Tuesday, June 21, 2011

These Badlands Ain't So Bad, Dad.

The following is a brief excerpt from a four-hour car ride between Billings, Montana and Medora, North Dakota:

Me: "Hey, Dad, can I try to program that GPS?"

My Dad: "I think there's something wrong with it."

Me: "Do you think it really helps to hold it out of the window like that?"

My Dad: "Yes."

Me: "Can I at least give it a shot?"

My Dad: "Not right now."

My Brother: "All we need to do is go straight. "

My Dad: "Damn thing. There's something wrong with this damn thing."

What happens when three alpha dogs, when three Moes and no Curly or Larry, when three chunky loaves of manliness, delve themselves into a four-day odyssey of togetherness? I can't answer completely, since this is only day three, but I can paint a fairly accurate picture.

The three Haywood men are in North Dakota to attend my aunt's memorial service slash family reunion. We've congregated at a village named Medora, the original stomping grounds for my mom's side of the family, where her Irish immigrant father acquired some free, arid real estate pursuant to the Homesteading Act during the early twentieth century.

One doesn't simply fly in and take the airport shuttle to this tiny hamlet, since less people occupy the entire state than the attendance of a college lacrosse game. What is required is a cozy ride in a jet fetus, followed by a four-hour stint wedged into a compact rental car smelling of pine and burnt split pea soup.

We're a fairly compatible, if not predictable, travel team; while sequestered together for hours on end, my dad often initiates conversations with bold, politically controversial statements. I will counter with equally inflammatory challenges to his belief systems, and my brother will tie neatly tie everything up in a highly offensive, shiny red bow.

For example, as my father walked into my motel yesterday morning, I was dressing for my aunt's memorial service. Here's what transpired:

My Dad: "Tim, I thought I taught you better than to wear that kind of underwear. It is quite precious, though."

Me: You know, I don't remember getting any kind of underwear lesson from you. Maybe I forgot about it between my lessons for creating fire with a toothbrush and some loose gravel, and killing a buffalo with tweezers."

My Brother: "Dad, don't make fun of Tim's underwear. Victoria's Secret was having a great two-for-one sale that day. And look how he's modified it for male use. Tim, doesn't that Velcro chafe a little?"

Whatever, I thought. Go ahead and make fun of me because I don't wear white butt huggers, a polo shirt and Dockers. Not everyone needs to look like Ward Cleaver, 2011, Papa.

And it's probably fortunate that my dad didn't witness what my brother and I saw last night.

I think he would have been confused.

We'd previously decided to sample each of the town's four bars, and yesterday evening, we picked a smaller one named "The Little Missouri." Although all public establishments in North Dakota forbid smoking, the air hung thick and murky as we walked into a room cluttered with cowboys...hats, boots, Copenhagen, the whole deal.

Badlands, indeed.

My brother and I pulled up a chair and assessed our surroundings. Dad would like this place, we agreed, except for the smoking. He's always loved cowboys and he might feel like John Wayne or Roy Rogers or some other childhood idol in this place.

Country music blared from the speakers. Our eyes simultaneously locked onto two of the most grizzled cowpokes in the room as they slid off their bar stools, Budweisers in hand, and began dancing.Their slow, precision two-step accelerated in its cadence and technical execution. These guys were masters.

Soon, the two men of cows had pivoted to the middle of a makeshift dance floor, and it became apparent that they were dancing...with...each other. It was like Village People meets Bonanza, where Hoss decides he'd rather cotton eye your joe than punch you in the ear.

Good thing Dad didn't come with us.

We walked back, discussing how this may be our final true road trip with our pa, our last experience going on an adventure with a man who's taken us on many, mostly as the father to a crew of screaming, hair-pulling kids in the back of a Chevy station wagon.

We alpha dogs have a day-and-a-half to go, and I intend to savor it, while wearing disapproved underwear.

1 comment :

  1. I bet the bar dancers were Burning Hills Singers from the best show in the west. :)