A family of three, cooped up in a Volkswagen Jetta; she in the front navigating the vehicle and he in back tending to the four week old baby.
It’s 90 degrees outside. They stop for gas in Belvidere, South Dakota, a town west of the Missouri River. The town is barely noticeable, only distinguished from the rest of South Dakota’s wide span of prairie by the large green exit sign that identifies the town’s exit.
He fills up the car. He walks inside to pay. The gas station is built like an ultra-convenient bait shop; geared towards the enterprising fisher, with bare necessities lining the wood-paneled walls and coolers filled with soda and beer. A counter stands in the middle, forming a horseshoe shape around the cash register.
A football game is playing on a decades old television propped up in the corner. Three men stop and look up. Two are sitting on the opposite side of the horseshoe, playing cribbage, drinking beer and speaking in a backwoods accent that our traveler thought was created solely for use in the movie Deliverance. The third is the clerk, who takes the traveler’s credit card, makes a comment about the nice day, and hands him the receipt.
He turns to leave and notices, for the first time, a child, sitting calmly on a cribbage player’s lap. In his mouth is a 8 inch piece of beef jerky, its rough edges and sickly sweet taste being used as a teething apparatus. The three look up again as the traveler leaves.
Two cribbage players. Drinking beer. Teething a child with a oversized Slim Jim.
It’s 10:30 am. Welcome to West River South Dakota.
(This story is true. Amazingly true. It was a surreal sight, I have to say.)