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Found Objects



On Hwy 26 between Shoshoni and Casper, for the first time I saw antelope, cringing by the side of the road in groups of 2 or 3, hopping around, awaiting their desperate best chance to get across.

I also saw one that didn't make it. Nothing in their ancestry has prepared them for the maniac speed of the automobile.

Not far away a coyote had also gone under the wheels. The business of life goes on, regardless. Put a million cars in the way, you've still got to get your antelope every day. There's no such thing as a retired coyote, unless it's this fellow in the road.

I've been trying to think how to describe the orange-dirty-gold color of the grass here. It's coyote-colored. Just that shade.

Halfway to Casper, on the south side of the road, I passed by "Hell's Half Acre RV Park". A building, and a circle of empty sites set on a sharp upward slope that ends abruptly at a cliff above a rugged canyon. The earth is bare, and burnt looking. No sign of life.

There is a gate, and a sort of circular containment fence, like a corral, between the sites and the road, but nothing to keep anyone from running right off the precipice. And there was, on this morning, either smoke or a heavy mist rising from the canyon.

I kid you not. It looked like a macabre movie set.

The grounds were empty, and desolate looking. A few tire tracks in the dark sand. I didn't stop. I may even have speeded up a bit.

A little farther on, across the Powder River, I pulled over across from what looked like an abandoned service station to let some other speeders by. All the windows were boarded up. Propped up in front was a sheet of plywood painted white, bearing this cheery message: "Girls! Girls! Girls! Exotic Dancing! "

There were a couple of cheap aluminum worklights clamped to it, and the cords trailed down and ran around the corner of the building to where a battered old Winnebago squatted. It was close to noon. Nothing stirred.

I looked up the highway. Nothing. I looked back. Nothing, again, for miles. Just burnt-looking prairie, and a grey ribbon of highway. Where on earth do they get their clientele? Are there enough bored truckers out here to keep this place going?

Then it struck me. This is it. The end of the road. All those girls, the ones wearing a frilly skirt of dollars in their G-string, the ones I used to go watch in places with names like "The Doll House", way back in my early twenties, back when sex was a mystery you had to get liquored up to solve, this is where they ended up at my age.

This is where they retire. Just down the road from Hell's Half Acre, sleeping in a Winnebago, bumping and grinding in an abandoned building for an audience of 2 or 3, hoping the generator won't quit in the middle of a set.

It's like an old Austin Lounge Lizards song: "I'm at number 667, the Neighbor of the Beast."

I'm not making any of this up. Go see for yourself. Apparently God or somebody has a penchant for pathetic allegory. It's a veritable miracle play, a tableaux dragged together from found objects flung out along the highway.

A mis-en-scene of misery on the Wyoming steppes.

I couldn't make this stuff up. I wish I could.

Then I wouldn't need to travel.


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