I was sitting in Cowboy’s pickup truck crying my eyes out on the phone to one of my best friends on Saturday night. She told me to move back to Albuquerque, but I didn’t want to leave, I like my life here, and I really like him. I was wrapped in his new coat with his Lazy S G brand on it, after not finding my coat or the keys to my own car. Tension was so high between me and Cowboy that I had to get away from him on Sunday.
I left at first light, speeding my little blue car down the red dirt road with gravel and dust flying behind me, stopping only at Starbucks on the way out of town. The thought of listening to country music was too painful, so I pulled out my Andrew Sisters CDs and put “Don’t Fence Me In” on repeat. I was headed east to Devil’s Tower, and maybe Deadwood, SD.
I passed the small town of Moorcroft, then headed off on a tiny winding highway through grassy cow filled fields and forested hills full of deer that like to stand in the middle of the road. One ranch really captured my attention with its beautiful old red barn and my first view of the tower above the horizon. There is something majestic about a large rock sticking out above the hills, even the Sioux still go there to tie prayer clothes. They call it Bear Lodge because of the tale of seven maidens picking flowers who were chased by a bear. They prayed to the Great Spirit, and he felt sorry for them and lifted the rock up they were standing on to the heavens to save them. The bear tried climbing it, but only left scratch marks down the sides of it. The maidens stepped into heaven and became the constellation Pleiades that represents seven maidens giving birth. I was dragged out on the porch and into the middle of empty fields by my dad, the astronomy professor, all the time as a kid. We looked through the telescope at moons of other planets and comets, but most people in modern times are disconnected from the stars that were so important to our ancestors. Every culture has their own name and folklore attached to that particular constellation.
I am a birder, so I spent the morning staring at birds and taking lots of pictures of them and the tower. There were also lots of prairie dogs popping in and out of dirt holes in an open field. It felt good to be outside seeing new birds like that Red Crossbill, and I thought of how miserable Cowboy would be if he was with me. He complained that his parents took him to the “big stupid rock” all the time as a kid because they lived so close to it, and he doesn’t feel the need to walk around it any more. After talking to the park ranger forever about the birds I saw, she was excited to learn them, I decided to drive to Deadwood.
I stopped in the middle of the small highway to take a picture of the tower and a bunch of cattle grazing in front of it. The place was so deserted because it is still cold out, so I hardly saw anyone all morning. I discovered an Andrew Sister’s song about “Charlie” which is Cowboy’s name, and put it on repeat as my car hugged some ice free mountain road curves. I got some coffee in Aladdin, WY, population 15, and thumbed through the winter vests on sale with horse pictures on them as two locals starred at me.
Deadwood was tucked up into the mountains, or should I say Black Hills, in South Dakota. I looked up at the dark clouds and worried that it might snow a bit, and really didn’t want to drive those roads slick. I stayed a few hours though, after taking pictures some lady handed me champagne in a casino and pushed me towards the nearest slot machine hoping to take all my money. I found the place that "Wild Bill" Hickok was shot in that casino, they had some wax figures set up at a poker table and a huge sign saying something like “This is the exact spot where he was shot.” I snuck out a side door when the same lady came at me with chocolate cake and another glass of champagne, there weren’t too many people in town or the casino to gamble. I was disappointed to not see people in period dress; it was more of a modern town meant to steal your tourist dollars. I saw something about shoot outs in the summertime though, and could have found a buffalo burger if I was hungry I’m sure.
After seeing me leave, Cowboy decided to go someplace cool instead of working on his truck all day like he did on Saturday, getting mad at me when I asked him to saddle up Alice for some much needed fun on the beautiful sunny day. He took his roommate and the dogs up in the Big Horn mountains, and I was kind of heart broken that he didn’t take me, because I love being outdoors. We really didn’t talk to each other at all on Sunday, maybe both mad at each other for leaving each other behind. I heard him talking to his uncle on the phone about where he went, and they even saw a moose. He only knew where I went because I finally texted it to him after the day was over.
I dreaded seeing him on Monday afternoon as his blue pickup pulled into the drive, but he was really talkative and somehow we made up with each other. It feels good to not be mad at him anymore, I hope we can avoid pissing each other off so much in the future. I cooked up some elk tostadas (chalupas for you Texans) for dinner, and he kept folding my hand fried corn tortillas like taco shells which made me smile.