Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Somewhere Near Tomato Can Buttes

Yesterday, on one of our road-trips up north, we had a traffic event. Robert, who knows how to keep a cool head during interesting vehicle shenanigans, managed to keep us on course. He has written a beautiful piece on it that I would like to share with you all. 

Robert Clements, Artist and Photographer.

Somewhere down the road from the Tomato Can Buttes we hit a bump. A cattle guard, a metal grate in the road to keep livestock on the right side of the fence and to allow vehicle passage without having to open and close gates, had settled about 18 inches lower than the surface of the road.  Muddy road, speed (40 mph maybe) and driver distraction equals Big bump. I didn't yell "Hold my beer & watch this". I did yell. Something like 'hold on' and maybe a 4 letter word that means oh-oh. 

No damage to humans, animals or vehicle. That was a surprise. What did happen was all the stuff on the dashboard in little pockets & trays designed for keys & sunglasses flew into the air and dispursed itself into other places around the pickup. This 'stuff' was several years worth of specimens, souvenirs and samples of nature & events. I'd like to think of myself as more of a naturalist rather than psycho-billy artist who has never met a rock, bone or feather that I didn't like. It's probably a distinction that matters little. 

Tomato Can Buttes and Two Cottonwoods.

Among the stuff that went into the air with enough dust to nearly set off an asthma attack were some rattlesnake rattles, more than I thought I had. Baculite segments. Green Calcite (I haven't found the yellow calcite yet) petrified wood, rose quartz, prairie agates. A bead & horsehair Navajo tchotchke,  lots of chips, flakes and broken arrowheads. Rose petals crumbled unto dust, from my mother's funeral.  The jaw bone from a jackrabbit or prairie dog. Four inches of a 6-inch garter snake that had the misfortune to be outside when winter hit. Perfect freeze-dried preservation, though the colors had faded from its time on the dash.  We'll see where the missing parts turn up. Mica. Part of a turtle shell. Crystal, bones and rocks I don't know the name of. An iron concretion that looks like a puppy dog footprint. 

Dashboard treasures from the Plains and Prairie. 

I can't always remember where my glasses or keys are, or why I walked into this room, but because I mostly remember the very moment and place, including the temperature, light and smell where I picked up each of these items, I'm much less fearful of the future. 

Maybe even comforted.


  1. I am laughing out loud about the "Hold my beer & watch this" comment. It must run in the family.

  2. Sounds absolutely wonderful! My kind of day and my kind of treasures! And, I'm a good beer catcher!

  3. ooooo, I heart your stash! Never met a rock (especially the kind with a little white vein encircling them - call then Angel rocks), or feather, or piece of sea glass... you get the picture. Enjoyed this very much - thanks for sharing!

  4. What a great adventure...I love your dashboard stash! Thanks for sharing:)

  5. This is choice! I need to catch up on all these old blogs!!!! Wonderful