It's 7 a.m. and someone's outside Otto, rapping on the side door.
I roll out of bed (literally, because we're tilted), grab my robe (well, toss on a T-shirt) and sneak a peek through the kitchen window.
It's Wilford Brimley, in uniform.
Of course, it's not. But this park ranger sure looks like Wilford.
"Good morning," he nods, sort of Midwestern style, "I'm sorry to bother you so early, but do you have your receipt?"
The receipt he's looking for proves we paid yesterday for the privilege of staying overnight here at a fairly empty Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Yes, I tell him, it's in my husband's wallet, which I'm please to discover in the place it out to be. I fish out the receipt and hand it out the door to Wilford.
"There's was no pen," I apologize for the looks of the receipt. "When we signed in yesterday, there was no pen at the station, so I used a rock, a charcoal rock to sign in."
He raises an eyebrow, accepts the receipt and shows me where it needs to be placed. He tips his hand to his hat and leaves.
But, not forever.
He shows up again at noon, and finds me sitting in the grass grooming my dog. And I think he's going quiz me about the dog hair and how I intend to clean it up (which I did, by the way.)
"I didn't see your husband earlier, so I brought an envelope up to you to fill out for tonight," he says, adding nothing about the dog. Whew.
"I'm sure you have a pen this time. We don't supply pens."
Why was he looking for my husband? (I didn't ask.) And does he think I'm trying to steal his campsite, to park here for free? (I didn't ask.) And why the sarcasm? (Ditto).
I fill out the little form, stuff $12 inside the envelope and Allen and I walk the dogs down the hill to the little station to pay in a proper way. I leave a pen behind for the next person and we walk back up the hill to Otto.
About two hours later, a different park ranger stops by to warn us of an impending storm. It comes and goes.
And another few hours later, a third ranger stops by to remind us about the hours we can run the generator.
And just when I'm all tuckered out with park rangers, I see Wilford again. And I'm sure he's going to yell at me for hanging our laundry outside (where no one can see it). So I scurry around to pull it in before he gets here. Which he never does, because there's now another
camper in the park to occupy his time.
I am so grateful.