I'll be posting soon about Minneapolis, Fargo, and Standing Rock, but right now I'm in Glendive, Montana, where I've been for the last five days. On Friday, as I was driving up a long slope, my dashboard informed me that I now had reduced engine power, and I slowed to a crawl on I-94. There followed an ordeal of incompetence and confusion with the people at Good Sam roadside service that lasted for four hours and resulted in my truck being taken to a garage that only works on semis, because the dispatcher stubbornly insisted to the towing company that this was the closest "willing and able" mechanic, even though they don't work on pickup trucks at all and everyone told them so.
But at last the kind crew from Gibbs Towing dropped my trailer at the Glendive Campground, a small campground behind a big hotel, and across a field from the Yellowstone River. It was when I was checking in that a bright eyed old man asked me how I came to build my house. I said I'd tel him all about it after I signed in and by the time I walked back to my trailer, he and his wife Omi had pulled Big Red, the super van, into the spot next to me and came toward me with big, welcoming smiles. Over the next 24 hours we talked a lot, they told me they were on their way to Standing Rock, and invited me to come speak in their hom town, and they also drove me to fetch firewood and groceries, and then Bob used my mini-chainsaw to cut up all my wood for me. Did I mention they're both 80 years old?
Many of the the people in the campground were there longish term, working temporary jobs in the area. Three white men were oil pipeline workers, assuring me that pipelines hardly ever leak, that more is spilled at the gas pump, that the computers detect any drop in pressure right away. The company line. They probably don't know that 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River, just a field away, in January of last year. Like everyone else, they were curious about the Canoa and also about the hitch, and then thy fixed my broken light for me. They told me they came from the northwest corner of Montana, and that the bottom had fallen out of the economy, so they were down here, replacing 60 year old pipe. At the far end of the lot I was told there were sugar beet workers who worked nights, so the owner avoided using power tools near where they slept. I did meet two of them, both white, who were quick to explain they didn't do manual labor, but rather, ran the machines. I wondered if there were indigenous Mexican and Central American workers asleep in the tiny trailers behind us.
The most unexpected thing about Glendive was how kind and helpful people were to me. The fact that white people tend to read me as white in places without Puerto Ricans surely was a factor, but people stopped to help me with the truck and the trailer multiple times, solved problems for me, lent me tools and at the garage that fixed my truck, one of the mechanics spent a good 20 minutes going over possible routes that would let me avoid steep uphills and snow. An the camp's owner
There's a story I missed that I would have loved to explore. One afternoon I went into the office to ask a question and met Max, ___'s friend, and the two fossil's they had just found. It emerged that Max finds lots of things, so many that their house is a museum visited by hundreds of people, and includes, if I heard right, artifacts from an entire settlement. Then Max mentions that there's also a war bonnet their great-great I don't know how many greats grandfather wore at the battle of Little Bighorn, with golden eagle feathers, and a knife belonging to a many greats grandmother who was a girl of nine, also at the battle. I ask what nation, and Max says Sioux. We make a date to go see the collection the next day, but Max has to work late and I have to get an oil change, unhook and re-hook my hitch at both ends, and record myself reading pieces for Letters from Earth and Sins Invalid, and there's no time left. But I'm filled with curiosity about this Lakota hunter of artifacts across Lakota land.
This morning when I left Glendive after five days, I was ready to go, but I arrived in a state of frustration over the necessary delay, sure i'd be bored, an I left full of gratitude for human kindness.
Aurora Levins Morales
This is my travel blog, the ship's log of my travels in my land boat, which, now that I live in it, I am calling Canoa.
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