“I’m so glad to be done with all this hand-washing!” said the woman next to me in the restroom at the Riverton airport.
“Me too,” I said. “I will feel so much safer back in Dubois.”
Returning from a visit to family in Austin, Texas (right next door to San Antonio, where those first cruise-ship cases were quarantined), I’d been careful to stop at women’s rooms in all three airports for a 20-second scrub.
The beautiful Denver airport was a bit scary this time. Who knew where all those other people had been?
“You must be really protected in Dubois!” said the woman at the next sink, and then added: “I came over there once to look at the bighorn sheep.” (As if it’s a long road trip from Riverton.) “They were really spectacular.”
There are some advantages to being perceived as remote, I told myself. The COVID pandemic must be one of them.
An hour later, back in Dubois, I found the snow shrinking back, the temperatures above freezing, and the snowmobile rigs largely gone from the highway. As they depart, Lava Mountain Lodge up toward the pass will be closing for the season at the end of the week.
We’re entering that quiet time when there’s not enough snow for snowshoes or snowmobiles, and way too muddy and slushy to hike. The town belongs to us alone. Almost no visitors.
A friend from far away has called to ask how we are doing in the COVID crisis. Nothing to report.
“I figure we’re pretty safe until the snowbirds return in late June,” I told a friend last week. “By then it may all be over.”
I had just had a flawed communication with her, because of the pandemic. Should we cancel our date for a get-together, she asked, if she was coughing and sneezing?
Because I didn’t want her to overdo it until she felt really well, I said no. I knew she had been here while I was away, and never thought about the Corona virus. Be she thought I was one of those who are panicking about it.
Obviously not all of us are immune to that panic, even here. The clerk at Family Dollar told me that hand sanitizer had run out days ago, and when she found another supply in the back, that ran out right away too.
Another friend suggested stocking up on toilet paper. What’s the last thing you want to run out of, after all, if supplies are interrupted?
I’m a bit more concerned about the less obvious threats. For instance, what’s happening to the motel bookings just now?
From a visitor survey I helped to conduct a few years ago, I know that this is the time when most Americans are planning their summer vacations. Early July to mid-September is when people flock to and through Dubois, many on their way to Yellowstone Park (normally one of the most crowded destinations in the country).
Ever since the sawmills closed decades ago, that’s been our economy. Let’s forget about the toilet paper problem!
Our new National Museum of Military Vehicles stands with flags flying east of town, nearly ready for its opening on Memorial Day. Some people have worried that it will overwhelm Dubois with new visitors, just when the town is beginning to be overrun. But maybe this will be a truly soft launch, giving us plenty of time to prepare for next year.
It’s kind of difficult to know what to worry about — or hope for.
© Lois Wingerson, 2020
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