A Drive in the Country





It’s a pleasant drive to leave Hailey Idaho Southbound on US 75 then Eastbound across US 20, especially in the morning – say around eight or nine. At that time on a Wednesday there is no traffic. All the people in the valley drive north between six and seven – these are support staff for the wealthy of Ketchum and Sun Valley, the two tiny burgs that account for the designation of this real estate as the eleventh richest in the country. Pieces of land that stretch about fifty miles or so up 75 and outward to the edges of the hills, occupied mostly by expatriate Los Angelese, and hidden from view by beautiful clean stands of aspen and birch.

An hour out and into rural Idaho, out onto the plains east of Arco (the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power) the flatlands begin, the road is arrow-straight two lane blacktop with the suggested speed limited to sixty five miles per hour. I’m the only one awake in the van and the speedometer and the feeling of the day won’t abide anything under eighty five.

There are white crosses here and there in the ditches, a sign at the outskirts of town advertised that they mark the sites of fatal accidents on these back roads. Most are just white crosses, but I can occasionally make out a name – one reads LJM, one simply says ‘Molly’. I note that the crosses are mostly confined to the outside and finish of wide curves and begin to speculate where the poor bastards fell asleep or misjudged the road in the dark. I check my speed again, and check again to make sure my charges are asleep. Ninety, and yes.

There are cranes of some sort – vast wing-spans, elongated necks and dangling feet make them appear insect-like and they move in pairs in the distance diagonal to my field of view.

Headlights will occasionally appear in the rear-view as someone turns out of a side road behind me, but they diminish and the morning is clean again. I haven’t seen an oncoming vehicle for an hour and have overtaken none. No worries.

To the left the horizon is at twenty degrees or so – the tops of the hills aligned south to north and receding slowly as we traverse a north-eastward course. To the right – the horizon is impossible to distinguish. Flat wasteland and occasionally farmland is laid out in a great swath that encompasses the view from straight ahead, through right-wing all the way back to where we’ve been.

On some of these plots there are great sprinkler pipes racked out in thousand foot sections. They begin at a central point, the pipes arc upward and outward supported by a kind of horizontal gantry so that they span that thousand foot distance to the next set of wheels and all in all twelve of them are joined in one great stretch – dangling sprinkler heads and turning great circles of earth into a rich green, with spaces between like geometric oddities. I have seen these patterns in pictures taken from space – they look like someone distributed a handful of dimes around the countryside – perfect circles – with everything in between left fallow to make the pattern stand out. Maybe not wasted for that.

On a long straight stretch that might lean a little right where it meets the sky there is a set of tail-lights. The first vehicle in over an hour. Even at speed I don’t seem to be overtaking, but the distance might be deceiving, so I check again and pay a little more attention to the rear-view. The next small town is Butte City – it’s where the junction to US 26/33/22 takes us directly east to Dubois and the interstate north.

That vehicle is now visible and it’s not moving fast. I back off the accelerator and wind down through seventy. It’s coming into view rapidly – tail lights, duals, a dark cab – flat-bed deck out behind, no sides at all – just air. Likely a three-quarter ton farm truck, and on the back there appears to be a small cow. There is a big, tan, furry ass and it takes a minute for my mind to properly identify it as the back end of a large, fat dog – standing dead still, balanced on all fours facing directly forward. I’m a little shocked, but I’m a little shocked by the sight of a dog in the back of a pick-up. Even a fleet-side with a tailgate seems a little dangerous to me, but I’m a city kid and this is back-country USA. Who the hell knows what this dog is capable of? I spend about a minute behind the truck – we’re cruising at about sixty and I take the first opportunity to swing out into the oncoming lane and put the pedal down.

I have lots of time to admire the vehicle, there is no oncoming traffic and I can see all the way to Montana on this stretch of road. As I get parallel with the truck and glance out the passenger window, I am rewarded with a sight I swear is the finest of its kind in my life. This dog is smiling, its ears are straight back, and dangling down between its back legs is the biggest dog-dick I have ever seen. It goes almost to the deck of the truck, and girth – I don’t know what to measure it against. This is just the furry part. After that and dangling further there is the typical dog distention going on. My mind takes a Polaroid and I’m instantly gratified by the whimsy of nature.

You can go anywhere you like in this world. You can be almost anything you want if you start early enough. You can see things beyond imagination and you can share love and wonder with friends and family for an entire lifetime.

And some time, in the middle of no-where on a back-road with no warning, you may meet travelling on the back of a flat-bed truck, a dog that truly enjoys fresh air.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.