Friday, September 22, 2006

Small Towns

Last weekend I made a last minute decision to head over to Mission on Saturday night. I didn't eat dinner before leaving, and then between the hour-long drive and the switch to central time, I found myself pulling into town around 9:30 with most available eateries already closed. I decided to head over to the gas station to get some lovely fried foods. When I hopped out of my car I paused for a second; something didn't feel right. Then I realized I didn't have my keys. I was hoping I hadn't locked my car, but when I turned around to check, I realized that not only had I locked it, but the engine was still running and the lights were on. Whoops.

I went inside the gas station and asked the cashier if she had anything that I could use to jimmy my way into the car. She came up with a coat hanger, so I went back outside and worked at that for a while. I'm pretty inexperienced with stealing cars, so I didn't make much progress. It was also 45 degrees out and the wind was ripping right through my 3 layers of winter clothing. One guy stopped by and suggested that I have the gas station call the Mission police, since they should have a "Sneaky Pete." So I went in, but the cashier said that the police would just make me call Junior or Slim or someone with a name like that, who would charge me a lot. So I went back out for a while to work with my coat hanger without much progress. The cold eventually drove me back inside, and I had the cashier call the police.

The first surprise was when the cashier identified herself by first name. She talked for a couple minutes and then reported back to me that both of the police station's Sneaky Petes had been stolen (seems problematic), but that Kenny over in Rosebud would be able to open my car for me. Then she handed me the phone and gave me the phone number to dial. The phone rang a couple times, I asked to talk to Kenny, and then I explained that I had locked myself out of my car at the Gus Stop. He said he would need forty bucks to open it for me, and I said fine.

I had to wait about 25 minutes for Kenny to make the drive over from Rosebud. In the meantime, one of the gas station attendant's husbands came by, and very helpfully tried to wedge a piece of wod he found into my window so he could get the door unlocked. I probably should've been stressed out, it kind of put me in a good mood to laugh at myself, and everyone was being really nice; four or five people walked by, offering various helpful comments or spots in the warmth of their cars. I was only nervous about one thing: after getting off the phone, I counted up the cash in my wallet and discovered I only had $37, and the ATM was out. When Kenny arrived I offered to buy him something from inside, but he was happy with just the $37. It took a couple tries, but he got me into my car pretty quickly, and then I was on my way.

I felt like I learned something, though--and not only not to be an idiot next time I am driving. It struck me in a new way how small this community is. I'm aware of how empty the land is, how far apart these towns are. But everyone I meet is a stanger, nameless to me, and it's easy to assume that I am just as anonymous, another passing face who won't be remembered. But this is a place where they can call the police and identify themselves by first name, or be known across the res as the late-arriving entrepreneur who profits off of fools like me. Anonymity may be hard to come by.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Let's Get a Little Mud on the Tires

Most of you don't know this, so I will point out that the title of this post is a reference to a Brad Paisley song. My attempts to appreciate country music have for the most part stalled--we don't really get any radio stations out here in Wanblee, so it's hard to get the necessary exposure--but "Mud on the Tires" is one of three or four songs that comes with my seal of approval.

Usually I drive out to Rapid City taking the "scenic route," on 44, rather than taking the interstate. Yesterday, though, I decided to get a little mud on the tires and take the extra-scenic route, and get a chance to explore the dirt road I've been running on, which, according to maps, runs through to just south of Interior.

The beginning of the road: about a half-mile from home. This is the way I run out almost everyday.

A view of the school water tower through a tree.

This pink house serves as a decent three mile marker. At this point, as you can see, I am still driving through open plains.

It's a decently hilly route.

A little over three miles out, you pass the Wanblee dump, clearly the least pleasant portion of the route. But somewhere between three and four miles is also where I really start to appreciate the road: the road narrows down to one lane and the fences end, so all of a sudden the landscape opens up around you with no barriers between you and the openness.

A glimpse of the badlands on the horizon.

Badlands getting closer. Out this way, these powerlines are some of the only things tethering this road to civilization.

A little over five miles out, the roads starts to dip and you first start to get into the badlands.

These kinds of gratings allow cars to pass through the fences, but cattle can't cross them. You see them a lot out on this road. This one is just about six miles out.

A sign for Crazy Horse School at that six-mile grating. I'm not sure who it is there to help.

A car overturned in the ditch beside the road. You see this kind of thing a lot.

I took this slightly rougher turn-off in order to get a little closer to the badlands and get the next couple pictures. I thought this was a good indication of what the road was like, though.

Rock formations. The movie Thunderheart, starring Val Kilmer, was filmed out here; I haven't seen it, though.

You head down this hill, and the road starts to get a little rougher, but you also end up right in the middle of the badlands.

Another abandoned car. This one looks pretty old.

Eventually the road gets really bad. Here is a pretty massive pothole. This is pretty much a new piece of the badlands being formed as the ground erodes away.

As you can see in the second photo, these are right next to the road.

"Open Range."

As you get closer to Interior and return to the prairie, the condition of the road improves a lot.

Another junked-out car.

Cool dead trees outside of Interior.
Assorted Photos

Nate requested more photos, so I tried to take a bunch recently. By the way, Nate, if you look back in the archives from earlier in the summer you'll see a lot more.

My finally put together bedroom. I think I might rearrange, though, so that when I am sitting at my desk I can look out the window.

Luke and I recently found our house to be infested with very large wasps. Fortunately, they seemed to really like Luke's room. There have been a couple inside my window pane, and one in my room, but the other day Luke killed seventeen in his room, which where then deposited here.

My classroom. Not too pretty, but it gets the job done. I was reading a classroom set-up checklist once, and under lighting it said natural lighting was best. None of that here, thank you, we don't do windows.


The high school is the upstairs hallway. Off to the right of this photo there is a little squirrel hole that leads underground to the elementary school.

Nate works for a non-profit that builds playgrounds in low-income communities, and I was supposed to send him some photos of our playground. Not much to speak of. Nate, I tried to get a third one, but some kids were playing on the other side of the playground so it will have to wait.

An idea of waht teacher housing is like.

The view down into twown from the front of our house. It's not really captured very well in a photograph, or at least with my photography skills. It's a nice view of the church and the cemetary, though.

The Wanblee Mart, our grocery store and gas station. It is just a blank gray building, completely unidentified by any kind of sign.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Random Problem from My Pre-Algebra Textbook

"The temperature rose from -4 degrees F to 45 degrees F in Spearfish, South Dakota, on January 22, 1943, in only 2 minutes! By how many degrees did the temperature change?"

Should be a fun winter.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I think I should spend more time outside here. I spend my whole day in my classroom, which has no windows, and then come home and get cracking on work, and never take a moment to appreciate my surroundings. On Thursday night, done with students for the week, Luke decided to fire up the grill in the backyard. When I walked out to join him, the sun was setting--always the most beautiful time of year out here--and everything was bathed in a purple and orange light. I don't always appreciate the layout of our neighborhood (it feels a bit like a development) but from up on our hill, we had a view of the church across the highway, the houses in town, and all the cars headed out along 44. Then, off in the distance we caught a glimpse of heat lightning storm--huge bolts of lightning cracking across the hills. We pulled out a couple of lawn chairs, I turned on some Dylan, and, as the night got darker, enjoyed the burgers and lightning.
Last Weekend

Here are some more photos from last weekend, a lot higher quality than anything I could have taken, courtesy of the lovely Netha. Hopefully this will tide over people like Baslow who are too lazy to read anything. I recommend you click through to check them out full size.

Todd County v. Bennett County. Over in Kyle, our turf is a lot more ragged, our uniforms are a lot less flashy, and we definently don't have lights. But we're still the better team. I'm about to leave for another football game against St. Francis, where some of my friends teach. I should probably stay home and get stuff done, since we have inservice tomorrow (ouch), but oh well.

Kids at the game.

Matt and Dan at the campsite. In South Dakota, TFA is like the Suburu crew.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Weekend in the Hills

I have discovered that the landscape here is open enough to be malleable to one's mood. When we got out of school on Friday, I drove through overcast skies to Kyle to watch our football team play; I was happy to be freed for a long weekend, and as I walked out of the building and into 50-degree weather, the chill and the clouds struck me as perfect football weather, like we were deep into October instead of just beginning September. It reminded me of cross country in years gone past, only now I was lost in this wide-open, spectacular landscape, that, for the moment, only fueled my excitement for the weekend.

The football game was a lot of fun. It was wet and muddy, with fumbles just about every other play. Most of the spectators pulled their cars up to the field and honked whenever there was an exciting play. I felt an old thrill watching the boys play, remembering what it was like to compete in high school sports--how important the game (or meet) is for that passing moment. We have a joint team with the school in Kyle, with only 4 of the players coming from my school; but that's not bad when you consider we only have 45 or so students total at the moment. We put a hurting on Hill City, 33-10, and one of the players had a couple of very good runs. I'm excited for more football.

After the game was over, I drove to Mission where I watched another football game, this time Todd County v. Bennett County. By this point the temperature had dropped down into the forties and it was raining pretty good, so it was less pleasant, and less exciting since it wasn't my team. I stuck around for a couple quarters and then headed out to get dry. I should've taken some pictures when I was at Kyle, because the field there really illustrates rural high school football as well. Netha was taking pictures for the Todd County yearbook, though, so eventually I should have some pictures of the second game.

On Saturday afternoon I drove out to Rapid City. A bunch of TFA'ers met at a restaurant downtown before heading down towards Custer to go camping for the night. It ended up being fairly ridiculous; quiet hours began at 10, which is when we left the restaurant, and we had to drive an hour and a half to get to the site, dropping off most of the cars in Custer because we were illegally packing extra campers into our campsite. I rode in from Custer with the ladies from Kyle, and it was fun to see them again. They inadvertantly took the scenic route, though, which was less effective at night; what I could see was fairly spooky though, as we drove through some moonscape rock formations and then drove through one-lane tunnels drilled through the Hills. At one point we passed a buffalo hanging out right next to the road, and a couple of the girls flipped; I think they were paying too much attention to the signs that recommended caution around the buffalo. Seemed pretty harmless to me, but then again, I have it on good authority that I should go walking with the buffalo. If it doesn't kill me, it's supposed to be a spectacular experience. I finally made it to the campsite a little after 11:30. A bunch of us packed into one of the tent and very quietly enjoyed the half-gallon jugs of beer we purchased at the brewery in Rapid. Then we settled in for the night, trying to keep warm now that temperatures had dropped into the 30s (keep in mind that just a week and a half ago it was 105 out this way; even today it's already back in the 80s).

In the morning I finally got to see the beauty of the Hills by daylight, although I didn't do much sightseeing as I wanted to get back to Rapid and do some shopping. I was pretty bad about taking pictures again; hopefully Netha will be able to give me some good pictures from the Black Hills, too.

Our campsite in the morning.

When I got back from Rapid City on Saturday night, my feelings about the landscape had come full circle. I've never been a fan of returning from trips, and to return from hanging with everyone to an empty house was really tough--especially for someone who's used to having people around all the time. With Luke home for the weekend I felt pretty isolated, and rather than the same grandeur I saw on Friday afternoon, everything struck me as barren. When you are down it is hard to put out of mind all of the poverty, suffering, and negativity that can reign in these parts, until those thoughts and images start to block out whatever beauty exists. Feeling a little lonesome, I went for a soul-cleansing 10-mile run and spent a while talking with people from back home--so thanks to everyone who got me through a lonely night.

Monday, September 04, 2006

School E-mails

Grant suggested that I send out mass emails about how teaching has been going, much like Donovan has done. I could probably get this done occasionally. If you want to receive the emails, just let me know.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Old Photos

Golden demanded more blogging, so here's a quick update. Soon I'll have a rundown of exploring the Black Hills this weekend. By the way, yes, school has started. I don't feel comfortable talking at length about school or about students, since it's too easy for the wrong person to stumble across a website. If you want to hear updates about teaching--and I'm sure I'll need to vent sometimes--feel free to email me, call me, etc. Or even if you just want to talk, that's cool, too.

These photos are about a week old, back when I was very impressed with the fact that we had furniture.

Here's my original sleeping arrangement for the first week or so I lived here.

Updated sleeping arranement--with a mattress! That's my box desk next to it. Although I just built myself a real desk tonight.

Furniture courtesy of the Macleans.

Luke hard at work at our new dining room table.