I’ve written before about how a single observation can elevate a work of non-fiction into the realm of true art. That is certainly the case with this New York Times dispatch from Whiteclay, Nebraska, a town infamous for providing alcohol to the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It’s a solid piece of reporting, for sure, but the various quotes and historical backgrounders all pale in comparison to this description of a Whiteclay garbage heap:
Dozens of people in various states of inebriation wandered along the road. Other men and women were passed out in front of abandoned buildings. A Hank Williams Jr. 45, “I’d Rather Be Gone,” was among the detritus along the road, as well as empty liquor bottles, a copy of “Tabernacle Hymns No. 3,” soiled clothing and a dead puppy.
“…and a dead puppy.” Let that image marinate in your mind for a moment. You needn’t read another word of the story to feel the depths of Whiteclay’s bleakness in your gut.
(Image via Lyric R. Cabral; highly recommend her “Manifest Destiny” series about Whiteclay)