On A Rainswept Road In South Dakota-2003


It would take hours to tell the complete story of what a Savannah-born Anglo-Saxon redhead was doing living and working on the Sicangu Brule Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota, but I will relate one, small story for you.
 
I learned to drive a car at the age of 51.  Always lived in large cities that had excellent bus and subway systems.  Never needed to own a car.   But in South Dakota, which stretches for miles and has under 300,000 people in the entire State, I needed to learn.  Even after I saved my money from working at the grocery store on the Rez and bought my 'dream car' (or, as the Lakota call them, 'War Ponies') I didn't like to drive.   Alright, I admit it, I was scared to drive.  What if I hit someone?  What if I ran over an animal?  I couldn't live with that.

Shortly after arriving on the Rez met and befriended a full-blood Lakota Chief.  He was in his 70s.  He offered to let me live with his family if I liked and I gladly accepted.   He was the person who taught me to drive, by the way.

image from The Lakota
 
One clear summer night, I drove out to one of his daughter's homes in the country alone.   While in the kitchen having coffee with her, we heard thumping on the roof of the house.   It was a downpour.   When it subsided I got in my car to drive home, which was some distance away.  In order to get back home I would have to travel on one of the most dangerous highways in SD.   Large container trucks would whip up and down the highway to get to Rapid City or to Nebraska and it was the norm that at least once a month they hit a small car they didn't seem to see, and the occupants of the car were crushed to death.   No one ventured out on that highway when there was an ice storm.
 
The rain had subsided, I thought, and I pulled on to the cursed highway.   A half mile down the rain started again and poured down even harder.   I could not see anything in front of me and since there were no houses or businesses for miles, no guidance.   Then it happened.  Bright, bright lights coming up behind me from one of those large trucks.  My worst fear, my worst nightmare was coming true.  The light got closer and I drove as fast as I could to get away from it.   I would look in my rearview mirror and pray the truck saw my dark maroon Ford LTD (small car).  I drove and prayed.  Finally, I saw the stop lights up ahead that meant I was almost home.   The truck would turn right to go to Rapid City and I would turn left to go home.   If I stopped at the light would be crash into my car?
 
I decided to think of this in more positive terms.   He had illuminated my way and helped me see the road.   I may have gone off the road into a ravine or ditch had he not come along.   That's it!  Think positive.  As I stopped at the stop light, only a couple of miles from home, I decided to open my window, stick my head out and wave thank you to the big truck behind me.  Even if he couldn't see me.   I rolled down the window and stuck my head out into the pouring rain.  I looked back and raised my hand to say thank you and my blood froze.   I put on the parking brakes and quickly got out of the car and stood in the rain.   There was no truck!  There was no car!  It was a ball of light just hovering on the highway behind my car.   As I stood next to my car getting soaked to the bone, I just froze to the spot.  My heart was beating a mile a minute and my head was spinning.   I yelled; Thank you, thank you so much!  to the ball of light as it slowly evaporated into the mist.   I don't remember getting back in the car and don't remember driving home.
 
When I arrived at home and walked in the door, the Chief looked up from his newspaper and said;  Good grief.  Look what the dog dragged in.  And you look like you've seen a ghost.    I smiled and said;  I have something to tell you after I dry off.   Something that YOU will understand completely.   He chuckled and said;  You don't have to tell me.   I already know.   I was really worried about you out there in that car.   I called Renee's and she said you were on the highway heading home.   I had to use all my spirit powers to make you safe.   I hope you weren't scared.    It was never discussed again.  
 
As I write this from my apartment in New York City, it is like being there again.  Every time I think about it over the years I have the same feelings and emotions.   The Chief passed away 8 years ago this month.   I have been back in NYC 8 years in August.  Sometimes riding the Subway to work in the morning, my mind wanders back to that summer day in South Dakota when I saw a miracle with my own eyes.   My little 'War Pony' passed away outside of Sandy, Utah after I left the reservation.   I had friends there who took me in and helped me get on my feet.   I miss that car to this day.   It was my first and only car.  I am sure I will never own another one.    Have a happy, safe, healthy and spiritual New Year.  

Anna Vachel 'Boo' Carroll 


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