When Mom planned this trip, back when the world was open, she planned the furthest point of our travels to be a place in Wyoming called Devil’s Tower. As we fled Colorado, Mom thought to ask The Witch what the internet had to say about “Devil’s Tower,” just in case there were any news stories. “THEY JUST CLOSED IT THIS MORNING, YOU FOOLS!!!” The Witch laughed at us. “Seriously?!” Mom said. “It’s 3 miles around, and it’s in the middle of nowhere. Does it really get that many visitors that they couldn’t stay 6 feet apart? Sheesh.” “Well, isn’t that movie that it starred in about a big crowd of people all visiting at the same time so they could be smooshed into a crowded ship or something?” “I don’t really remember,” Mom said. “But I guess something like this could attract the crazies… Maybe there have been big crowds of unruly paranoid types going there? Maybe they just closed the visitor’s center and gift shop,” Mom said. “Yeah! This means something. This is important! Let’s keep going!” I cheered us on. “Maybe we can go in on foot for a quick run without bothering anyone,” Mom suggested. “Or maybe there are other trails outside the park that still have views.” “We’ll never know if we don’t check!” I said.
From the road, Wyoming looked so empty that someone would have to be very determined to buy toilet paper on a regular day, or to share their cooties. When there were towns, everything was closed and boarded up in a way that was hard to tell whether it was because of the boogeyvirus, or whether they were like that before.
Finally, the tower rose out of the cowlands in the distance like a giant stump. When a hill pokes out of the ground like a human’s big toe in a place where it doesn’t belong, that’s called a
butt. I’d seen lots of butts in Utah and Arizona and the posture of those southwestern butts seemed to defy a heavy downward momentum, as if they were resisting disintegration and decay into the skirt of rocks and sand spread at their feet. But this Wyoming butt burst purposefully out of the ground and seemed like it was leaning forward like it had something urgent to tell us. It was made up of long, straight columns and still seemed to be erupting out of the ground before our eyes. It was the biggest butt I’d ever seen in my life. I felt drawn to it. “Can we get closer?” I asked. “Let’s see,” Mom said, taking the final turn toward the entrance to the park. “It’s bigger than I thought,” she said as the butt pulled on her eyeballs up off the road until she was leaning on the driving wheel to look up out of the Wagon’s front window. “I can see why it would seem like a dramatic spot for something supernatural.”
The entrance tardis was empty, and gates and just like in the movie there were signs standing all around it told us that the park was CLOSED… except for deliveries. “Look, Mom! We can drive in!” I said. “No one else will be as bold as we are, so we can do social distancing while we’re inside!” “It’s one thing to respectfully commit an act of civil disobedience when it’s about something political that we don’t agree with,” Mom said. “But I’m not sure this is a statement I want to make.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because I’m really not sure if it was right or wrong to close the park. No one knows. Since no one’s ever had to make these decisions before, people don’t really know what the right thing is.” “Mom! There’s nothing wrong with the air!” I said, sticking my nose in the fresh air that didn’t have a single human smell in it. “We’re not going to get infected by anybody, and we’re going to take only pictures and leave only paw prints!” “You need to check your privilege, Oscar. The only reason that it’s empty is because other people aren’t lucky enough to be refugees like us. They got stuck at home before this started, and they’re doing us a favor by staying home. Let’s thank them for doing that for us by making some sacrifices too.” “We’re living in a container the size of a parking space without wifi, bathrooms or electricity. Everyone’s been freaking out because they don’t have toilet paper, and you didn’t even think to bring toilet paper,” I pointed out. “Anyhow, they must have put this place in your head for a reason.” “Um… I think Steven Spielberg put this place in my head, and I don’t think it meant anything important.” “Is Steven Spielberg from outer space?” “No, he’s from Cincinnati.”
…And that’s how we wound up in South Dakota a day early.
Oscar the Pooch