our determination. I think hunger played a role; we enjoyed a late breakfast hours after they made a long early drive. There was no test, written or driving, just a quick ”Look into the screen and read the top line”.
This morning we left for Valentine, NE, a supposedly picturesque little town south of the Badlands. Our route was blue highway NEB 12, The Outlaw Trail. It was rough even by the relaxed, graft-pocked standards of the Great State of Louisiana. But we came across a number of Firsts in today’s journey. We saw our first tumbleweed, a small one clearly embarrassed to be caught rolling across the road. We saw our first million cows. We saw our first wind turbine farm. We spent our first day on the road EVER without seeing one cop of any variety. Last but most exciting, we saw our first dozen wild turkeys crossing the highway at five points of the journey.
Valentine is a great place to send your sweetie a card to be postmarked by the local postales. But the town ain’t picturesque in any way one can imagine. It’s small and dying. It has a decent grocery store, a feedlot to our east (great since the prevailing wind is from the west), and not much else.
We reloaded our provisions at the local IGA. I parked behind a beat up compact Ford with two bumper stickers. One read “Proud to Be Lakota” and the other “I was Indian Before Indian Was Cool”. The customers in that store were mostly Lakota Sioux. The checkers and management were all wasichu. In time some of these Lakota offspring will integrate into American culture.
Those who don’t will die out.
That’s cold. That’s Darwinian. And that’s reality. Science can be such a bitch.