After a night spent in Cameron, Missouri, Missouri became Iowa, then Minnesota. We stopped for lunch in Blue Earth, where now as when I was a kid, the attraction is the statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Apparently, there has been approval for the construction of a Green Giant Museum, but it is not quite there yet, so the statue has to do.
Then it was onward to South Dakota through more and more corn and soy and fields now of sunflower, long past bloom with drooped seed heads drying on the stalk. Arriving in Sioux Falls around supper time, we had a great meal at a place within walking distance of the hotel. The walking felt good, and the weather was holding warm enough that a vest was plenty warm enough. Great meal, then back to the hotel for a really decent night’s sleep.
Morning brought a short walk to Starbucks. I know, some people think I take the Starbucks thing too far, but well, it is a hard habit to break in view that I’m from Seattle and have been going to Starbucks since they opened their doors in 1971. It comforts me to have coffee at Starbucks when I can. By the time we were walking back to get the car, the sun was rising on Sioux Falls in the most glorious oranges and purples – a true black opal of a sunrise. It was a good omen for the day.
From Sioux Falls, our objective was to get to Chamberlain, South Dakota, where I would leave David to meet our friend Pete to go pheasant hunting in the milo, corn and soy fields. We were in Chamberlain by 10:00 a.m. and I went westward from there on my own.
Left to my own devices, I break wayward pretty quickly. I intended to go to Rapid City before heading on to Cody, but made a few detours along the way. I could have taken a great many more – South Dakota is surprisingly filled with wonderful things to see and do, but I had a limited amount of time – daylight is best for so many of these things. I had to pick and choose.
Making a living along the interstate in a place like South Dakota (and anywhere, I suppose) is a gamble, I think. Especially with winter setting in and the possibility that the road will close for snow at any time. Mile after mile of the freeway is peppered with enticements for Wall Drug, 1880 Town and the Murdo Pioneer Auto Show. Hour after hour of driving make these enticements sound better by the mile, and this time, I stopped at one I had not seen before…1880 Town. (www.1880town.com)I was interested in the props from Dances With Wolves and any number of the other reasons they insisted that 1880 Town was a must see in South Dakota. Judging from the web site, in summer this is a doing place with registered longhorn cattle and re-enactments and quite a lot that would entertain kids and families. On a day in October that had suddenly turned cold, it was more the ghost town that it was made from…I had it to myself and I simply loved it. 1880 Town isn’t really a town at all. The folks that own the operations have gone all over South Dakota and collected buildings that were falling down and in danger of melting right into the sod. It is a very different kind of collection and it has resulted in the preservation of the memory of the way of life that was homesteading and sod busting and trying to get by in the wild prairies.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (who is claimed by Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota, by the way) gave us Little House on the Prairie and through her eyes your could see 1880 Town sort of come to life. Most of the buildings are furnished in period pieces, though many of the details were gained at farm auctions. It was really worth the time, and I’d recommend it. I don’t know if it would have the same impact during the season when so much is going on, but for kids to see how life was once out there in South Dakota is certainly, in my mind, a good thing.
From 1880 Town, I moved toward my two objectives for the day. But first I did stop in Wall, though only at the National Park Service Office which is a must do for anyone contemplating a visit to the Badlands or the National Grasslands. It is really an impressive and comprehensive resource is you want to know more about the area before your visit. (http://www.fs.fed.us/grasslands/) This is a rich and vast American treasure that the USDA Forest Service helps to protect for all generations. It also gives you a reason to stop in Wall that is NOT Wall Drug. You will go there anyway, at least once. After all those miles of signs, you really have to. But onward to Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills.
I had been to Rushmore when I was a kid, and could just barely remember the size and scope of the immense stone sculpture on the mountain. This time, I had a fresh perspective on the monument (I am a whole lot taller) but I was nevertheless impressed by Gutzon Borglum‘s tribute to the four presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Begun in 1927, construction was halted for lack of funding in 1941. The original plan was to depict the presidents head to waist, but I think the end result works just fine. Turns out, though, that the mountain that was named Rushmore in 1885 after Charles Rushmore, who was a prominent New York lawyer, was orginally named by the Lakota Sioux Six Grandfathers. Maybe Borglum should have taken that into consideration and found a couple more presidents to put up there…
The Crazy Horse Memorial is still under construction. (http://www.crazyhorsememorial.org) Korczak Ziolkowski, while working for Gutzon Borglum on the Rushmore project, was approached by Sioux chief Standing Bear about building a memorial to Crazy Horse “so the white man would know that we have heros too.” The site was dedicated in 1948 and work has been going on more or less steadily every since. An enormous project, the sculpture will be vastly larger than Mount Rushmore, in fact, all of the Rushmore carving will fit easily into Crazy Horse’s flowing hair when the project is complete. Sculpting with dynamite is a slow process, however, and since Ziolkowski’s death, his children continue the work, blasting shard after shard away to reveal at some future date the finished sculpture. Many people make annual pilgrimages to the site to view the progress. While I was visiting, there were a couple of blasts on the far side – I heard the blast and saw stone dust in the air, but I could see nothing that looked like progress. Next year, perhaps I would see a difference.
The Black Hills, dressed in autumn gold, are unbelievably beautiful, with or without monuments. It is easy to see why they are sacred to so many tribes – there is majesty and glory in those mountains. I had some time to appreciate the beauty in October – I’m not sure that in summer it would have been as evident. The roads are designed to handle quite a bit more traffic than I experienced.
Dropping down the hill, I got into Rapid City with just enough time for a quick trip to one of my favorite stores in the west: Prairie’s Edge (www.prairieedge.com) is a wonderful (and huge!) collection of native arts, crafts, books, music and native craft supplies and I look forward to a stop there any time I am in Rapid City.
It was a long full day. I was ready for and early dinner at Millstone and bed.