As we’ve traveled through this part of the country, I have been, well, I was going to say amazed, but instead I’ll say grossed out, by the massive numbers of grasshoppers that appear to be everywhere! Our first experience with these plagues of the Bible pests, was as we were driving to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. We wanted to visit the Wounded Knee monument there, and pay our respects to yet another white man fiasco. The weather was exceptional as we navigated our way-stunning blue skies, very warm, perfect for me, though I know that my erstwhile traveling companion and husband isn’t as enthusiastic about the searing temperatures as I tend to be. But because he is very forbearing, I had the windows open and the sunroof wide open to the skies above. Is there anything better than open skies, open country, complete freedom of the road because there are no pesky, irritating, bad drivers to deal with? (dangling participle there, I think).
Once again, we were off the beaten path, sticking to back roads, and we had our destination in the GPS, more or less. As anyone knows who has employed those oft time evil directionals, they will frequently lead you to places that put you on the edge of nowhere-and we were already on the edge of nowhere, which will be another blog (!)
I cannot tell you how bleak the landscape is, once you get onto the Reservation. There is a peculiar beauty to the landscape itself, but when you realize that people actually LIVE there, its another whole story. And what did “BIA” mean on the many signs we were seeing?
We drove endlessly, getting nowhere near where we thought we were supposed to be-then turned off on a road that looked vaguely promising in that it would take us in what was at least the proper direction. When I say “road” I mean one lane, kind of paved. Drove some more, and the GPS says turn, and after some discussion, we turned to the left, and it led us to a dirt road. Hmmm….ok, nowhere else TO go from there, so we hit the dirt road. Keep in mind that at this point, we had been on the road since morning, it was late, it was really, REALLY, hot, and we were ready to be NOT driving anymore! And the road turned into a-yep, its a path, in the prairie grass, that is nothing but tracks basically-but there was no turn around at that spot, so, with my heart thumping, we drove onto it. And before you could even grasp what was happening, grasshoppers were EVERYWHERE (as stated earlier!). But they weren’t everywhere OUTSIDE, they were everywhere INSIDE-the car that is. As our trusty Ford bumped its’ way through the grasses, it disturbed the grasshoppers, who immediately started leaping INTO the car through the windows, and through the sunroof. Birds, who were feeding on the grasshoppers, swooped back and forth in front of our car, the car was bumping over ruts, and-more and more grasshoppers. It took a moment to realize what exactly was happening, and then we frantically started pushing buttons to raise the windows and close the sunroof. By this time we were also trying to swat the grasshoppers who were landing on us, and throw them out of the car (which meant we needed to open the windows). Impossible situation in every way, clearly-and it didn’t just end when we got to a road, oh no! Yes, that road took us somewhere-right to the entrance to a ranch. We were able to tell it was a ranch, and private property, only because it had a fairly grand entrance-the kind you see in the movies, with two primitive logs supporting the crossbeam, with the skull of some long dead cow or bison or something centered on it. And I have to tell you-its’ different out here-people carry guns with enthusiasm, and will protect their property (another blog!), and how were we to know that some cowboy type wouldn’t come out shooting at trespassers? We were able to turn the car around (while continuing to dispose of aforementioned ghs,) but one more thing about signs and roads in this part of the back of beyond; you can drive for miles on what you think is a road, having seen no sign indicating otherwise, only to find out at the end that it is a private road leading to someone’s home. So, we still had quite a drive to get back to the dirt road, which led us to the small kind of paved road, which ultimately led us to a more major road. When we got to our lodging that night, and lifted the hood of the engine, it was covered with grasshopper parts, hundreds of them. Same, same for the grill of the car. I don’t know how many of them we decimated that day, driving through the prairie grasses of South Dakota, but I had confidence that there were a million more still hidden in the grasses. And for days afterwards, when we opened the car door, there would be 3 or 4 of the little buggers just waiting to be freed from their confines, and they would hop on out. A long day, that one….but a lesson learned about what I consider wildlife.