Sep 18, 2009 | Badlands, SD
Sep 18, 2009

Rumbling along a rough dirt road past a colony of scattering prairie dogs, hundreds of grasshoppers leaped onto my windshield and stared at me with alien eyes. They seemed like messengers, guardians, or inspectors from some future time, here to warn me of what's soon to come. This was in the Badlands of South Dakota, where the ground is dessicated and crumbling and feels like breakfast granola in your hand. The landscape is burned, rainbow-hued, or black below a sunset, and the scenic lookouts are filled with old war veteran tourists and their faithful pear-shaped wives. At dusk, I passed through the Rocky mountains of Wyoming at 8,000 feet, where the pines stood still, looking scared, perhaps frightened by what the grasshoppers had to say. Coming down from the mountains after dark, a deer leaped onto the road in front of me. I slammed the brakes and swerved to miss it by a couple of inches. Speeding by, heart pounding, I looked to my left and saw its big black eye only a few inches from my window, staring.