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The Black Hills - known for gorgeous scenery, unpredictable weather and really big jacket pockets.
The Black Hills - known for gorgeous scenery, unpredictable weather and really big jacket pockets.

Now Entering Big Pocket Country

Mar 12, 2012

Not for a second did I think the young woman was flirting when she smiled at me and said, "Hey ... great pockets." At a glance I knew her to be a true admirer of such things. She wore a Big Yankee jacket with four roomy, snap-button outer pockets, and undoubtedly some interior ones, too. The two of us stood in line waiting to pay for gas at a Black Hills convenience store. When she spotted me, my entire forearm had disappeared into my own coat's ten-gallon breast pocket, digging for my checkbook.

We chatted a couple minutes about big pockets, about how I once owned a Big Yankee coat myself. Unfortunately, I abused it, stuffing the generous pockets so full of flotsam and jetsam that the seams ripped. Now I buy cheaper jackets, figuring I'll destroy the pockets by overuse in short order. 1 won't consider a jacket that doesn't let me transport a couple sandwiches, an apple, road maps, a 400-page novel and several note pads.

We discussed, too, how so many Black Hills folks have big pockets — not to be confused with deep pockets. Some patently Black Hills objects I've seen stuffed into those pockets are chunks of native alabaster for sculpting, pop bottles converted to bum lamb feeders and hundreds (yes, hundreds) of dollars of quarters destined for Deadwood slots.

Maybe other places come close to our pocket penchant. Cape Cod and the Great Lakes, for example, are big-time big pocket regions, yet they don't surpass us. Florida fishing guides and guys who sell cheap watches on Chicago streets use big pockets vocationally, but often change to other fashions off-duty.

Because winters here last so long, there's a real danger of becoming addicted to big coat pockets. A day comes in March or April that's entirely too warm for winter jackets, but we don them anyway, because for six months they've stored our keys, cell phones, cash, appointment books and half a dozen other vital possessions. This pocket reliance is embarrassing, but thanks to a Wyoming mountain range that often affects western South Dakota weather, we've got a ready excuse: "Well, sure it's 60 degrees now. But there's snow in the Big Horns. It could move our way, and if it does, it'll be here fast."

The snow-in-the-Big Horns rationalization holds up until June. Then comes the season of coping without big pockets, of feeling half naked, of reaching the end of check-out lines only to find we've got no checkbook, of leaving car keys in restaurants and in friends' homes.

Sadly, big pocket addiction doesn't spare children. Most of us who have raised kids in the Black Hills recall telling them, on balmy spring mornings, to exchange their parkas for windbreakers. So off to school they go, only to call home an hour later. Guess where the lunch ticket is? Or science project, gym socks, overdue library book, or small woodwind instrument?

Fall, a season big pocket addicts embrace long before the leaves turn, is always humbling. The first day we grab heavy coats and open the tent flap pockets, we always find signs of unfinished business — things we should have gotten to in spring, before warm weather ambushed us. One fall I found photos I forgot to duplicate for friends, burned-out Christmas tree bulbs I meant to replace, $120 worth of unsold tickets to a charitable function, an uncompleted contest entry form and a ruined computer disk. I'm getting better. There were no unpaid bills. And it's been three years since I've left food all summer in my big pockets.


Editor's Note: Black Hills correspondent Paul Higbee resides in Spearfish with his wife, Janet. This column originally appeared in the March/April 1998 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call us at 800-456-5117.


01:22 pm - Mon, March 12 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
And in the summer months you just need a pair of Lee overalls, shirts optional.

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