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The Tandem Travelers are a traveling writing team made up of Maralyn D. And Norm
E. Hill. Maralyn is a co-
Part 1 -
A Foot in Two Camps, West/ Midwest, But Well Worth Visiting
Norman E. Hill and Maralyn D. Hill
In our late August, 2012 visit to South Dakota, we toured both East River and West River, the portions more or less divided by the Missouri River.
Locals were reasonably upbeat and confident, due to the state’s low 4% unemployment rate and a growing, diversified influx of new industries. This is despite hardships imposed on South Dakota’s 824,000 citizens by two successive years of weather extremes—2011 flooding and 2012 drought. Agriculture, ranching, and tourism are the main industries in South Dakota. Rodeo riding, on both broncos and bulls, is the state sport. About 20% of the population is Native American.
We can’t cover all the sites we encountered in our 10 day tour, but, hopefully, will do justice to some of those we enjoyed most.
Deadwood City, population 1300, is located right in the Black Hills National Forest.
This is the same Deadwood featured in the Doris Day movie, “Calamity Jane,” and numerous Western tales. Since its 1876 founding gambling has always been legal in Deadwood, and many saloons feature slot machines and poker tables. Brothels had also existed for many years, with the last house closed in 1980. Streets and buildings in Deadwood looked like a picturesque Western site.
The town owed its initial growth to a gold rush. Since its existence was illegal, usurping Native American lands established by treaty, Deadwood’s entire culture started out lawless. The famed Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down here in a card game. An 1879 fire destroyed the town, but orneriness, perhaps bred from lawlessness, led to the town’s rebuilding and continuation.
We had an excellent guide in the Adams Museum, who possessed an intimate knowledge of Deadwood history. W. E. Adams, a local grocer and merchant who became wealthy, started the Museum in 1930. Our guide pointed out many aspects of the lives of Hickok and his companion/possible wife, Calamity Jane, as well as some of the prominent brothel Madams. Of all the various Western gunmen, Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and others, he believes that Wild Bill’s legendary exploits are closer to reality than those attributed to the others.
Deadwood City’s citizens also included law-
Separately, we visited the Adams House, residence of the same man. Despite personal tragedy in his life, he built the house and lived there with both of his wives. Despite Deadwood’s isolated location in the early 20th century, Adams furnished his home with modern amenities, such as electricity, electric stove, and running water. Adams died in 1934, and his second wife (living until 1993) left the house empty for many years. It has been accurately refurbished.
We had lunch at the Deadwood Social Club. This restaurant was located on the second floor of Saloon #10, a bar and gambling establishment. This was a replica of an earlier Saloon #10 at a different location, where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. Ambiance was excellent and fitted right in with Deadwood City.
Sites in the Rapid City area were also thoroughly enjoyable.
Through the Black Hills National Forest, we took a jeep ride with our guide, Cathy, looking for bison. It’s well known that these great herds of animals numbered in the millions in the 1800s, until white hunters slaughtered them down to only a handful. Now, thanks to protection, they number around 500,000 in the entire US.
Before too long, we found a herd of several hundred (out of 1200 total in the Park), on their way to a water hole. These great beasts walked next to us, heads down, seemingly knowing they had nothing to fear from us or any other predator. When they crossed our road at an angle, they confidently asserted their right of way.
There were about 6 cows for every bull. From ages 3 to 17, bison can mate and reproduce. Very young calves were still light brown, as opposed to the dark furry brown of older adults.
To Part 2
South Dakota Travel Resources
Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and wine tasting at the Prairie Berry Winery, owned and managed by the Vojta family. South Dakota has become comfortable with vine production and, to accommodate its weather, produces some fine fruit wines. At Prairie Berry, we sampled several and ordered a case of some wine flavors that we particularly enjoyed.
Two prominent national memorials are located in South Dakota, one to the Sioux Chief Crazy Horse and the other, Mount Rushmore, to 4 US presidents.
The Crazy Horse memorial is funded by a private non profit corporation, taking no federal or state funds. A Sioux Chief conceptualized the idea of a Crazy Horse statue, and enlisted aid of a sculptor in the East, Korczak Ziolkowski. The sculptor enhanced the idea, so that Crazy Horse would have a complete body down to his waist, while seated on a great horse. In size, the complete sculptor would far exceed that contemplated for the Rushmore National Monument.
From 1947 until his death in 1982, Ziolkowski evidently worked on several portions of the monument at once. Funding was scarce and little was accomplished. After his death, his widow received Board approval from the non profit corporation to concentrate first on the head of Crazy Horse. From 1987 to 1998, this was worked on and completed. His stupendous head represents a tourist attraction and has greatly aided funding for the remainder of the project.
There is no timetable for project completion. Over the years, several Sioux leaders have spoken against the memorial, as a desecration of the Sioux religion and practice. However, the Crazy Horse memorial completion should remain a viable ongoing project.
For years, we had dreamed of seeing the Mount Rushmore Memorial and finally got our wish. It was well worth waiting for. Heads of four US Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln are shown from left to right. Originally, the plan called for complete head to waist carvings, but the heads were started and completed first.
The sculptor, Gutson Borglum, rejected a previous memorial site, due to its inferior rock structure. Even for the current site, he rejected nine models of head position, etc. Also, Jefferson was originally set to be at Washington’s right, instead of the left.
Borglum started his project in 1927. He was considered very difficult to work with. But he accomplished one primary goal, completion of drilling with no worker casualties. The timetable continued into the 1930s at a slower pace than anyone had expected. Finally, Roosevelt’s head was completed in 1939. Borglum tried to start work on extending each carving down to the waist. When he died in March, 1941, his son attempted to continue his work. However, due to other federal priorities, the US called the project to a halt in October. 1941. Only the four heads were considered the complete memorial. In 1998, tourist access to Rushmore carvings was greatly enhanced. Whether at a distance or up close, we were awed by the four presidential heads as they exist today.
We enjoyed dinner and a show at the Chuck Wagon, a restaurant and museum owned by Herman Jones. His facilities abounded with Western relics, old machines and several interesting automobiles, such as a 1932 Ford, complete with rumble seat, and a touring car used by Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills.
The dinner band played a series of Western and country tunes, including three that we especially enjoyed: “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” from Johnny Cash; “Drifting Along with a Tumbling Tumbleweed” from Gene Autry; and “Devil Down in Georgia”, featuring an expert rendition of a demanding fiddle solo.
Rapid City is the state’s second largest city, with about 68,000 population.
In our city tour, we inspected statues on each street corner of all US Presidents, from Washington through Bush. We observed the site of a disastrous 1972 creek flood that caused hundreds of deaths. Today, the city believes it has taken precautions against recurrence of such a flood. Rapid City is an example of a revitalization that is working and its city square is a draw.
One upscale dinner in Rapid City was at the Corn Exchange Bistro, a combination restaurant
and coffee shop. Later, Maralyn interviewed the Chef and co-
Wall Drug reminded us, to some extent, of a miniature Disneyland. Starting as a drugstore, Wall has expanded to a complete mall, providing a pharmacy, restaurant, mine and dinosaur reproductions for children, bookstore, and other attractions. Originally, they placed signs on approaching highways, offering fresh water to thirsty travelers. This approach worked to a considerable extent. In the restaurant, they feature bison burgers and other dishes. In the fountain, they provide traditional malted milks.
The Hustead family, owner of Wall Drug, has accumulated a very valuable collection of Western paintings by topflight artists. Today, it is worth several millions. Now, Wall Drug has expanded to be its own destination in the middle of the Badlands in the town of Wall. There are enough attractions for one to spend a day.
We toured Riddle Jewelry, part of an innovative chain of stores across the state. They process much of their own jewelry, with the most modern techniques. The Riddle family started the business in 1959 and has kept growing ever since. It is well known for its Black Hills gold.
Before our tour, we didn’t realize how many Native American tribes have inhabited
We knew about the Sioux, but they only started to dominate in the early 1800s. Other tribes include the Mandans and many others. While the Sioux were nomadic warriors, hunting over vast territories, many others were more peaceful farmers. One museum, the Journey, continues archeological digs to unearth Native American history of all tribes. A tour that showed nature at its most breathtaking took us to Badlands National Park and then to Custer State Park. In these sites, we saw incredibly shaped hillsides and mountain shapes.
We visited the Casey Tibbs Museum. He’s considered the all time great bronco rodeo rider, holder of a record number of National Championships. After his death in 1990, the Museum’s funding was substantially aided by a lady trick rodeo rider from the 1920s.
We stayed one night and enjoyed dinner and breakfast at the Log Heaven Resort. The main lodge was a fascinating combination of both rustic and elegant beauty. With bedrooms on 3 floors, it has been open for only several years since June 2010. Thirteen gigantic cedar logs were brought in from British Columbia to provide part of the lodge foundation. A separate building included eight bedrooms that were small, but clean and attractive. All bedrooms combined can accommodate about 30 people. The next morning, the Resort owner, Debra Kaye Sheets, cooked a delicious breakfast for us.