Almost three years ago, we were cruising down a dusty South Dakota highway.
It was hot as hell in early July and the three of us — me, Shep and My American — were bound for Nova Scotia and M.A.’s first opportunity to meet my family.
He and Shep were about to be exposed to a town bathed in tartan and the skirl of the bagpipe.
Ah, but wait. Long before we would land in my birthplace, Antigonish, we visited the bustling metropolis where he was born, a town so small it reminded me of the places I like to visit for abandoned photography. In fact, some of the sights he showed me in McLaughlin, S.D., — the high school he would have attended had his family not moved to Idaho and the water tower — are now gone.
Before that, I saw the old beauty at the top of this page … near Walker, an even smaller town west of McLaughlin. I’m guessing it takes a tough character to survive growing up in these isolated, prairie towns. And I’m grateful My American’s family chose to move on and find a better life in Idaho.
Our trip was rather impromptu. We had discussed a possible cross-country road trip but never made hard-core plans. My American showed up at my door in Calgary, ready to go. I was not. We had to get ready along the way, so to speak. Once we had a good night’s sleep at Super 8 in Aberdeen, we rolled into Jiffy Lube for an oil change and a tire check. The air conditioning recharge came the next morning in Minnesota when My American got tired of sweat dripping into his eyes while driving. But first … we hit the road, heading east. Then I saw it. WAAAAAAAAIIIIIT! STOP THE TRUUUUCK! My boyfriend, now my husband, My American looked at me like I was nuts. (It’s a glance to which I’ve become accustomed.) I begged, pleaded, demanded he turn the truck around so I could take a picture. Of a sign.
Where the great Plains begin
You might not get it, I said. No, never mind. You won’t get it. A sign designating the 100 Meridian.
Oh my God, look where we are! A photo posted by Angela Schneider (@thatangela) on
That’s right. Every Canadian reading this blog post just started singing.
This Tragically Hip song:
The 100 Meridian runs the length of the globe, top to bottom. So Gord Downie (who completely unrelatedly wears a Gros Morne National Park hat in the video … one for the Newfoundland homies!) doesn’t necessarily reference South Dakota and the specific middle of nowhere this sign was situated.
But we are debunking an American myth.
We weren’t on a corduroy road. It was nicely paved.
The weeds weren’t shoulder high. Maybe to my knees.
And there was no rusty ferris wheel anywhere in sight.
In any case, I made My American take the picture while Shep impatiently sat next to me, anxious to get back into the air-conditioned truck.
He shook his head, muttering, “I can’t believe we stopped for this.”
Every 10 or so minutes.
Even though I played him the song.
Even though my phone started pinging madly with notifications of Facebook friends and Twitter followers exclaiming, “ermagersh, you’re WHERE?!??!!?!”
Even though one of the interpretations of the song is a yearning for a simple life, something we’re both aiming to achieve.
If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me,
They bury me some place I don’t want to be,
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously,
Away from the swollen city-breeze, garbage bag trees,
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
Take me away from the city.
And get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy.
Now that I live south of the 49th parallel, I look for Canadian moments like this to reconnect to my home country.
What could be more Hip than that?