Lauren Rideout takes me in--Branson, Missouri
I'm sure I sound like a broken record at this point, but the amount of kindness that was shown to me, far exceeded the amount of stories I've collected about kindness (and I interviewed about 50 people). I rarely needed to ask for directions because people would ask me if I was lost before I got the chance and not only because I constantly looked confused. I had my breakfast paid for in a diner in Memphis by a guy who said I reminded him of his daughter, got a ride to Harrison Arkansas, a couch in Branson MIssouri all from complete strangers. Not to mention all of my friends and family who put up with my last minute couch requests and everyone who made this project possible in the first place by contributing to my Kickstarter. So, THANK YOU! All of you! For everything!! I'll write more about the whole trip, but I wanted to take the time to thank all of y'all first!
I got off the train in Browning, Montana with only two other people, onto a dusty platform. It's so flat that you can see for miles and miles beyond the trailers and small homes, beyond the casino and the few gas stations. Other than El Paso, this was the only place that I was so intensely warned against. I also stuck out "like a sore thumb" according to a man I talked with at the Museum of the Plains Indians. Browning is the home of the Blackfeet Nation reservation. In the summer there are some tourists, but not so much in the winter so I was the only outsider wandering around. This stop was challenging on a few levels. It is difficult to be an outsider and I honestly felt kind of like a jerk with my fancy recorder and my neon bright backpack, walking amongst the stray dogs and garbage blowing with the tumbleweed. I waited with the railroad attendant, named Dewey Butterfly, on the morning that I was to get back on the train. He spoke out against the white people who put them in this economic situation. As a white person, there's no way I can actually relate to his struggle so figuring out what to say in response was often hard. It's this horrible cycle, many people on the reservation can't get jobs elsewhere, the economy plummets, tourists are scared to come to the reservation, and the economy gets even worse. The train station (a room with a bench) was to be demolished soon, and Dewey said I could be one of the last people to ever wait in the station that was built in 1907. This was also an incredible experience, I was completely out of my comfort zone, which was the point of the whole project and it really made me examine the way I see this country, for bad and for good.