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Colombe’s Colome

Reed Petersek, a steer wrestler on the South Dakota rodeo circuit, and his wife Erin live in Colome.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and a good steak a week keeps an entire town happy. At least, that’s true for Colome, a cowboy enclave surviving nicely on the Tripp County prairie sea of grass and corn.

About 150 diners gather in a green metal building known as the Thayer-Waters American Legion Club every Thursday night for steaks, salads and neighborly talk. Steak Night, as it’s called, has grown to become an unusual community tradition.

Colome is in south central South Dakota, a half hour’s drive north of the Nebraska border. A dozen businesses operate there, and their names tell something about the town: Frontier Bar, Feed Mill (the local café), the Sign Inn and Scott’s Welding, for examples.

Anchoring Main Street is the stately Veterans Memorial Stadium, built to honor local World War II soldiers, where teens practice basketball. North of the big gray gym is the Legion Club, where the aforementioned steaks are fried.

Statuary welcomes guests to St. Isidore Catholic Church. Isidore is the paton saint of farmers.

“Steak night is an institution,” says Fran Hill, a local rancher, writer and food blogger who has helped with the event. “It’s almost all volunteer, only the cook and the bartender and a barmaid are paid.” The helpers bring salads, wait tables and wash dishes.

Alan Armstrong, the Colome school superintendent, says his children plan their trips back home to coincide with steak night. “And we try not to schedule school events on Thursdays because we can’t compete with that, and we don’t want to.”

Armstrong says the street is full of cars by 5:30, “and usually it’s families coming together.” Profits from the feed are mostly donated to local youth and school activities, including upkeep on the auditorium. Roger Hauf, a former mayor and owner of Hauf Floor Covering and Hardware, says Colome’s citizenry, while few, are generous to a fault.

Hauf wanted a new roadside sign when the town celebrated its centennial in 2008, and he had little trouble selling bricks 400 personalized bricks to cover the $20,000 cost. Just last year, Colome raised $700 to help buy a digital projector for the Pix Theater in Winner, even though the two towns have been rivals through the years.

And people from Winner, Gregory and other neighboring towns reciprocate by attending Steak Night — proof that the town has mellowed from wild beginnings. There might not even be a town called Colome if Chris Colombe, the town’s namesake, hadn’t survived a bloody barn dance brawl in 1894.

An 1890s-era photo of the George Pete ranch shows the barn where Chris Colombe courted and fought for his bride.

Colombe was the dashing, dark grandson of Pierre Dorion, a fur trader and friend of the Yankton Sioux who interpreted for Lewis and Clark when they pushed up the Missouri River valley in 1804.

The young cowboy was taken with a beautiful girl, Emma Brughier, and promised to meet her at a barn dance at the George Pete ranch. He brought along some buddies, because he suspected that Emma’s family and friends might not approve. Sure enough, a big fight broke out, with fists, knifes and guns. Before it was over, Colombe rode away, “with the girl in his arms and there was no one on Pete’s creek who dared to follow,” according to an historical account in the Rapid City Journal.

Colombe and Brughier married, raised three children and became successful cattle ranchers. When the Rosebud region was opened to homesteaders in 1908, they sold land to the railroad for a town to be called Winona. As soon as the lots were purchased, the name was changed to Colome. Apparently, the bloody barn dance was forgiven if not forgotten.

Colome lies in the heart of South Dakota pheasant country. Larger towns of Gregory and Winner sit to the east and west, but the little town has a competitive streak. It scored a big victory five years ago when the Wood-Witten school board agreed to a consolidation agreement, even though they were closer to Winner.

That gives the school almost 300 students. Armstrong, the superintendent, takes pride in his veteran faculty. “We have people who came here out of college and are here 30 years later. That really makes a difference.”

Richard Papousek is known throughout Gregory County for his creative remodels.

The town has 300 residents today, about half the population that it boasted in 1935 when Chris Colombe died. But there’s a thriving commercial community, and hunting services have added a new industry in the recent years. Most of the lodges are located on farms outside town but several years ago an old brick hardware store on Main Street was renovated into lodging.

The lodge’s roof collapsed due to a major drainage problem, and it was about to be bulldozed when Richard Papousek, a talented Colome carpenter, stepped forward and offered to buy it for a dollar. “Nobody else was going to save it, and the price was right,” he says.

Papousek, famous locally for his creative remodeling projects, redid the lodge and decorated it with a huge collection of old commercial signs. He calls it the Sign Inn and rents rooms for $40 a night to traveling workers and hunters.

They couldn’t find a friendlier town, or a better steak on Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2013 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


07:45 pm - Thu, October 15 2015
vicci botich said:
My grandparents were from Burke. I love stories about this area. Vb
11:37 pm - Thu, October 15 2015
Pamela Young said:
My grandparents lived there as did my mother and uncle and Aunt Atteberry and their 5 children
09:50 am - Fri, October 16 2015
My mother-in-law works at the legion for steak night and her kids, including my husband graduated from Colome. Love this story.
05:04 pm - Fri, October 16 2015
Dawn Snethen said:
I grew up on a farm 7 miles south/west of Colome and attended all 12 years of school there! I witnessed the building of the elementary school building while attending kindergarten in what is now the high school. Great little town!
06:00 am - Sat, October 17 2015
DJ (Darla) Ryan said:
Have so many wonderful memories of growing up in Colome. Still make sure to go HOME every year to see family and friends. Mom (Anna Mae Brown) still lives there and turns 90 this winter. Having her birthday party in the Legion but unfortunately won't be there for the infamous steak night! Hope and pray this wonderful little town thrives for many years!
06:42 am - Sat, October 17 2015
David Matula said:
My grandparents jerry and Velma Matula were grom there . My dad Richard Matula was born there. Awesome to hear about the history.
06:37 pm - Sun, October 18 2015
Lavonne ring said:
I can attest to the great steaks. I work those nights regularly and not only work but get to furnish 4/5 salads for the salad bar. Not only that I have worked for the colome school district for 47 years and was there through the consolidation process with wood and written Lots of work establishing a new school district everyone takes great pride in their school and are very supportive of the colome legion
05:40 pm - Mon, October 19 2015
Maryann Armstrong said:
Love to hear of the custom and wish I could be there. A wonderful way to keep a community together. I grew up near a small town in Iowa. Proud to by a farm gal.
07:49 pm - Tue, December 8 2015
I rember the great streak dinners a the legion when I was in Colome to teach back in the late 70's.
Watching sports events at the hall.
Where are those students that were there form 1978-1980?
Remember the big basketball game< I think we played Burke in a district playoff?
It rained on us all the way home and next day no school because it was too icy.
Colome was a small but great experience.
04:07 pm - Wed, January 6 2016
Deborah Evans said:
I know the steak nights at Colome .My mother-in-law Ethel is president of the legion auxiliary. A lot of work goes into this every Thursday night and we appreciate it. Also my husband Roger went to Colome school his brother and 2 sister did to.
07:35 am - Sun, August 21 2016
Lori Haukaas Cross said:
Have been to the steak dinners quite a few times and family reunions and the great community served meals at the loss of loved ones..I love the town of Colome and also the smaller nearby town of Wewela..My grandparents were Lowell and Dorothy Haukaas and Harold and Marie Jerred. My parents were Gary Haukaas and Margaret Jerred Watters.South Dakota my favorite place to be..the most beautiful state!
09:00 am - Sun, August 21 2016
Laura Dughaish said:
My grandparents were Bernice and Martin Cahoy. I love Colome. My fondest memories are there. My mom and dad grew up there. Deloris and Richard Johnson. It is a great place to be
09:50 am - Sun, August 21 2016
Paul Nepodal said:
My mom, dad and I used to go every Thursday when we lived there back when I was in elementary school. One of my better memories. Dad was the Supt at the time, he would give me .25 each time and I would play the same two songs each week - Tight Fittin Jeans and Sleeping Single in a Double Bed. It was just the place to be and I never had a bad steak. Loved living in Colome those days. The gym was the best place to play and home court advantage was huge there for our hoops teams as well. Very fond memories.
12:11 pm - Sun, August 21 2016
Shirley Forgey said:
An awesome place . Proud to have grew up there snd be surrounded by a caring community. Love the Feed Mill. The caramel rolls are the best.
12:50 pm - Sun, August 21 2016
Carol teslaa said:
My grandparents, Julius & Mildred Modine raised their family of 5 boys & 2 girls in Colome. Grandpa was school janitor for many years & grandma cleaned the bank & also took tickets at the Sat. Nite dances. Remember Wagner's grocery & the creamer which my uncle had on Main Street. My sister & I come every Memorial Day to decorate graves. The cemetery is so well kept. Hats off to the citizens of Colome for taking such good care of a small town which still can bring to mind so many wonderful memories
03:50 pm - Sun, August 21 2016
Bob and Muriel benson tarr said:
Thanks for the memories. Bob grew up in colome and I have fond memories when my mom formally a DeMers would spend summers. Great down home folks we don't appreciate until we get steak Nite
07:45 pm - Sun, August 21 2016
Jerold Grayot said:
MaryEllen and I worked for Colome School for 16 years - 1977 -1993. Both Andrew and Marie attended and graduated from Colome. Remember Steak Night fondly. Syy
07:45 pm - Sun, August 21 2016
Jerold Grayot said:
MaryEllen and I worked for Colome School for 16 years - 1977 -1993. Both Andrew and Marie attended and graduated from Colome. Remember Steak Night fondly. Syy
05:44 pm - Mon, August 22 2016
Kathie Patten said:
Chris Colombe built the house I grew up in. It was 16 miles west of Colome. It was built as a hotel in hopes of the railroad going through Colome and straight west, Timber was hauled from Valentine, NE to build it. He built one similar to it in Colome. Nahne Nahnsen bought the house as a second owner.

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