The hills were beautiful. A slow-motion sea. Dried grass stalks, still dormant from the winter, took on the same color as the sun. The rare tree, also still dormant, empty, most of them looked old, sick and maybe dead, look noble and serene in this environment. Short bluffs and cliffs that wouldn't be noticed in Colorado or Arizona stick out like a frathouse heterosexual out here. The sky seems to take on the same look as the sun and the grass, dirty white, with traces of true yellow.
Everything made by humans here is fucking hideous. Cattle yards; mud, shit, puddles of water being churned into post-facto diarrhea and splattering onto the bored animals. There's a couple dozen abandoned houses out here. Some long ago tribe of brain donors, probably Kincaiders, tried to farm the sand out here. Their legacy is a scattered group of decaying heaps corrupting the perfect wall of tan. Sinking roofs, collapsing floors, windows that have been broken since before my mother was born. The abandoned shacks continue right up into Whiteclay, where many have been reclaimed by the Natives, sleeping off their hangovers and groaning their lives away
on moldering mattress-springs. The average family home in Pine Ridge, government funded, about one-third the age of the abandoned homesteads, looks almost the same.
The contrast between the natural perfection and man-made filth is cliche, but undeniable. The Buffalo Commons point of view looks very reasonable to one driving up Nebraska 87. At any rate, Manifest Destiny, the dogma that every patch of North America must be occupied or at least owned by whites, is exposed for the absolute lunacy it is. This is why the Lakota were conqured. This is why their culture was destroyed, their population decimated, the survivors broken and humiliated as a matter of policy. So that white Christians could exercise their God-given duty to bring proper American industry here and fail miserably.
The construction work was in full swing on the approach to Whiteclay. A teenage girl was directing traffic. She could have been fourteen or sixteen or maybe even eighteen. The cowgirls out here have the same look throughout their sexually active years. A little mascara, copious blush, blue jeans, pony tail. It's hard to tell the difference between a sixteen and a thirty-six year old, particularly since they're expected to act the same too.
Becky needed to pee, so we pulled up to Whiteclay grocery. A man at the door asked us where we were from. "Lincoln" we said.
"What are you doing here."
"Just seeing how it is"
"Heh heh, wrong place, keep on going."
Whiteclay grocery did not have a public bathroom, none of the liquor stores in Whiteclay do. If any place did, it would be Studio 54 on a Friday night. Becky walked out of the grocery and coolly trotted up the street. A man walked out of the bushes behind the grocery and motioned for us to come see him. That night, we would soak up the local culture and find that this was perfectly normal. As of now, the sight of a man emerging from the brush, spectre-like, and telling us to come to him really didn't rub us the right way. So we thought it best to ignore the man, pick up Becky, and find a restroom in town.
Becky was amused at our concern. She's amused by a lot of things. I'd like to know where she went to prison to be so cool on the streets of America's infected colon. But she was collected and we made our way across the border, marked by a sign reminding the driver that it was a dry reservation and nothing else.
The reservation landfill is as close to Nebraska as possible, as is the jail. The two miles of country road from the border into town is wide and well-lit. There are still somewhere around three hundred fatalities on it every year.
It's hard to say exactly where the town of Pine Ridge begins and ends. Neighborhoods peel off from the highways haphazardly for about two miles in every direction from "downtown" which consists of the grade school, a coffee shop, a Taco John's, a Pizza Hut, a grocery store, one or two thrift stores that may or may not have been open, one or two churches that may or may not have been open, a police station, which as far as we could tell consisted of a single SUV on the sidewalk, and Big Bat's gas station, right at the corner of highways 407 and 18 and clearly the anchor of the town.
We slowed down as we entered the town center from the south, passed the school, and, after some classic tourist driving maneuvers, pulled into Big Bat's.