Sunday, August 16, 2009

Show me the Bad in Badlands

Somewhere along the way, the Badlands got a bad rap. The Sioux were the first to dub the area mako sico, and French explorers concurred calling it les mauvaises terres a traverser, bad ground to travel.

Well, if anything jumps out at me, it is the sheer beauty of the place: a sky the stretches 260 degrees, towering maroon striped pinnacles, dark mounds of clay...and then there's the wildlife. On my way into the campground, I came across this little guy:

Seconds later, I met his whole family: hundreds upon hundreds of prairie dogs atop little mounds in their happy village. In front of their village, I am shocked by their welcome sign:

Could it be true? Could these harmless looking little rodents have the plague? The Center for Disease Control confirms: Fleas become infected by feeding on rodents, such as the chipmunks, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice, and other mammals that are infected with the bacteria Yersinia pestis. Fleas transmit the plague bacteria to humans and other mammals during the feeding process.

And so my friends, these cute, cuddly animals harbor the potential to return us to dark Shakesperean poetry and mass extinction. So, do not get out of your car!!!

Onward to the campground and who do I spy but three buffalo lounging in the road. Fellow camera toters have already reached the scene and I watch as a girl gets out of the car and within three feet of the buffalo to snap a picture. I watch in wonder and think:"Damn girl! Don't you have a zoom lens?" After they leave, I wait patiently for Mr. Buffalo to cross the street. I don't want to disturb him a t'all having seen this sign:

I thought the signs were more anti-Badlands propaganda until I met two German tourists who had tried to drive into camp the night prior. Approaching the grasslands, suddenly hundreds of glowing eyes stood before them. They jumped back and forth over the road, rolled in the ground. "I thought they'd stampede on, away from whatever was scaring them," the wife said. "Then, they came right at us." The Germans reversed at full speed and stayed at a hotel in town that night, safely away from the Barbarian Buffalo.

All that being said, how can you call a place that looks like this bad?

I suppose the Badlands have a reputation to uphold... and they do it with a few threatening signs, windstorms, and thunder. I hear what your saying Badlands, but I'm loving your bad so much it just feels good.

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Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
- Oscar Wilde


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