City of the Dead

Alex Clarke

Cody, Wyoming: real cowboy country…

I had vague recollections of hearing whispers about the fridge, the air-con and the water pump breaking and flashes of torches while I slept. When I woke I found that the 12-volt battery was dead and Dad was on the phone to the Cruise America help-line. Unable to do anything constructive I stayed in bed, reading New Moon (again) and listening to Blondie.

Finally we were told to go to a local RV mechanic (called Marty) who, while actually very nice, did scare us a little at first with his big beard. A couple of hours later and it wasn’t the battery that wasn’t working, it was the thing that charged the battery from the campsite power. Knowing that and with nothing else to do without a replacement part we grabbed some breakfast (well…lunch really) at a local place with 25-cent coffee.

I will never understand the American’s desire to drown their food in sauces. I had a couple of blueberry pancakes which tasted of little else other than the butter and maple syrup I drizzled over them.

Leaving on a caffeine high, we went to one of Cody’s main attractions, a reconstructed wild west town. The first thing we noticed was quite how young these buildings are. None of them were older than our house (early eighteen hundreds) and nothing like our local church which is in the domesday book!

One of the artefacts they had on display was a native-American basket that was estimated at one thousand years old and labeled “prehistoric”…what? We know history back that far. Jesus was two thousands years ago!

If this town was any representation of Western life, I’m glad I have no part in it. Every wall was lined with stuffed animals, skins and horns. Everywhere you looked there was some reminder of the slaughter that goes on here on a regular basis. If I wasn’t already vegetarian I am certain this would have tipped me over the edge.

I am usually able to tune out the occasional stuffed carcass on a wall but en masse it was too much. Every pair of unseeing, glass eyes that stared into mine left afterimages that preyed on my conscience even once I’d turned away. It was when I looked up at a once proud elk and removed my hat out of respect that I suddenly realised I was wearing a great slab of cow on my head!

I don’t usually have a problem with leather, as long as it doesn’t go in my mouth is my usual rule, but I was especially sensitive today. The piles of antlers was did it for me though, I felt dizzy with remorse and knew I had had enough.

We went into town after that—sans hat—and maybe I was just attuned to it but everywhere we went there were dead things. I peeped into a shop selling felt Stetsons and wondered whether I had made the right choice about my hat. Anyway, I’d bought it now and I’d had no problem with it being leather before.

I was feeling ill by the time we stopped for a bottle of root beer but that soon passed with eating something they couldn’t possibly have hidden anything dead in.

I didn’t mind the hat by the time we left for the rodeo but in the end it wasn’t needed; the bus didn’t turn up until after it was meant to start so we abandoned that plan for tonight in favour of a pizza. I—of course—ordered something vegetarian.

When we got back Mum and Dad instantly spied some ham and beef in my “Veggie Lover” pizza which put me off completely—what is it here? There seems to be far more death here than life! I am quite looking forward to getting somewhere where killing things isn’t the local pastime.

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