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South Dakota's Other Big Hunt
Apr 10, 2012
National publications write about fall hunts in South Dakota. But those writers are missing the big hunt story. There is one hunt that doesn’t draw the hundred thousand out-of-staters, fill our hotels or dictate land use practices that is as important in the hearts of our youngest hunters — the Easter Egg Hunt. While our outdoor High Holiday is the third Saturday in October, for the 10-and-under crowd the “opener” is that special Saturday right before Easter Sunday.
Growing up in Webster, more than a hundred of us would descend on the City Park for the appointed hour of the official start of the Jaycee-sponsored Easter egg hunt. Like a horde of locusts, when the Jaycees announced “go,” we scoured the park in search of colored eggs. There are a couple of rules in these hunts. Parents have to at least try to stay out of the way; never, ever show up late — the hunt start waits for no mortal; and an April blizzard won’t stop an Easter egg hunt (I have seen eggs hidden in snow banks in that park.)
Years later, as an adult Jaycee, I saw the hunt from a taller perspective. Volunteers hard-boiling and dyeing hundreds of eggs was a serious commitment. But the biggest challenge was to hide some of those eggs in the park in places where you were sure no little hunter could ever find them. You needed to think kind of dastardly and very un-Easter-like to really add challenge to the hunt. You needed to put those eggs up high where the three and four footers could never, ever get them. But every year, after the locusts cleared from the park and you went back to check, your most diabolically placed egg was found and gone. These kids can hunt.
Years later I married into and raised egg-hiding crazies.
Each year the Easter Bunny I married hides a basket for each child — the oldest is 23 and still this goes on. This particular hunt takes place on Easter morning. Saturday night I heard sawing in the kitchen, after the kids had gone to bed! There was the Easter bunny, sawing rolls of paper towels with a bread knife – to perfect another perfect hiding place with a false front in a kitchen cabinet!
This Easter Bunny, egg-hiding thing is genetic. This year my daughters invited a dozen great-nieces and nephews and neighbors’ kids to an Easter egg hunt in our yard. The temperature was a balmy 45 degrees — but the hunt still happened. Kids smile and shake with excitement at the prospect of the hunt — but the parents are at least as much fun to watch. A good hunt doesn’t last long. The eggs were hidden over more than an acre, none of those little bunnies was over four feet tall, and still the Easter bunnies work was compiled in bags and baskets in about fifteen minutes time.
No matter how short the hunt, it remains an important tradition in our Judeo-Christian, and South Dakota, culture. The Easter egg hunt connects the best memories of parent to child, bridging the joy and hope for the new life we’ve brought forth on our little piece of the earth — a simplified version of the resurrection message.
But…. if we could just get those eggs up in those trees a little higher, and maybe add camouflage coloring??
Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.