It was a dark and stormy morning. What a strange start to a Dubois story! Who would ever expect rain in in the high mountain desert, in mid-July, preparing for one of the town’s favorite annual celebrations: Museum Day?
At left, two young lads watched with interest as the last building damaged in the devastating December 30 fire comes down. I asked their names at the time, but unfortunately forgot them before I sat down to write this.
The fire, widely reported in the national media, destroyed a half block of historic buildings on the main street. (You can see some more dramatic pictures at Dubois fire.)
The fire was caused by overheating of wooden walls too close to a chimney. Subzero temperatures caused the water lines in the fire hoses to freeze up as volunteer firefighters battled the flames in the wee hours.
Community response was, predictably, immediate and robust, reflecting the strong feelings that residents, former residents, and longtime repeat visitors have for the Dubois community.
Contributions at the annual Swedish Smorgasbord event in June and other sources raised money for a new fire engine with hoses that will not freeze overnight in Dubois’ high-mountain winter temperatures.
The theme of the Independence Day parade was “Dubois Rising” (see the float with that motto in the image at right). Nobody needed to be told what that was about.
Meanwhile, the demolition proceeded. The new empty lot offers residents a startling view, straight through from the hardware store and its parking lot to the world’s most unique bar (the Rustic Pine Tavern) — or vice versa. We’re used to seeing timber storefronts and a board sidewalk.
What’s going to happen here? We’re eager to find out.
“How could I not rebuild?” said the property owner Jeff Sussman in the local newspaper, not long after the fire. Now that the insurance reports are submitted, architects’ plans are under consideration.
A New York commercial real estate broker, Jeff and his wife Susan also own and manage the Diamond D ranch here. Jeff and Susan are anything but absentee landlords. You often see them in the Rustic when they’re in town, and they celebrated Jeff’s recent birthday with an open bar.
When I spotted Jeff in town not long ago, I mentioned that heart-warming statement in the Frontier, which was a beacon of hope at a devastating time for a town whose economy relies heavily on tourism and therefore on the face it presents to those passing through.
“I meant it,” he replied. “We’ve lived here for years. I wasn’t just going to take the insurance buyout. This town means a great deal to us.”
Fifteen minutes’ drive west of Dubois, you are hiking in high alpine forest.
The scent of sage mixes with the fragrance of pine. The air is so cool you may need an extra layer in midsummer.
Your eyes behold the most beautiful color combination in nature: sagebrush and lupine.
You’re only a few miles from the Continental Divide here.
Just a mile or two east of this spot the spectacular red-rock badlands begin. They rise stunningly over the center of town, and continue to a long distance to the the east, standing above the valley like a vast array of monuments.
From a distance they look like solid rock, but up close you find that they are slowly dissolving sand. My husband calls them “melting ice-cream,” in geologic terms.
These hikers have just completed a hot and dry hike up Mason’s Draw and back, stopping often to give the dogs (and themselves) a drink of water.
Where they turned back at the top of the draw, it seemed as silent as the back side of the moon, except for the breeze.
Here you see the kinds of flowers that dominate in one landscape (left) and the other, just a short drive away (right).
Lucky tourists stumble on our charming parade. Some folks travel a long way on purpose to see it.
The thing to do on July 4 in Dubois is to catch the parade, which must rival any in the United States for charm and originality.
Another thing to do is find a spot under an awning, or bring an umbrella. The volunteer firefighters come by near the end of the event to offer a refreshing shower — or a moment of embarrassment for the unprepared.
The parade is a lucky find for visitors who happen to be in Dubois that week. But some out-of-towners travel quite a distance on purpose, just to experience it.
We met some people from Cody who had come to Dubois just to catch the parade. They said that to get a decent viewing spot in Cody you have to stake out your location days ahead.