Dear residents of the Dunlap Ranch:
You live in the loneliest part of this country I’ve ever seen. Lonelier than the burnt-out swathes of Detroit or the cold unforgiving stare of the Atlantic or even your neighbors in on the Hi Line in Montana or North Dakota, where at least the rolling hills and occasional bursts of greenery serve to inspire a sense of life and newness, even if it’s only every 100 miles.
Thunder Basin is the pits. The depths of isolation. Even a desert would provide you beauty to look on in your last minutes in the form of brilliant painted rock, or the fantastical delusions of dehydration.
If you still live there and have managed to stay sane, bravo. I couldn’t do it.
ETA: Actually, as I peruse more of the collection I gather that it is in fact gone. The windows are boarded up. They don’t live there anymore. And who could blame them? Driving through America as a kid I would look at abandoned houses, be they clinging to the edge of the tracks in rural Pennsylvania or rotting where they’ve been rotting since the 30s in Nebraska, and become viciously sad. I felt their absence as a kind of emotional burglary, as if I had any right to decide who should remain anywhere. But the absence of this place should come as a relief. You don’t have to have read Breaking Clean to know ranch life is bitterly hard. All the more so here, in the Thunder Basin, with not a damn soul for miles and miles and miles to depend on for help large or small. Wherever these people or their descendants are, at least it’s probably somewhere more conducive to happiness than here. So their absence should be a good thing.