The last thing I did before leaving for Nevada the next day was wash my car.It’s not that I thought it was going to stay clean on the drive to Winnemucca but I wanted to make sure I washed off every trace of John Day before advancing further. I was going to burn my laundry too but my car has suffered enough without the added indignity of coming into contact with my bare ass.
Fittingly, the car wash was the second worst I’ve come across. The soap smelled like the chemical development team had started off aiming for “lilac” but given up somewhere around “How long has this sandwich been behind the radiator?” It did the job but only after the investment of six dollars and about a dozen passes with what may be the western world’s feeblest foaming brush.
I hit the highway at speeds that would have made the protagonist from Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” look like he was driving a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Trees, mailboxes and hitchhikers whizzed past as I desperately tried to out run whatever white trash Wendigo haunts that town.
This haste was to blame for the lives I took – for my becoming a murderer. A mass murderer, really. In my defense it’s hardly my fault – these hapless victims should have known better than to wander directly into the path of a man recklessly fleeing a Mayberry so awful that Andy Griffith would have eaten Opie at birth as an act of mercy.
The victims in question were hundreds of small white butterflies that swarmed the road at several points in the Malheur National Forest. At first I thought there were tiny balls of fluff bouncing off my windshield, then I looked closely and noticed they had wings.
I do not know how many of them I killed but should there ever come a day when butterflies rule the earth I will be the first against the wall.
Crossing into Nevada was a relief – not only was I able to put Oregon’s weak-kneed speed limits behind me but I was pretty sure that the Wendigo’s house-arrest anklet would stop him from crossing state lines.
I have no more affection for the desert than I do any other climate that will kill you without taking the slightest notice but I concede that it has a grandeur all it’s own with jagged outcroppings of rock silhouetted against the sky and the way shadows of clouds lay across the mountains like drop cloths.
It’s not all grand, of course. Much of it is, as my Saskatchewan-born grandfather once said of his own home, “as flat as piss on a plate”, and driving through it can become wearing over several hours. At one point the boredom became so acute I found myself listening to finance shill Dave Ramsey‘s radio show and being deeply concerned about the fate of those calling in. I actually teared up after one caller confessed that her husband was adamant about keeping their new truck, even though the prohibitive monthly payment meant they would lose the house they currently shared with their children.
The shedding of a tear not related to immediate physical injury or the loss of a sporting contest shocked me out of my stupor and I snapped off the radio. To reclaim my masculinity I turned up the CD player and sang along to “Sylvia’s Mother” until I arrived in Winnemucca. Before you talk smack about Dr. Hook all I have to say is this – there is nothing more distinctly male than trying to talk your way past a woman’s mother.
My hotel room at Winner’s Casino would have been unremarkable under normal circumstances but after the Little Pine Inn it felt like the Taj Mahal – “I can walk around in my bare feet? I don’t need to sleep in my clothes? I have arrived in life.”
Brennan Storr writes the blog Largely the Truth