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Bustin’ Sod

by Richie
Bustin’ Sod

Sioux Falls
South Dakota
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We’re traveling east across South Dakota today.
Just outside Badlands National Park, we stopped at Prairie Homestead which is an actual Sodbuster house and farm from the turn of the century. The government handed out land parcels for a small fee to encourage western migration into what was once Sioux Indian Territory. You needed to live on the land a few years in order to “prove it” – meaning own it permanently.
The homesteaders had a saying: “The government bet you 160 acres of land against $18 that you will starve to death before you live on the land 5 years.”
Most homestead claims were abandoned within a year. Limited water and poor grazing were the main causes, not to mention the brutal climate out here. It’s called Bad Lands for a reason.

Prairie Homestead also hosts a village of rare white prairie dogs. Recalling the sign we saw yesterday, we avoided them like the plague!

As we headed east, the landscape changed again from arid desert to high grassy plains. Somewhere around Mitchell the topsoil improves and we started seeing cornfields again. Just to make it official, we visited Corn Palace.
Corn Palace is an entertainment venue “Since 1892” and likes to bill itself as the largest display of folk art in the Plains. The façade is decorated with 275,000 corn cobs, cut in half, and nailed to the building. They tear it all off and make a new design every summer.
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Badlands

by Richie
Badlands

Badlands National Park
South Dakota
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Our dog, Shadow, attracts a lot of attention. Wherever we go, people want to touch him, take his picture, or ask questions about him. We call this ELS – Everybody Loves Shadow. This trip we’ve added a new phenomenon: ELC – Everybody Loves our Coach. At least once a day we’ll encounter a gent walking slow circles around our motorhome, whether it’s parked in a campground or sitting in a lot by some attraction. They eye it up and down, and typically start the conversation by asking if it’s gas or diesel. I usually let Tim handle the questions. But this morning a guy startled me as I was having coffee at our picnic table. His question was, “Where do you buy one of these?” Not being properly caffeinated yet, I mumbled something about the factory in Florida, and beat a hasty retreat inside.

Today we did the obligatory stop at Wall Drug, in Wall, SD. This self-famous attraction started out as a simple pharmacy in 1931 and quickly learned the value of billboard promotion, not unlike See Rock City. We’ve been seeing their signs since Yellowstone, so of course we had to look around.

 

 

Our Mood Pencils!

We proceeded on through Badlands National Park, where we are camped for the evening. The Badlands is leftover volcanic terrain, strange and beautiful, but most inhospitable. There’s hardly a living thing out here except rattlesnakes and prairie dogs. Upon entering the park, a large sign warns “Prairie Dogs Have Plague” !!
In 1907 railroad tracks were built through this valley and homesteaders flocked to the Badlands for what ended up being called Starvation Claims. They dotted the prairie with sod and tarpaper shacks, couldn’t make a subsistence living in this arid wasteland, and abandoned the claims shortly thereafter. Nobody lives here now.

 

 

 

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Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse

by Richie
Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse

North By Northwest
South Dakota
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From Behind
We toured the Black Hills today, and yes, they really are black rock. We were also followed all day by seven, count ‘em 1-2-3..7, buses filled with tourists. They crowded us, surrounded us, stop and go walked in front of us, and are in all our pictures. At one point, late in the day, I had an odd sense of calm sweep over me. “The tourists are gone,” Tim noted. Ahhhhhh. So.

 

Tim & Friends
First stop was Crazy Horse. This is a mountain carving, half finished, of Chief Crazy Horse and his pony. The project is privately run by the Ziolkowski family. Back in 1947, four Indian tribes approached Korczak Ziolkowski, assistant sculptor for Mt. Rushmore. The tribes wanted their own monument in the Black Hills to commemorate the native peoples. Korczak accepted the mission, and started work all by himself in 1948, with no outside help. He married, had 10 children, and died in 1982, doing nothing else but work on Crazy Horse monument. The family is still trying to complete the project.
When it’s finished it will be many times larger than Mt. Rushmore. Just the face of Crazy Horse is bigger than all 4 heads in Rushmore. Frankly, I think it’s going to take another 3 generations of Ziolkowski’s to complete this carving. Korczak’s vision was undoubtedly ambitious. He once said, “When dreams die, there is no more greatness.”
Crazy Horse To Date
Artist’s Model

 

Work to be done
Mt. Rushmore, on the other hand, was completed in 14 years primarily because it was federally funded. There is one sculptor still alive today, Nick Clifford, age 91. Tim met him at the gift shop autographing his book Mt. Rushmore Q&A.
Rushmore is a National Monument and entry is free, however parking will set you back $11. A stone plaza walkway with all 50 state flags leads you to a viewing deck. We had lunch at the park restaurant, hoping it would be as swanky as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint found it in the Hitchcock movie, but alas it’s just another cafeteria run by Xantera Concessions.
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Aces and Eights

by Richie
Aces and Eights

Deadwood, South Dakota
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We galloped on into Deadwood today. This town is famous for its Gold Rush days, circa 1875, and for where Wild Bill Hickok was killed in Saloon No. 10. Wild Bill was seated at a table with his back to the door, a position he was always superstitious about, when the coward Jack McCall shot him from behind. He was playing poker, holding aces and eights, which will forever be known as Dead Man’s Hand.

We hung out in Saloon No. 10 and watched a reenactment of the scene. Then I played some cards there, just so I could brag about it later.

Deadwood is a lot like Bardstown, only with steep mountains and gambling in every possible building; restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and motels, wherever they can stick a slot machine.

Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried next to each other way up on Boot Hill, in Moriah Cemetery, where the wind howls just like the song:

“Moriah makes the mountains sound
Like folks were up there dying”

 

We are camped at Whistler Gulch, the site of a former gold mine. The campground is situated on a hilly slope, and at the top are the slag heaps of ore tailings and the old mine entrance. We rummaged around in the piles for gold findings that may have been overlooked, but I think all we got were just rocks.

Gold Mine Tunnel

 

1903 Mining Compressor

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