“ ‘I worry about us’, he said, ‘if we aren’t producing artists here who can tell our story. A people with no art has lost his soul’” ~ Kathleen Norris [Dakota. A Spiritual Geography]
A desolate and eerie day? For most maybe. A deserted road from Atlantic City, WY, to Sweetwater on Highway 287 called the Hudson-Atlantic City Road. And on to a deserted town, Jeffrey, a Ghost Town? A modern Ghost Town. Strange enough I felt the loneliness on that road. Deeper than the Gravellies, there is nothing, beautiful deep nothing but us standing under the cloudless sky of the day. My stomach got a little knotted as we stopped a few times to listen to the uttermost silence imaginable, a drink of water, a snack, a feel of the tires just to make sure the Saint of Flats had the day off. I was there, we were there, and yet unconsciously my mind was already unraveling what is yet to come these day, the ones to be crossed off on this calendar I am watching this week. Unable to fully live the “moment”.
Spirit and I apart, long flights with each a stop over, noise, pollution, strangers, new spaces thousands of miles away. And yet the grand Prize of course, the best hug of it all from my Mother. The closest Being left in my Life, that is "Human Being". I know 2 weeks will pass so quickly as we have so much to talk about, so much persuasion on my part for her to move to Austin, TX, which would be a nice central location for us to be together more often as it should be. Hopes, always. I feel as I should get a handle on myself. Calm down I keep thinking over and over, what is the big deal? Thousands travel as such daily, millions maybe, why such a big anticipation? And yet “that feeling” keeps flaring up over and over… Deep breath.
We started the road from Atlantic City. Population? A few. With a couple road options and the chance to talk to a local for directions, just because. A crusty one proud of being a full timer in this harsh environment. He rolled.his eyes, immediately loosing his patience within the first few words. Funny I thought. He did not. I started comparing his space with Terlingua’s influx of tourists, the lost ones, the Urban Voyagers in their shiny Hummers and worthless Tom Tom fancy sexy female voice activated GPS. He realized I was not the Doctor on tour in between shifts, he apologized explaining the fact that Search and Rescue do get their calls at least on an average of once a week. Deserts are not forgiving. Never are.
We then on left after all was said and done, a short walk on Main Street, avoiding this time the ones that seem to have taken birth on the premises as my waves were not returned, only a glare from and through mostly long white hanging hair and untrimmed bushy overlapping eyebrows topped by an old and greasy oversized leather hat. My fond memories of Atlantic City. Winters are of the toughest in the area, the scars are visible throughout the better season, it is a fact I have discovered long time ago. I hear it mentioned as many not looking forward the again gray and cold days. The firewood stacked up, the feed for the animals, the chains needed on the tires, the shoveling of the snow on a daily basis. And yet, they stay, like a challenge they are proud of it, they feel as the Masters of the wilderness, a strength acquired, an attitude shown. I am stronger than you you who runs away to the heat of another winter. South.
The Hudson-Atlantic City Road was a new discovery for me. How can there be such emptiness when only a few hundreds of miles away so many are stacked up on top of each other, yelling loudly at each other, breathing what was once an air as clean as where I was. The road was mild, nothing too difficult, only bumpy at times without many mild changes of elevation. Always curious what would be beyond the hill climbed, it would be the same scenery with again a light brown ribbon of a road blending in with the horizon or the next bump of the next hill. A few cows here and there near by man made water ponds, a couple markers made of flat rocks free standing, probably marking someone’s land boundaries, that is all, and much Peace.
We finally hit Highway 287. Not much traffic, the drivers are starring at us maybe wondering why did we put ourselves through the ordeal of a non paved road when a Highway was present. I don’t expect anyone to understand, only have always this fantasy of a wish. There should not be any paved roads. We headed toward Jeffrey City. All I was told about was that it is an abandoned town, but not an old town. How could that be I had been thinking now for days. And I found out. It was the perfect destination coming out of a deserted road into a relinquished town. Again a Mine stood by it’s past reason of being. An Uranium Mine, not gold this time. It was called “Home on the Range” at one time but changed to “Jeffrey City” in 1957 when thousands streamed into town looking for high-paying mining jobs.
Today, well, it is the oddest sight, feeling, to stand on Main street where not a single car, not a single soul passes by only in company of the overgrown vegetation that has made it’s way through the more than ever cracks of the roads and cement sidewalks. The weeds have built a natural net on the tennis courts, the High School still stands as I was told harboring an Olympic size swimming pool. The Mine has shut down, the buildings are boarded, padlocked, the signs fading away are still up, there is no more fire trucks behind the big white doors even if the water still runs for the Church and the Bar still open and left alive by the neighboring locals from Split Rock, 14 miles away. The Church and the Bar, seemingly always the balance of any town!
And again the silence only broken up by the cars passing by on the highway at warp speeds I am sure never giving much thought to what was once even if I see the drivers turning their heads wondering again why we have stopped. I found a flyer posted for a community picnic coming up this Saturday. They are coming from Split Rock. I wish I would have been here to attend, no doubt many stories would have been heard, first hand. We walked some more, I expected any minute to have to jump off the middle of the stret, maybe suddenly all this was only a vision as traffic would take over. It did not happen. My kind of town.
Back on the Highway, on to the only fuel station at Three Forks and then on back catching as a teaser all the names of the roads I would like for us to adventure ourselves on next time we are here. Green Mountain Campground, one more destination to check out, maybe there are some trees there. We did get off road one more time that day, parallel to Highway 287 is a fast dirt road call ‘Graham Road” and were right on time to catch a glimpse of the red rocks present under the sun dimming, the ones that have stood up ahead of us for the past few millions of years.
Till next time… be well.
Ara & Spirit