How do you get shot in the South Dakotan Badlands? You ask for it. How do you find that sweet ray of kindness in the South Dakotan Badlands? You ask for it. How do you end up in the South Dakotan Badlands? You head west. Or east, depending on your position. As a touring musician, one spends generally not more than 80% of ones time in a van or a bus or a plane, barrelling through wastelands with the burning question, “why did I agree to this?” So, when a recent James Apollo & the Sweet Unknown tour ended in Seattle, and the band and I were faced with a 3000 mile journey to New York, we did what we've been trained to do; wonder, whine, and seek adventure. And that, friends, led us to Mount Rushmore. a mountain that a man made just a little more beautiful by blowing it up until George Washington's wooden-toothed grin was staring back at him. We all stopped to enjoy this for ten minutes and got back in the van. I decided to take a side road through the badlands. It was a Sunday. That last part is important if you're looking for booze anywhere in middle America. We drove through miles of gravel roads and finally came to a lone white building, standing at a crossroads. It was a business. A merchant. It didn't specify which kind. I walked in. There was a row of dusty potato chips against one wall. A mop in the middle of the floor. And four men drinking and talking softly at the back. I practiced my best Dakotan and asked, “You know where a man can get a jug of whisky in these parts” The locals tend to like it when you at least try to fit in. One man walked casually over and started drawing a map on the back of a receipt. “You follow this road down to the next road, then you veer left at that one, take it until the old Foster place, you'll know by the mailbox, turn right, keep on over the rise, bout 4 miles, then you'll see...” It went on like that for fifteen minutes, after which, I thanked him, took the map and wearily walked to my anxious companions in the van. “It doesn't look good. He gave me this...” They poured over the map, arguing about this or that. Questioning, pointing, the commotion was clearly visible to any passerbys, of which there were none. But by and by a different man came out of that lone white building and sauntered toward the van. I watched from the passenger side as his belt buckle approached the window. He leaned in, all hat and buckle, and said in a tired, authoritative drawl, “what kind of whisky you boys need” Confused looks and then, “Um, well, any?” He motioned me over to his truck, inside of which was a paper bag, inside of which was a gallon jug of Ancient Age, good to rot your gut in the birdlands, or the borderlands, or the badlands. “Ya'll can have it for $15” Seemed more than fair. I paid the man I went back to the troupe. They were elated. And a fine afternoon in the South Dakota Badlands was had by all. Within an hour one of the nuts was running naked through a field, throwing buffalo chips at the rest of us. And that made for a nice break in that 3000 mile drive. But the thing I remember most about this little incident, is the receipt, left in that bag, containing the bottle of Ancient Age. It was for $17. That man's generosity brought a tear to my eye. How do you find kindness in the South Dakota Badlands? You ask for it. Thanks friend.
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