FYI: New to this site. If you see “BC” in front of a title that will indicate “Bus Camper” as I know a lot of you do not share my passion for old buses, nor do you wish to read about them or the lifestyle. Guys yes, girls not so much. So if you see it first ladies or you are a non fan, just pass. There will always be something else later on.
High Plains Drifter
The fiery red sun slowly sinks below the horizon, another day is ending in the Bad Lands, and I soak in the peace and quiet of the moment, and reflect on the day. No generator noise, no idling reefer next to me in some dirty truck-stop parking lot, just the serene beauty of South Dakota. Somewhere just to the south, down by the river, I hear a cow lowing for her calf and I feel a gentle peace in my soul.
It has been a good day.
This time of the year I often think of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming because they are special to me. They are one of those burned into your brain memories, that no matter how hard you try and shake them, they just will not go away. Almost like a fine wine, these high plains memories, trapped like time in a bottle of time, seem to get better with each passing year.
Something else happens in South Dakota each year, a tradition of sorts, that has been going on for some 46 years. A brief moment when a window of an era now long gone, opens up and the locals make a trip back in time, to the days of the old west.
Tradition is big in the west, with such places as Cody, Wyoming and Custer State Park. Each year in September in Custer State Park, just before sunrise, they have the annual buffalo roundup.
The grasslands in Custer State Park will not support much more than 1,000 head of buffalo so each year they round up the herd and thin them out. If you get up early, find yourself a good spot, pour out a cup of piping hot coffee into the thermos cup and wait you can experience a spectacle seldom seen by most city folks.
Starting with a slow rumble, then growing louder, these huge dark shapes started appearing on the horizon, and growing until they had everyone’s undivided attention. Riders drove them down the ridge, occasionally the crack of a whip pierced the early morning air, and then they just sort of came rolling by, hundreds of them. Frozen in time and well worth the wait. I swore at some point I could hear the sage of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” echoing in my mind as this thundering mass of chaos ran by me.
Next came 100 miles down a freshly paved two lane to a small town and breakfast. After finding 45 feet of level ground to park the bus, we walked across the street to a little place with a neon sign that simply said “DINER” and entered. Quite plain by most standards, nothing ostentatious or ornate, just a little Mom & Pop beanery.
Pushing open the front door, with a small cowbell attached. The smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls filled the place, choosing a booth by the window we settled in. On each table was a sugar shaker, bright white and a chrome top, don’t see many of them anymore I thought to myself. Each booth also had a hat pole for a cowboy or a rancher to place his hat on while eating breakfast.
On the wall, was an old out of date tattered page calendar someone had neglected to take down, advertising for the local funeral home. Right next to it was a sign “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” Nothing new there, but on the other side of the register was another and it read … “Warning. Do not irritate the locals.”
First time on that for sure.
We placed an order and then sat there talking about the morning so far, and what had just transpired. About that time I noted a dirty old 4-wheel drive pickup and horse trailer pulling up behind the bus and parking. Sporting a gun rack in the back window, a symbol of the old west, a time now long gone, but not forgotten. Two cowboys exit the truck and walk across the street,entered the diner and sat in the booth next to us.
At some point in time, I asked one of them, “You boys out to round up some cattle this morning?” and one answered up, “Nah, we been over to the buffalo roundup at Custer State Park.” I told him that we were there this morning to observe that and how we found it to be a great experience.
And then I asked him, “Is it hard to herd buffalo?”
He thought about it a little bit, then looked at his partner with a grin and said,
“Nah, you just go where the damn buffalo want to go.
Nuthin to it.”
You can have your campgrounds, swimming pools and swing sets, your palatial estate at the top of a casino in Las Vegas for $850 a night, with a ticket for $40 off supper, a spa treatment and free admission to the Lavo Night club.
I will take the high plains of South Dakota, a two lane and late September any day of the week.
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