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Carthage, South Dakota

With a population of 274 people, Carthage was a sleepy cluster of clapboard houses; tidy yards and weathered brick storefronts rising humbly from the immensity of the northern plains, set adrift in time. There's one grocery store in town, one bank, a single gas station, a lone bar-the Cabaret, where Alex spent many nights sitting at the bar with Wayne Westerberg.


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The Cabaret's plywood-paneled walls are hung with deer antlers, Old Milwaukee beer promos, and mawkish paintings of game birds taking flight. Tendrils of cigarette smoke rise from clumps of farmers in overalls and dusty feed caps, their tired faces as grimy as coal miners. Alex McCandless and Wayne Westerberg would go to the Cabaret after a long days work. Alex would sip on White Russians while Wayne would sip on a cocktail. Everyone grew quite fond of Alex and his amazing stories of his travels.


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Chris McCandless traveled to Carthage, South Dakota several times. Each time he would stay for a while and help Wayne Westerberg maintain the grain elevator. Wayne described Alex as one of the hardest workers he had ever seen. It didn't matter what it was, Alex would do it. From hard physical labor; mucking rotten grain and dead rats out of the bottom of the hole. These were jobs where you would get so dam dirty you couldn't tell what you looked like at the end of the day.

Leah Thompson