Monday, December 24, 2007

Visions of Sugarplums

The sisters snuggled down in the double bed they shared, but they couldn't sleep. Cuddling their new stuffed animals given to them by their grandma that evening, they whispered in the light of the glow of the night light that gave the room a magical feeling. In a few short hours, Santa would be there and leave them presents, because they had been good all year. Not perfect, but surely Santa would forgive small grievances once again, like he does every year.

Wearing the pink silky pajamas that were also gifts from the grandparents made them feel special. Pretty. Just like Shirley Temple in the movie "The Little Princess." They felt as if they lived in a mansion instead of the tiny ten-by-fifty-foot trailer that was their home.

"You kids go to sleep now, or Santa isn't going to come!" scolded Mama through the door. "If you don't stop talking I am going to turn out the light." The sisters promised they would be quiet and they closed their eyes and tried their best to comply, but after Mama was in the kitchen, the girls resumed their soft jabbering.

"How do you think he gets in our house when we don't have a chimney?"

"Well, Mama says he has a magic key that works on all houses without chimneys."

"I think he can make himself very, very tiny and come in through the keyhole like Daddy says."

"How do you think he eats all those cookies that all those children leave him without getting a belly ache?"

"He probably gives some to his reindeer and takes some back for the elves and Mrs Claus."

As they whispered in the soft, yellow glow of the tiny lamp, their eyes grew heavy. Soon their breathing was steady and rhythmic. Their eyes moved back and forth behind their lids as dreams of sugarplums and fairies, and Santa danced in their heads.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

by D. Bowden

Albert put the water on the stove to heat for tea. Mr. Tibbs rubbed his charcoal-gray body all around the old man’s ankles. Pulling his worn navy blue sweater around his chest, he leaned down to pet his loyal friend. Wind beat against his shabby house, rattling the tiles on the roof that needed replacing. Fire crackled in the iron pot-bellied stove in the corner, which was all there was to provide warmth for his little cottage. “Gettin’ dark already Tibbs.” He spoke to the cat as if talking to a person, and the feline looked at its master as if it understood. “I hate winter, and the darkness, and the gales.” The kettle whistled announcing that the water was hot and Albert poured some into a waiting cup which held a bag of Earl Grey. He carried his steaming beverage carefully to the worn-out chair that faced the windows and sat down to look out into the twilight. Leaves furiously flew about and sailed hither and tither to the ground only to be blown back up into the air again and spun about. “Alone again, hey Tibbs? Just you an’ me. No one cares about an old man and his ol’ cat.” He sat there sipping his tea, watching dusk turned to darkness, and when the fire in the pot-bellied stove dwindled to a few smoldering embers, he bid Mr. Tibbs goodnight and went to bed.

In the morning, the winds had died down and sunbeams burst through the window panes and shone across the pitted wood planking of the floor. Mr. Tibbs was stretched out in a pool of light, basking in its warmth. Albert bent down and scratched the cat’s soft stomach. “Good mornin’ kitty. You hungry?” This was their daily routine. Following Albert to the kitchen, the cat pranced back and forth and meowed for its breakfast. “There you go lil’ buddy.” He set the dish of tuna and liver on the floor, watching Mr. Tibbs devour it in seconds. Putting an egg in a pan of water, he set it to boil on the stove. Filling the kettle, he started water for his tea, then he walked to the door, opened it and there was his newspaper left on the mat as it always was each morning by six o’clock. Picking it up and shaking it open, he wandered back to the kitchen table and looked at the headlines. Depressing. War. Violence. Murder. “It’s always the same, “ he muttered. Folding the paper he rose from the table. His knees creaked and his joints crackled as he stood up and went to the stove to retrieve his egg and to pour his water for tea. Bringing his meal to the table, he just got comfortable and was about to take his first bite of food when the telephone rang.”Bloody phone! Always when I am about to eat!” Shoving the chair back angrily, he got up and walked to the front room and lifted the receiver. It was his daughter, Ellen. “Hello Dad. How are you? Did I wake you?”
“No, as a matter of fact, I was about to eat my breakfast.”
“I was thinking of coming by today to bring you lunch and have a chat.”
“What in the world about?” He looked longingly at his egg, which was getting cold.
“I found this very nice place for you to live where you won’t have to do a thing. Just enjoy life!
Let other people do the maintenance for you, make your meals . . .”
“Wait a minute! I told you I don’t want to talk about that. I’m done talkin’ about that. I’m not
goin’ anywhere! Now can I get back to my breakfast?”
“But Dad, you are alone there. What if something happens? You need people around. People
your own age. Don’t you get lonely?”
“I like being alone. I don’t like bein’ around old people. All they do is complain!”
“You could make some new friends.”
“That was fine when I was ten, but make a friend at my age and they’ll die on your before you
even get to know them, so what’s the point?”
“You are impossible, Dad! I will be over around noon to show you the brochures. The least you
can do is look at them after all the trouble I’ve gone through!”
She hung up the phone before he had another chance to speak. His egg was inedible.
“Why can’t she just leave me be?” He scraped it into the cat’s bowl while grumbling to himself
and went to his room to dress.

At noon, peering out the window, he watched for Ellen’s Land Rover. “Hope she gets here soon, Tibbs.” A quarter after twelve and she still hadn’t arrived. Twelve-thirty. He sat for awhile on the front porch, waiting with the cat in his lap. At quarter to one he grew angry. “We’re not waitin’ any longer, Tibbs!” and he marched back into his tiny house to make lunch, Mr. Tibbs rushing inside ahead of him, his tail high in the air. The screen door slammed behind them and he heard the sound of gravel crunching under tires. She had finally arrived, but wanting to make a point, he pulled the bread from the breadbox, quickly cut two slices and a hunk of salami from the roll, slapped it all together and was holding his hastily-made sandwich in his hand when he stood in the doorway to greet her. “I thought you weren’t comin’!” Taking a bite of his sandwich, he looked at his watch in an exaggerated manner.
“I’m sorry Dad. I left a little late and was held up in traffic.” She pushed her way in and set bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. “I brought some extra things for you since I was at the store.”
“You don’t have your fancy portable phone with you?”
“Yes, but you knew I was coming. I would have called if I was going to be really late.”
“You are really late! My stomach was growlin’. Young people today are so inconsiderate!"
“I’ll make you something to eat while you look at these.” She laid a handful of pamphlets on the table and started unloading the bags of groceries and putting them away.”The place is really nice, Dad. Brand new.”
“Hmmm. I don’t want to look at them. I like it here.”
“With the roof falling down? And the drafts that make you sick every winter? Be reasonable, Dad.” She lit a fire under a pan and put a little olive oil in the bottom and let it heat up. In
another pan she put rice and water to cook.
“I have my lunch, you don’t have to bother with that.”
“White flour with animal by-products do not make a good lunch.”
“I’ve been eatin’ it for years and it hasn’t hurt me.”
“There are additives and preservatives in that stuff.”
“That’s why I’ve lived this long. I am well-preserved!” He laughed, wheezed, then coughed. She rolled her eyes as she chopped vegetables.
“You’re going through a lot of trouble for nothin’. I just finished my sandwich. I’m full. I won’t be able to eat any of that stuff.”
“Then I will have some and you can have the leftovers for supper.” She tossed the vegetables in
the pan and stirred rapidly.
He stood next to her and watched. “What is that anyway? “
“Stir fry. It’s healthy and good for you.”
When the rice was done, she spooned some onto a plate and put some of the vegetable mixture on top. She took it to the table and started eating.
“Well?” He stood in the middle of the kitchen, pouting.
“Well, what?”
“Well, don’t you care about your father? You just sit down there and eat without me?”
“You ate. You don’t want any of this stuff, remember?”
“Maybe I will try a teensy bit. See if I like it because if I don’t, then you can take it with you when you leave.” He ate two platefuls, complaining the whole time that the vegetables were raw. Afterwards she cleaned up the dishes and finished putting the rest of the groceries away.
“Now Dad, please look at these pamphlets carefully and keep an open mind. Consider all of your cold winters here, all the maintenance you can’t do or afford anymore and try to find the positive
in this place I’ve found.”
“You just want to make it easier for yourself! I am too much bother! It’s easier to put me in an old-blokes’s home than to trouble yourself around here!” Tears of frustration filled his eyes.
“Dad, you know I have to work. I can’t be here all the time and I worry about you. I would be here if I could, but it’s not possible. Please try to understand. Don’t make this more difficult than it already is.” She kissed him on the forehead and said she would call him soon.

He listened to the Land Rover idle away as he looked at the pile of brochures in his hands “Sunnyvale. . . Huh,” he grunted. Scratching his head then smoothing back his gray thinning hair, he looked downward through his bifocals as he read the glossy advertisements. “Vera would have liked this, but it’s not for me! I’m not goin’ anywhere! I’ll be just fine!” He tossed the pamphlets into the trash and went back outside to sit on the porch, Mr. Tibbs following close behind. How he missed Vera! How he longed for days gone by, when he worked loading and unloading the great vessels that docked at the quay. Ipswich had changed so much since those days, and so had he. He had been strong and life was good when he was protector of and provider for his wife and young daughter. He had been a man! Now what was he if he couldn’t even take care of himself?

A chilly breeze snapped him out of his melancholy musings and he found the purple shadows of evening had settled around. Mr. Tibbs had gone off into the garden to hunt for whatever cats hunt for. The sun was nearly gone. He pulled his sweater tightly around him and hugged himself as he thought about Sunnyvale Retirement Home. ‘She just want to make it easier for herself,’ he thought to himself. ‘Put the old man in a home and she don’t have to bother with him anymore.’ He looked at his scraggly garden. Dried stalks that had been green and leafy with flowery crowns of color on top only a few weeks before stood naked in the fading light “This is my home. I built this home with little help from anyone. And now she wants me to leave it. This is my home . . . my home!” Mr Tibbs appeared from the shadows and wound his way in and out between Albert’s feet, purring to be let inside. “Want your dinner, huh Tibbs? Let’s go put the kettle on.”

It was cold in the cottage. “Better get the fire going. It’s getting a bit nippy in here.” Picking up two pieces of wood from the pile, Albert opened the door of the pot-bellied stove and shoved them in. He struck a match and as he leaned over to light the wood, the match fell from his shaking hand, landing on the floor and immediately igniting the fringe of the old Persian carpet. “Oh no! Oh! Help! Help!” he yelled, frantically stomping at the burning rug. But no one heard his cries. Running to the kitchen, he grabbed some towels, ran back and began swatting at the flames. Mr. Tibbs ran off to hide underneath the bed. Grabbing the entire rug and flipping it upside down onto the blaze, he stomped and stomped until the flames were extinguished. Breathing heavily, collapsing into his ratty, old chair, Albert put his face into his hands and wept.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rug Shopping

D. Bowden
July 25, 2005

The old salesman hovered around the middle-aged couple expectantly. “I think this is a fine rug
here. Fine quality,” he offered.
“I don’t really like that one,”the middle-aged man snapped. “I don’t even want a rug.”
“But we need one, dear,” said the wife without looking at him. “You don’t want the wood floor
you just put in to be ruined by the wheels of the office chair. I like this one, it’s sort of artsy.”
“It’s dull. I don’t like it,” he countered.
“So, what kind of wood floor did you install in your home? Laminated? Hardwood?” inquired the salesman.
“Brazilian maple” barked the middle-aged man. He wished the salesman would just leave them
to look in peace.
“Oh, that’s a soft wood, “ said the salesman shaking his head.
“No, it’s hard, “ argued the middle-aged man.

The woman was ignoring them both as she browsed through the racks of area rugs.

“Now oak, cherry . . . those are hard woods. Maple is a soft wood, “ insisted the salesman, confident in his knowledge of flooring.
“I have maple in my diningroom and after eighteen years it looks like new,” said the middle-aged man.
“No it doesn’t,” said the woman without looking at either man.
“Well, Brazilian maple is probably harder than regular maple, I suppose, “ offered the salesman as if trying to build a rapport with the younger man.
“It’s not Brazilian maple in the dining room, just regular maple, “ he snapped.
“I like this one. Do you like this one? It’s a good deal too,” she said.
“Not really. It’s too, well . . . fuzzy. The design isn’t clear,” he criticized.

“You never like anything I pick out, “ complained the woman.
“Well, since I make the money, I want to make sure my money is spent on something that I like,” snarled the middle-aged man.
The salesman backed away and said, “I’ll be over here if you need me.”

“Thank you, “ said the woman to the salesman. She glared at the middle-aged man.
“Do you always have to do that?” she said in a stern whisper.
“I don’t even want a rug,” reiterated the middle-aged man.

They both left the store, he first and her following behind.
The bell clanged on the door as it
closed behind them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wedding vows

I said "I do" and so did he
So long ago when we were young.
Drenched in sweat from humidity
Of a steamy hot August day.
The minister droned on and on.
A big fly landed on his nose,
Making us laugh uncontrollably,
And we could think of nothing else.
We heard not our "holy" promises
As we recited rehearsed words
Memorized for the occasion.
They were not words written by us,
But expected by tradition;
Expected by church and family.
Voiced vows were unnecessary,
For we were already one.
Our hearts were bound together
Without the need for public display.
If we could live the day again,
We would go to a private place
In a quiet, cool, green forest
And confirm our promise of love
By looking in each other's eyes
Our arms holding each other close,
With sounds of Nature all around.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


In the middle of the night
Voices 'rouse me
From my peaceful slumber.
I resist.
But can't ignore them.
They scream loudly,
Keeping at me
Til I respond.
Please show yourself
If so rude to wake me,
Or let me linger
In sweet repose!
No amount of pleading
Will make them leave me
With dreams surrendered
Til morning comes.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Forever Friend and Love

Every morning before the light of dawn
He rises without complaint,
Quielty so as not to disturb
Those nestled in the cozy beds
While he goes out into the wee hours
In all kinds of weather,
Day after day, week after week,
To provide for his family.
No matter what life deals him,
He plods along relentlessly.
When people ask him "How are you?"
"Better and better!" is his reply!
He is like a rottweiler, I like to say;
Loyal, protective, and strong.
Loving and funny and brilliantly smart.
His sense of humor makes his green eyes shine
With mischief and affection
He is my lover, my soul mate,
my forever friend.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

stop and smell the rose
contemplate the velvetness
of its fragrant red

Monday, January 01, 2007

"Jason at Hay Butte Overlook - Badlands, S.D."

Blown Away by the Badlands

By D Bowden

Barren landscape stretches farther than the eye can see. Winds are blowing, a howl resounds, and one can almost hear the spirits of the Ghost Dancers as they chant and pray to invisible gods of nature. For more than eleven thousand years Native Americans once roamed this harsh land of deeply eroded buttes, and wide, rugged prairies of stone and little grass. This is a desolate land with few signs of life. No insects. Few animals. The wind chases itself through the shadows like a tired and desperate soul in search of a place to rest. Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands." My family and I were also unprepared. Although a friend had informed us about the ferocious winds of this mean land, we didn’t heed her warning.

We had never seen anything like it before. Huge emptiness of prehistoric rock hollowed out by the elements over time. No trees, some weeds, little water. When we arrived at mid-afternoon there wasn’t even the slightest breeze. As we drove into a private campground at Wall, South Dakota, we immediately noticed the odd-looking picnic “shelters.“ They were funny-looking tables with attached half-domes to create a partial roof and back wall Since there were no trees around, my husband and I figured these picnic shelters were built that way to provide protection from the sun in the hot summer months. Shaped like a cart on an amusement park tilt-a-whirl ride, these tables with attached seats were made of heavy iron with wood planking covered in parched and peeling white. Each tilt-a-whirl shelter was fastened to the ground with heavy-duty bolts and screws. ‘The owners probably don’t want anyone to steal them,” I rationalized, “but who would want one of those ugly things?”

After getting over our curiosity and amazement about the dining facilities, there was something very important I needed to do before we committed ourselves for the night. I had to inspect the restrooms and showers to make sure they were up to my standards of cleanliness. If they aren’t, we do not stay! I cannot have an enjoyable time if I am not able to take a shower and wash my hair! Our daughter would not use a pit toilet if her life depended on it. Having flush toilets and the hot water is a must! My husband doesn’t understand this requirement. Men are different though; they don’t care about getting clean while camping. It’s a manly activity. Roughing it gives them a sense of adventure -- a chance to be macho. For most women, camping is far from being a vacation and is merely a continuation of what we do at home, only without the luxuries of sink, stove and washing machine.

Having given the restroom and shower facilities my seal of approval, we were all set to drive around the campground several times and argue about which site was best. Looking back, this deliberation was pretty ridiculous considering that one campsite looked as barren, dry, hard and dirty as the next. Finally agreeing on a place to pitch our tent, we went to work setting up our temporary canvas and nylon abode. Hammering the stakes into the hardened earth was like trying to drive straw through a concrete wall. The thin, aluminum spikes bent like blades of grass and had to be straightened repeatedly. This took considerable time and made my husband very cranky. It was late afternoon when he finally succeeded in getting the stakes into the ground. We raised the wrinkled, mildew-smelling sleeping quarters and breathed a sigh of relief. After unloading the van and unrolling sleeping bags to prepare our beds for sleep, we just wanted to crawl inside our down cocoons and pass out, however, sleep was not yet to be. Children’s whiny voices reminded us that we must feed them. “We’re huuuuggggrrrryyy!” the small ones bellowed. Several yards from our campground stood the famous Wall Drug. The rustic strip mall of connected yellow and brown ramshackle buildings looked like an old western town seen in old-time cowboy movies. Remembering the billboard sign on the highway advertising a cafeteria at Wall Drug, we headed over there on foot in search of food.

Wall Drug is a fairly good-sized tourist trap in the midst of the huge expanse of rocky wasteland. One can find an array of attached mini-stores all filled with tourist bait. Having to walk through a maze of wooden booths and bins of miscellaneous junk, while saying “no” to our begging children along the way, we eventually located the cafeteria-style eatery. Each item was listed and priced individually. We each took a tray and went walking down the serving line, choosing various items. The kids wanted to try everything on the menu and I pointed out that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs because they were hungry. I was tired and my patience was wearing thin. My husband paid for the food while the kids and I went to find a place to sit that would fit all five of us. We all piled into a leather-upholstered booth and waited for my husband to deliver the grub. As we ate our supper, the sun was going down on the western horizon and a strong breeze began to blow.

After eating we browsed through the shops for items we did not need. Tables carved out of tree trunks, stuffed buffalo heads, dark-colored Indian dolls with eyes that opened and closed, the annoying mini-tom-toms that I would never allow our kids to buy and torture us with. Amazing -- all the junk for sale that people are stupid enough to buy like “authentic” Indian dream catchers, feathered tambourines, t-shirts that say “I’ve Been to Wall Drug” across the front in bright-colored letters! How could people waste their money on that crap? We left the shops with a large stuffed toy buffalo for our middle son, and miscellaneous souvenirs for the other two kids, a small dream-catcher for myself, and headed back toward “home.”

The winds were gusting quite a bit and I became concerned that our friend might have been right. I remember her words “don’t stay there unless you are in something hard-sided or permanently affixed to the ground – like a concrete building.“ Upon arriving back to our campsite, we found that a fancy sort of camping tour bus had parked a couple of campsites over from ours. Nighttime was upon us and still there were many empty lots left. Only two families tent camping-- one of them being us. People began to disembark from the shining hotel on wheels and walk towards Wall Drug. We said ‘hello’ to them and they smiled, nodded and answered us in a language foreign to our own, something that sounded like German. “What nice people” we thought. I looked enviously at their sleeping quarters as we went off to take showers. As my daughter, and I prepared to take our showers, we could hear the wind squealing though the cracked windows of the small, cinderblock shower building.

Walking back to our campsite, we all crawled inside our flimsy shelter and snuggled down inside our sleeping bags for a good night’s rest. My husband told the kids their usual camping bedtime story and after that they were all sleeping quietly. I always have a hard time falling asleep while camping. I am afraid that wild animals might come around and attack us, or that a murderer may come and kill all of us while we sleep. As I laid there, counting sheep for what felt like hours, I watched the tent expand—contract – expand -- contract -- in -– out — in — out. I felt like we were inside a giant cloth lung! How could they all sleep through this wild huffing and puffing? The winds grew stronger causing the “breathing” of the tent to intensify, like an old man with emphysema getting ready to cough us out! Then the canvas sides began to shake violently! The roof of the tent rose up and came down, over and over again as if a huge vacuum cleaner was trying to suck us up from above. We were all awake now, except for our oldest son, then about eight-years-old, who was sleeping peacefully through the commotion. The stakes started pulling up from the ground one by one, and the sides of the tent sagged around us. As my husband was going out the door to check out the “damage” the poles supporting the center of the tent came down and the canvas and nylon collapsed on top of us. He yelled “Wake up! Get out! Get out!” as if we were about to be buried in rubble of stone instead of lightweight fabric. Our daughter and middle son and I clamored out and stood there in the tempestuous winds and waited for direction from my husband as to what we were supposed to do next. Our neighbor’s tent, a modern dome-style type, was also “uprooted” and rolling away, chased by mischievous winds and tumbleweeds. My husband looked at us and realized there was one family member still buried in the debris! Our oldest was still inside, sleeping as if he were home in his own comfy bed. My husband was becoming quite frustrated, probed the heap of fallen canvas and felt our son’s body, then shoved him with his foot and shouted for him to wake up and get out! Still nothing. My husband then had to climb inside and drag the boy out like a sack of potatoes. He carried the still-sleeping boy to the van and threw him inside. I don’t think he woke up during the entire ordeal.

Though this trial seemed like an eternity when it was happening, all of this occurred in a fairly short amount of time. We were struggling to roll up the remnants of our fallen sleeping quarters as the German people were coming back to their bus, laughing and having a great time. As they walked past, they gawked and laughed at our predicament! How dare they laugh at us! ”What are you looking at?” my husband growled at them as the wind blew his hair back and whipped his clothes. He looked like a ship captain on the deck of a great vessel during a raging storm at sea. The German people snickered as they clamored up the steps and into the protection of their sturdy dormer bus and closed the door. We wedged the tent underneath the van, climbed inside our trusty, 1984 Dodge van and scrunched together for the night. My six-foot, three-inch tall husband slept sitting up in the driver’s seat. I lay on the bench seat in the middle of the van and the kids, being small, were quite comfortable on the floor in the back. Our van rocked and shook as the wind roared mercilessly. I worried at times that it might tip over on its side! It was hotter than Hades inside the vehicle. My daughter sleeps like a fish out of water and was thrashing about as if in response to the turbulence, but it’s how she always sleeps. We were all sweating, and our breath mingled together to form moisture that resembled saliva and it clung to the walls of the van. In the morning the interior reeked like serious halitosis. I lay there, uncomfortable and hot, and I watched the darkness turn to the pinkish light of dawn. The winds were still howling when we got up and went to the shower building to freshen up, change clothes and get ready for the day.

Cooking was still out of the question since the winds would not allow us to make a fire, though mu hubby wanted to attempt it anyway. We couldn’t get a match to stay lit. Deciding to serve cereal, I searched through our food boxes and found the Cheerios. My husband walked over to Wall Drug and brought back a half-gallon of milk. The only dishes I had brought from home were Styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons. Not good. I could not set a table, so each person had to hold onto his or her own bowl. I made the mistake of trying to pour the little round circles of oats into the bowls while standing outdoors under the shelter table. The Cheerios were immediately carried off to the next state. Using a van door as a shield, I managed to pour everyone some cereal and added milk. I told the kids to go sit at the funny table and eat. That was also a mistake. The cereal AND milk both blew out and away to the great beyond. We started discussing the design of the tables again, which we now believed was a feeble attempt to block the wind, not the sun. The designer failed miserably. We now realized the huge bolts, which fastened the tables to the ground, were to keep them blowing away to Timbuktu! Hungry, we resolved to go eat at the cafeteria at Wall Drug, where we found they have the best pecan rolls in the entire world.

As we packed up and got ready to move on to the Black Hills, the winds died down. We loaded the van and a loud stillness filled the air. We vowed if we were ever through the Badlands again, we would not camp there overnight. Had we learned our lesson? Of course we hadn’t. A few years later, on our way to the state of Washington, we rolled into the Badlands once again, with a pop-up camper in tow.

* * *

I had said that my days of tent camping were over. If the rest of the family loved it, I wasn’t stopping them, but I would let them go by themselves. So, after some debate and discussion we purchased a used 1988 Flagstaff pop-up camper. The interior of this tiny recreational home was quite comfortable. There was a queen-sized bed on one side, a full-sized bed on the other and the dinette table folded down to make a child-sized bed. Screened windows with zippered plastic flaps were all around, providing air, and protection from the elements. There were also curtains to provide privacy. A removable cooking stove could be used indoors or out and there was a sink with water hookup hoses. A small refrigerator kept food cold, and there was a gas heater if nights became too chilly. Our little travel home also had electric lights, cabinets for storage and stereo.

The only things missing were a shower and a toilet.

Since the campground we stayed at before was the only one in Wall, we had no trouble finding it again. We felt experienced and prepared. Invincible! Ah-ha! We had outsmarted the Badland spirits! We didn’t have to worry about driving spikes into the hard earth; we were ready for the winds and whatever the Badlands would dish out. We had a camper!

We found a place to spend the night, parked our little R.V. with no problem, put down the jacks, cranked it up and were all set. We went off to explore some of the sights that hadn’t changed any in the past few years. Rocks are rocks. We went to Wall Drug again for a look around. They still had FREE ice water. The junk was still the same and less interesting to our now teenaged children. Things become less exciting to kids the older they get. When the winds started picking up toward evening, we knew what was coming. But we were ready for it this time.

While we took our showers before bed, the wind whistled through the cinderblocks of the shower house just as it had before. I wasn’t worried. Things were going to be just fine. We sat at the table in our little home away from home, and played cards. The roof began to sway back and forth. “Is the roof okay with it moving back and forth like that? “ I asked my husband. “Yeah, it’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.” I tried to ignore it. I worried that the heavy roof might fall down on our heads and wondered if we would survive something like that. “You sure it’s going to be all right?” I nagged.

“Yes, I said it will be fine!” replied my irritated husband.

“Think maybe we need some extra support or something?”


“Well, it looks like it may fall down, or we might tip over or something.”

“I said don’t worry about it!” He said as he crawled into bed and turned away from the light. The kids and I stayed up a while longer playing card games and then when it got dark we decided to turn in.

Four of us were safely in our beds on the outer parts of the camper, not under the roof. Only our daughter was on the little bed, but she was lying down so if the roof did fall, she wouldn’t be hurt. Hopefully. I laid there watching the roof sway and listened to the creaking noise the posts made as it moved to and fro. The winds grew stronger; the swaying grew wider! Back and forth, back and forth and then the wind because mostly one-sided with great force. The posts strained under the pressure. Everyone else was sleeping like babies, but I was awake all night long watching and waiting for something to happen. I lay there bleary-eyed as the light of sunrise grew brighter. When we got up for breakfast, we found that the posts had bent into a curve and the roof would not crank down! It was stuck. I gave my husband an I-told-you-so look and went off to the bathroom to get washed and dressed.

When I came back he was still working on it. Always ready for anything, he carries his tools everywhere he goes. He eventually got the roof to crank down and we went to get our caramel pecan rolls. After that we headed to the nearest hardware store to buy metal posts as back-up, just in case. We haven’t been back to the Badlands since 1995. If we go back, we will not be spending the night. We will pass on through like the wind.