Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 7, 2010

Little Bighorn vs Wall Drug

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, in southeastern Montana, is a serene and tranquil memorial to fallen soldiers and Indian warriors. The battle in 1876 was one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life before being forced onto reservations. Heroism and suffering, brashness and humiliation, victory and defeat, triumph and tragedy — these are the things people come here to ponder. I was immediately choked up as I exited my car and saw a cemetery of countless white headstones, some with names, some saying “Unknown Civilian,” some saying “U.S. Soldier.”

The five-mile drive with its interpretive signs at pull-outs along the way assists visitors to reconstruct the events of those two days in June. I meandered along the rolling ridges, spying an occasional red granite marker dotting the hillsides where Indian casualties occurred. I wiped my tears on my sleeve; although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life. It was a somber place.

Five hours and 56 road signs later, Wall Drug stood before me. I don’t know what provoked me to exit the freeway here; I didn’t qualify for the free coffee and donut for Vietnam veterans, priests, truck drivers, hunters or honeymooners. Perhaps it was the “free ice water” or the chance to take my photo with a T. rex model. Cool photo ops like that shouldn’t be passed up.


Would YOU buy one of these?!?!


I was appalled. It looks nothing like it did when I was a kid. It is a giant Emporium of the Inane, Fatuous, and Vacuous. I shuddered as I made my way through the labyrinthine collection of tourist money traps stores, searching anywhere for a South Dakota map or the famous backyard with the T. rex model. What I had to pass along the way began to annoy and vex and irritate me. (See photo.) I found the backyard but there was no T. rex model. A stupid 8-foot jackrabbit made of concrete was there instead. I wanted to bolt and run. The free ice water was probably blocks away on the other end of the torture chamber shopping complex.

“Get thee to a nunnery,” Hamlet implored Ophelia. No nunnery for me, but I AM going to find me some wilderness today to cleanse myself from Wall Drug. It’s the only antidote. Badlands National Park, here I come…

Blog at WordPress.com.