On Monday morning, the third week of camp, we heard that the courthouse in Custer had burned down. Della Rose Bad Heart Bull, the only Native American on the staff, disappeared the same morning. The state police blockaded the roads into town for three days and said they were too busy for a missing person. Not that we really thought Della Rose was missing; we just thought she had gone home.
When the weekend came all the counselors went to town and drank tequila and danced at the Gold Pan Saloon, just like every other Saturday night. Anders drank too much, passed out, and we brought him home in the back of my Bel Aire. He spent most of the night vomiting and crying about missing Della.
Two weeks later Anders and I drove to find Della at her home on the Lower Brule near Pierre. Her mother said she might be with a cousin on Pine Ridge, or maybe up to Cheyenne River. Her brother said she got a full ride to Harvard, what do you think, now get the fuck out before you get hurt. On our way back Anders told me he was going to keep looking. “I’m going to find her,” he said, “I want to see her again.” I told him it was a big state. “Yes, but I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door. One of these times the door will open and I’ll find her. I’ll find paradise.” I said that I didn't know how it worked in Norway, but quoting Dylan out here was humiliating and made him sound unauthentic. He just shrugged and mumbled, “I don’t know what you mean by out here. And Americans overrate authenticity anyway.” By the time we returned to Custer, Dennis Banks was in jail, Russell Means was on a hunger strike, and Cesar Chavez was on TV calling for a tourism boycott of South Dakota.
In August, two weeks before his scheduled return to Oslo, Anders died in a one car accident on Rt. 18 in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. I guess he was still looking. The state patrol said he was going 110, but I’d raced him more than once and know for a fact his car started missing at 70 and cut out altogether at 85.
When we boxed up his things I found an unfinished note. It may have been for his parents or an old friend; maybe he was just working it out for himself. He wrote, “I dreamt of a girl and I found a prairie. Then I dreamt a prairie and met a girl. They’re landscapes without a difference. I went with her to Bear Butte for two days that lasted two years. Nothing is a facade; nothing is abstract, not even eternity. It’s so hot here and now I know I’ll never close the windows again.” I guess he really loved that Della Rose.