Thursday, April 30, 2015

Territorial Obliviousness

Quick! Think of the last time you visited a new place.

What caught you off guard that the locals didn't seem to even notice?

The pretentiousness of my title aside, this is incredibly common. Practically a requirement, really. If everything about where you live strikes you as weird, odds are good you'll do what you can to not live there anymore. In the meantime, the rest of it slowly becomes an everyday thing.

Living in an area where tourism is a major economic driver means that there are an awful lot of things around that make other folks pull over ... that I might not even see. I might have visited them, know where they are, how to find them, how long it took to build them -- but unless you ask me questions, I doubt they'll come up. (Unless I'm telling a story about people not being able to find Mount Rushmore.)

With that in mind, let's talk about some of the things we don't necessarily notice around here.

1. Bison.

Don't get me wrong -- they're cool animals. Majestic, even. And I understand that you may have seen "Dances With Wolves" and be excited to see them. Now that you're in Custer State Park, you fully intend to pull over and get a picture.

But if the locals seem blasé, it's probably because we know so-and-so that raises them over on his ranch, or we pass by a herd every day on the way to work (or in my case, while headed to my favorite section of trails). And we might be a little overenthusiastic about where to find the best buffalo burger. (Sorry.) If we don't seem properly excited, just remember -- to us, they might just be large, furry cows.

Except for one thing. PLEASE stay behind the fences. Their tempers are worse than most cows ... and their eyesight's not great. Keep your kids away from them. They may charge, and if they do, they will outrun you.

2. Deer.

Okay, I could probably just make a list of animals here, but I'll stick with the top two.

I don't care about deer. There's an entire herd that hangs out in my front yard regularly. They tend to make me angry more than anything. (They eat my flowers and have been responsible for three-quarters of the car crashes in my area.) Take pictures if you want, but remember -- you're not winning over any locals with that.

The bighorn sheep, on the other hand ... those guys are cool.

Somewhere, I have a much better picture of these.... Argh!
3. Giant granite spires.

It's not that I don't know that they're absolutely beautiful. It's not that I don't understand the awe. It's just that I drive past them every week. They are to me what mesas are to folks in the Southwest.

4. Motorcycles and RVs.

What can I say? They're practically another form of wildlife to be carefully driven around.

5. Narrow, winding roads with no guard rails.

They're on all of the scenic drives. All of them. Admittedly, not everyone just gets used to these (my mother hates them), but some of us ... just don't realize that some of these roads should maaaaaybe have guard rails. At least, we don't notice until a passenger is holding on for dear life.

Respect the road and it will all be okay, I promise. (And keep an eye open for pull-off spots if you happen to meet one of those RVs. Or just an out-of-towner with no vehicle awareness.)

6. Big freaking sculptures.

I would love to be able to explain why we decided this would be our thing, but I can't. We have two of them. They're both enormous. They're both pretty neat. If you're going to be in the area, you should really see both of them.

That being said, as someone who has visited both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial literally dozens of times, they are just part of the landscape to me. I have driven past both of them with an out-of-towner in the car and actually forgotten to mention it. (Said out-of-towner gave me a hard time for not giving her any warning.)

7. The weather.

I know this happens in other places, but around here weather is a topic, not small talk. It affects things to the point that most people over the age of 14 can probably tell you how much rain their home has gotten in the last week. Forest fires are a real worry and ... that's it. That's all there is to that. If someone launches immediately into weather talk, they're not trying to brush you off -- they're trying to explain something.

Similarly, we don't necessarily notice the weird weather moments. It could be June, over seventy in one place and snowing ten miles to the west. (Or vice versa.) We had thundersun earlier today (thunder, rain, and full bright sunlight). One of our towns holds the world record for "most freakish temperature change." When little mountains sit next to a desert, these are the things that happen and ... that's life for us.


I'm sure I'm forgetting a few other big ones, but hey, maybe I've explained some weird local behavior! Now, by all means, come on out and see our wildlife, giant granite spires, and big freaking sculptures. Watch out for bikers ... and good luck packing accordingly.

Hey, the good news is that most department stores have a few winter coats in stock year round. Just in case.


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