On our last trip there, for my sixtieth reunion, I had an afternoon free from social obligations, so I drove west across the bridge and over to visit Tatanka Iotake on his granite pedestal, known to most as Sitting Bull. With only the nearby monument to Sacajawea, Indian guide for Lewis and Clark, to keep him company, he’d be really lonely sitting there looking out over the vast waters of the Oahe Reservoir, created by damming the Missouri River of my youth. His monument was placed on the western bluffs about where the old highway bridge used to be when it was crossing only a river, the highway then climbing up to the prairie above.
Now the bridge and the river were only pictures in my memory. The wind was chilly and I had juice left in my camera for only one or two more pictures. So I took a shot of the water with Mobridge in the background. Then I picked my way down the old trail leading to the water, where the bridge used to be those many years ago. How strange. The remnants of the two-lane highway looked much narrower from side to side than I remembered. I got to the bottom—sure enough, littered with beer cans and bottles, a condom or two. So I took a quick peek and turned around. So much for nostalgia. On the way back up, I thought about the times I used to drive up to Sacajawea’s monument to park and neck with one of the girlfriends from my youth. But looking back on it from the vantage of my seventy-plus years, that probably wasn’t so great either—much wider in memory than it must have actually been: all those fumbling moves, the anxiety, the runny noses from our omnipresent winter colds, my ignorance of sex and affairs of the flesh. Now they’re all gone along with the bridge and the river of my youth.