Billboard on the Idaho-Montana Border

Douglas W. Milliken
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Westbound on I-90, with the dinosaur-back ranges and coppermine Superfunds of Montana falling away at last. Precambrian mountainsides collapsing to either narrow shoulder of the highway, and fog thick as milk swallowing the pass ahead, every inch of earth and sky. The mountaintops cannot be seen. The sun cannot be seen. Before there was life, there was this. All over the world. It’ll look like this, too, when life is gone. And yet, punctuating the scene where the road bends sharply and disappears to the left, understated and dead-center amid sterile rock and cataract mist, a billboard lettered in white against preschool blue: WELCOME TO IDAHO. Circumstance dictates interpretation. So when three men quit their jobs and sell their stuff and point their car arbitrarily away from one ocean and toward another, everything becomes desperate and existential, every drop and slap of the road a symbol for the universal condition. Three weeks on the road—from the overeager fanfare of our departure from Portland, Maine, through the smokestacks of Gary, Indiana, and the vacant gaze of Iowa, to the eroded skull of the Badlands and Wyoming’s open gasp—and only now, into this most lonesome country, are we welcomed. Primordial fog and bone-broken mountains and us, the last humans on earth, racing into its open arms. Tell me my heart isn’t home.

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