Editor's Notebook

Join our Editor-at-large and founder, Bernie Hunhoff, as he offers stories, quips & travel tips gathered as he roams South Dakota. Other magazine staffers may contribute here or there as well. Enjoy the South Dakota miscellanea.

SD's Tastiest Bucket List

January 10, 2017

The January/February 2017 issue of South Dakota Magazine contains our most delicious road trip yet. In our "Fork in the Road" tour, we visit restaurants across the state, revealing the personalities and flavors that have made an impression on us in our 30+ years of exploring South Dakota. We've sampled enormous sandwiches at Manolis Grocery in Huron, German fry sausage in Hosmer, buffalo ravioli in Deadwood and every Wall Drug doughnut we can get our hands on, and we're always hungry for more.

So do you have any tips? Any new flavors or old secrets we just haven't stumbled upon yet? Please share your menu favorites by leaving a comment below.

Leave a comment

Goodbye to the King of the Clowns

November 23, 2016

Who knows why men paint their faces and dress funny to become clowns? Some do it for attention. Some probably like to entertain in anonymity. Others just like to help others have a fun time. And the latter describes longtime Watertown clown Don Crouse who died early Saturday morning in a house fire at age 91.

We had an opportunity to attend a couple of parades with Crouse and his clown family in 2002. In all our years of exploring the far corners of South Dakota, we’ve met lots of wonderful folks who go to great lengths to make their communities happier places. Don Crouse was a king among all of them; a king and a clown.

He and his wife Dorothy were running a small drug store in Willow Lake in 1957 when that town celebrated its 75th birthday. He rebuilt a Model T for the occasion. When townspeople heard what he was doing, they brought parts from their garages and backyards.

Yes, that was a simpler time when all clowns were wholesome and good and you could still find a Model T rim when you needed one.

“We wanted something that would make people laugh so we bolted a post on the back of the car with a saddle,” Don told us. “Then we had the wheels welded off center so it would bounce up and down as it went down the street.” A man dressed like a woman and rode on the saddle.

The car was a big hit so the Crouses drove it in other parades. They were invited to the National Legionnaires Parade in Denver in 1960. Men dressed like women were prohibited but the Willow Lake clowns did so anyway and no one objected.

Soon friends and family joined the Crouse clown act. With Don and Dorothy at the forefront, they entertained at parades in Kranzburg, Watertown and other towns in Glacial Lakes country.

You couldn't watch them without wanting to paint a smile on your own face, don a funny shirt and jump aboard the Model T.

Helping people relax and laugh must rank among the highest of callings. Nobody did it better — or more selflessly — than Don Crouse. We can only imagine the smiles when he arrived at the Pearly Gates.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Eight

July 31, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY EIGHT: Home Again

We left Freeman and headed back to Yankton via the Jamesville Colony and Utica. It was a very scenic ride of 42 miles. The best view of the day was coming down the last hill and seeing Lewis and Clark Lake.

On our tour we met a lot of interesting people. It seems everybody has a story to tell. With her notepad and pen in hand, Jan sought out folks to interview. Carl took most of the photos. At the end of the day we compiled and edited, then emailed the information to South Dakota Magazine. We discovered that photojournalism is hard work!!

We had a great time on our tour. The weather and winds were mostly favorable. There were no flat tires or mechanical problems. We met a lot of pleasant folks along the way. We occasionally get asked how many miles to the gallon we get. The answer is 50 mpg — of Gatorade!

We totaled 377 miles in eight days. Riding the back roads is very peaceful. We appreciate how the communities and South Dakota farmers take pride in maintaining their properties. Thank you South Dakota for another great ride. And thanks to the folks at South Dakota Magazine for the opportunity to share our experience!

Click to read Day OneDay Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and Day Seven of Carl and Jan's journey.


Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Seven

July 31, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY SEVEN: Forty Miles of Fancy Wheels and Gorgeous Gardens

South of Bridgewater we spotted an old New Holland baler. Carl was a manufacturing engineer at the New Holland factory at Grand Island, Nebraska for 28 years prior to retirement. He recognized the baler as being built probably in the early 1980s. Quite interesting was the Allis Chalmers tractor, model WD-45, which was built in the early 1950s! We stopped at a nearby farm to inquire about the machinery. Nobody was home, but it appears they have upgraded to some beautiful blue and red equipment. Yay for the pension fund!

In Freeman we visited the Heritage Hall Museum. Board member and volunteer Cheryl Koch greeted us at the door and showed us around. Cheryl and her husband John have retired and moved here from Sioux Falls, where they were faculty at Augustana University. We examined the 1908 Brush automobile. It was unique in that it had a wood frame. No rust, but termites could pose a problem! We haven't researched any family connections yet.

The museum administrator, Kelsey Ortman, joined us although it was her day off. (Midwest work ethic?!) Go Cubs!!! The Indian motorcycle and sidecar may be in our future when we get too old to pedal. We enjoyed the entire museum. It is certainly worth a trip to Freeman for a visit, on a bicycle or otherwise.

Next to the museum is the beautiful Homestead Buckeye Prairie Arboretum, one of the area's hidden gems. We found volunteers Marjean and Russell Waltner watering the flowers. We learned that these folks once operated the Captain's Inn in Yankton. Also, the airplane in the museum was owned and flown by Russell's grandfather and uncles. The Waltners invited us to see the gardens at their home. Day 7 was indeed a day for beautiful gardens as theirs was also magnificent! Jan borrowed several cucumbers from the vegetable garden.

Forty miles today. Headed back to Yankton tomorrow!

Click to read Day OneDay Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five and Day Six of Carl and Jan's journey.


Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Six

July 30, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY SIX: Big Meals and Bigger Hearts Between Howard to Canistota

Leaving Howard, we stopped for a big breakfast at Diner 34. The food here was delicious. Carl got the biggest serving of breakfast sausage that we have ever seen! Toni Carey and her son, Will, opened the business two months ago. Toni has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years, operating in several South Dakota towns. She will also soon take over management of the Country Club restaurant in De Smet.

We returned to Canova to meet Tammy Zulk, the creator of the memorial garden. She started building the garden in fall 2007 as a memorial to her late son, Tyler. It has expanded considerably since then through her hard work and the help of the Canova community. Engraved memorial stepping stones are available by contacting Tammy. She etches them herself. The beautiful garden is certainly the pride of the community. 

While in Canova we met Bill Perrine and his rescue dog, Daisy. Bill worked for the city prior to his recent retirement. Daisy follows him everywhere. The local joke is if you want to find Bill, find Daisy. Bill rides a motorcycle. With his wife they have ridden in every state, all the Canadian provinces, throughout Mexico and through much of western Europe. They currently ride a Honda Gold Wing.

We had to detour through Bridgewater on our way to Canistota due to road construction, so we stopped to see Jack and Lois Vondra at their house. We first met Jack on Day Two of this tour. We wanted to tell more about him. Jack first moved here in 1947 to start a job repairing watches. He was paid $25 a week and a place to live. In 1951 he and Lois were married and they bought the jewelry store where he was working, on a handshake agreement, pay whenever you can. At age 91 he still can be found at the store most days! It is more of a hobby now but Jack loves his profession. 

He and Lois had nine children; seven are living. They have 20 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. They were a delight to visit with and are still going strong! We encouraged them to take a ride on our bike. Maybe next time! 

It was lunch time so we went to the Wildcat Inn Cafe. Lavon Zelmer has operated it for over 39 years. Overall she has over 50 years restaurant experience. Her burgers were great. She said that is because she never uses frozen meat. Lavon said she may retire in the fall. If she does the town will surely miss her!

At Lavon's cafe we met a fellow Gator fan, cafe employee Jerico Shape. Jerico is a noted South Dakota athlete. As quarterback he led his Emery/Ethan football team to the state championship in 2007. After transferring to Canistota High School, he helped them to a school best basketball record, 18-4. Later he played basketball at Kansas Central College. He was runner-up in the national college 3-point shooting tournament held in Roanoke, Virginia. Jerico is now the proud father of one month old Reddic Wade.

Click to read Day OneDay Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five of Carl and Jan's journey.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Five

July 29, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY FIVE: Homeward Bound Through Carthage and Howard

This was a perfect day for cycling. It was cooler, no wind, partly cloudy, no traffic and great roads! White pelicans and a wood stork were also enjoying the morning on a pond just outside of Willow Lake. This bean field looked great. We were told that rains two weeks ago really helped. Stopping to stretch at the oil pipeline, we were surprised to find it completely buried. Those folks work fast!

In Carthage we rode past The Coughlin House Inn. We had not noticed it in our previous visits to Carthage. We were told it is still open. At the Prairie Inn Cafe we visited with Gary Sanderson. He talked about Henrietta Truh, who was well known regionally for her canned fruits and vegetables and her cookbook. Sadly, she passed away last winter at the age of 95. Some of her canned goods are still available at the cafe. Trevor Petrik, a high school student and summer cafe employee from Epiphany, was happy to pose in front of those famous canned goods!

Leaving Carthage the Farmers Elevator Co. building caught our eye. Hopefully it will last forever! 
We made the return trip to Howard an hour quicker than the ride yesterday. We also switched roads to avoid the heavy traffic on Highway 34 where we were forced to ride on the gravel shoulder yesterday. After 59 miles we were glad to see the Howard sign once again. Lilies and butterflies welcomed us back to the Olson House. At the golf club cafe the waitress presented Carl with the cap he had left there two days ago! Life is good!

Click to read Day OneDay Two, Day Three and Day Four of Carl and Jan's journey.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Four

July 28, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY FOUR: History Goes Better with Coca Cola or Straw Bales

Our first stop today was Carthage, home of the Straw Bale Built Museum. We didn't request a tour since we had previously visited. The history of straw bale construction is displayed here. Very interesting! North of town we saw a huge field of modern straw bales. 

There were no other towns on our route. The cattle were fascinated by our trike and followed along for a while. We came across an oil pipeline under construction. But don't worry, it won't leak!

Spirit Lake, south of Willow Lake, was a welcome sight since we had only 10 miles to go. White pelicans are common in this area. Arriving in Willow Lake, we checked into the Home Town Hotel. This was designed and built by Wayne & Sherrie Tellinghuisen in 2012, after a fire had destroyed buildings on Main Street. At the same time, local investors built a restaurant and a grocery store. We first read about it in South Dakota Magazine.

In 2000, progressive folks in this community saved and repaired the building now housing their museum. Saving the historic Coca-Cola sign was a large motivator in this project. Locals here meet every Wednesday afternoon to share coffee, pie and history. We got there in time to grab the last two pieces of pie! The ladies were very eager to share the town's history.

In 1951 the women in the town built a city park. They raised funds to purchase trees by raising and selling potatoes. Additional funds were raised by selling embroidered name strips, which were added to the commemorative quilt.

Click to read Day OneDay Two and Day Three of Carl and Jan's journey.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Three

July 27, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360-mile journey. 

DAY THREE: Fueling Up in Canova, Winding Down in Howard 

We changed our route to avoid the gravel, thus adding a visit to Salem. We met Charlie Eich in front of the mural downtown. It reads "Grandpa, tell me about the good old days. Dakotah or bust." The mural was painted by Bonnie Nelson, who now resides in Yankton. 

Next we visited St. Mary's Catholic Church. The church, built in 1886, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Darlene Gross, parish secretary, gave us the grand tour.

South of Canova we visited Immanuel Lutheran Church, built in 1891. We noticed the beautiful quilts hanging from the balcony. Later in Canova, we were told they are made by parishioners and are for sale. Some are donated to worthy organizations.

Next we stopped at Animals in Canova, owned by Todd and Brenda Glanzer. We first met them 3 years ago, shortly after they bought the business. Their philosophy is "Nobody leaves here hungry!" Generous and delicious portions make that so true! Brenda was preparing lunch for the local seniors group. Our new friend from Salem, Charlie Eich was there. He invited us to join their table for a wonderful spaghetti dinner. 

Across the street is the beautiful Canova Memorial Garden. It was built and is maintained by Tammy Zulk, in memory of her son, Tyler, who died in a motorcycle accident. We were unable to meet her today, but LeAnn Laudenburg showed us around the garden. She helps with maintenance. The stepping stones are personally engraved by Tammy.

After 42 miles we arrived at the Olson House in Howard. This beautiful historic guest house is owned by Greg and Chrysti Protsch. We first learned of this house in an ad in South Dakota Magazine!

Click to read Day One and Day Two of Carl and Jan's journey.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota: Day Two

July 26, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past South Dakota Magazine stories to guide them to interesting people and places. They've agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along on their eight-day, 360 mile journey. 

DAY TWO: Billy Goats and Back Treatments

Our first stop was Bridgewater, where we noticed the sign for Sparky Anderson Park. Remembering him as a famous baseball manager, we stopped at nearby Vondra Jewelry to inquire. Jack Vondra, age 91, was happy to share some local history. Sparky was born and raised in Bridgewater. He managed two world champion teams at Cincinnati and one at Detroit. He returned to his hometown occasionally. Sparky's favorite saying was, "Never forget where you are from!"

North of Bridgewater we were followed a short distance by a young billy goat. We convinced it to not eat our bike luggage. We checked two nearby farms, but nobody was home. A lady mail carrier came by. She thought she knew the owners and would call them.

The next five miles turned into gravel. But last year it was paved! A local said it would be repaved soon. We reluctantly rode it rather than backtrack six miles.

We arrived in Canistota after 40 miles. As expected there were numerous Amish folks on Main Street. From past visits, we knew that they come here from all over the Midwest and beyond for chiropractic treatment at the Ortman Clinic.

We visited with some Amish folks from Wisconsin and Minnesota. They were fascinated by our trike. The Amish prefer to not be photographed, so out of respect we took no pictures. There are seven motels in this town of 700 to accommodate them.

Dinner at the hotel cafe was excellent. Jan loved the strawberry rhubarb pie!

Click here to read Day One of Carl and Jan's journey.

Leave a comment

Pedaling South Dakota

July 25, 2016

Carl and Jan Brush of Yankton are loyal readers of our magazine, and avid bicyclists. This summer they are combining those two loves on a cross-country trip, using past issues and articles to guide them to interesting people and places. The Brushes have cycled in all 50 states. “But we like South Dakota best!” says Jan. They intend to travel about 360 miles in the next eight days. They’ve agreed to post some reports from the road so we can go along.

DAY ONE: German Cuisine and a Stone Church

We took off from Yankton Sunday morning. We met Ella Berth and Edna Kalubt near the old stone church south of Menno. They told us that Albert Gunderson split the stones with help from an inmate and the congregation in 1935. The church still has services on Wednesday evenings.

In Menno it started to rain so we parked the trike out of the weather at the school and visited the Open Door Cafe for lunch. Great food! We met owners Jerome and Rita Hoff. Rita was proud to point out the framed pages from South Dakota Magazine, Sep/Oct 2011, featuring their German meals that are still served every Tuesday. Rita mentioned the sign above her. It was made by Jerry Buum who  passed away young. His widow, Vicky works at Yankton's Hy-Vee bakery. The Elvis shirt is an antique, collected by Rita's daughter-in-law.

Overall it was a great ride. We stayed dry. 51 miles total. We saw lots of wildlife. Everyone waved and a herd of horses greeted us west of Freeman at the Jonas farm and ran alongside us for 100 yards inside their pen. We love cycling in South Dakota!

Note: We ride a tandem recumbent trike. It is a 27 speed and is 10 ft long. The brand is Terra Trike, built in Michigan.

Leave a comment

Pat Adam: Classy's the Word

June 27, 2016

Friends and family will bury Pat Mickelson Adam on Tuesday. It will be a relatively quiet service — quite unlike the overwhelming grief bestowed across the state when her brother George died in 1993 in the tragic plane crash that also killed seven other state leaders. But Pat, like her brother the governor, also deeply loved South Dakota. She made this a  better place through family commitment, community service and a decade as Secretary of the South Dakota State Senate. When she retired from the senate in 2006, Senator Lee Schoenbeck was President Pro Temp. He took the occasion to make these remarks. They are as pertinent today as when he delivered them 10 years ago.

By State Rep. Lee Schoenbeck

Those who have served in senate leadership these past 11 years, especially know and understand just how important Pat Adam has been to this institution. We appreciate the simple things: whispered advice to avert embarrassment or problems, the heads up foresight about impending issues, the ability to make leaders look like they can “see around corners.”

 But some times we forget just what a special person serves amongst us. Pat Adam, your life is woven through the history and politics of our state, like no other person alive here in Pierre today. Your father served with distinction in the legislature, as Attorney General, and as Governor. Your brother’s service followed his father as Speaker and as Governor. Your sorrow in the loss of your brother was felt by the entire state.

Pat Adam, your father and your brother were accomplished South Dakotan public servants, but the male members of the Mickelson clan fell short when compared to their fairer member before us – in one very special way.  They only served in the House. The Senate has been your playground!

In a place often plagued with discord and discontent, you have brought order, friendship, kindness — and an award winning smile. When your steady hand leaves the rostrum, an important piece of our history leaves this body. A valued friend leaves this institution.

We can’t fault you wanting to be with a husband that we’ve all come to know and respect from his days as a lobbyist and public servant. We can’t fault you for wanting to see more of three children that have already begun to make their mark on our state’s landscape. And we surely can’t fault a 39 year old lady that wants to enjoy her grandchildren –  but you will be missed. You are a classy lady.



Leave a comment

The Three Gettysburgs

A dear reader recently visited Gettysburg, Pa., and came upon this street sign noting the distance from there to the town bearing the same name in South Dakota. We're delighted to see that the Easterners haven't forgotten their ancestors who came West in 1883 and staked out a town in Potter County. The Yanks camped at a place called Eagle Peak, considered by some to be the highest point between the Appalachians and the Black Hills. They plotted a town two miles south of the peak and named it Gettysburg after the site of their bloody victory.

Gettysburg defeated the neighboring town of Forest City for the county seat in 1884, but the Forest City folks wouldn't relinquish the government records. The feud ended when the old blue-coats armed themselves and stole the safe and papers at daybreak. Nobody challenged them and the rest is history.

There were just 200 settlers at the start but today Gettysburg, S.D. has grown to a population of more than 1,100. (The original Gettysburg has a population of about 7,000.)

The linkage and military heritage has continued into the 21st century with occasional re-enactments by South Dakotans of the Battle of Gettysburg. Even the Forest City neighbors come to celebrate.

Did you know that there's a third Gettysburg in the USA? It's a town of just 500 people in Ohio that was founded even before the Civil War. But it is also named after the city in Pennsylvania.

Leave a comment

A Cache of Immigrant History

April 28, 2016

Our geocache is back in Yankton after spending the summer of 2015 visiting on the front porch of the Berdahl-Rolvaag House, located at Heritage Park on the Augustana University campus in Sioux Falls. Our logbook appears to have floated off in a gust of prairie wind, but we found a few comments from satisfied geocachers online:

“Very interesting history. Thanks, South Dakota Magazine. I am part of the Goonies cachers — family members from Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Rapid City. We have found all of your caches so far except the first one. The door was locked to the tower and it was on a Sunday with nobody around to let us in.” — Buffalodon

“SEEK84 and I stopped by to pick this one up as we were returning from Yankton where we had been geocaching for 3 days. I honestly did not know this place existed until we stopped to find the cache and sign the log. SEEK84 and I actually stopped by the South Dakota Magazine office prior to heading north/home. Here we found their cache and paid our subscription for another year. Love the magazine and love the cache. Thanks for placing another one.” — Jaguars96

“I left work a little early today so I could stop and visit my niece and newborn baby boy. This came out as I was on my way so I made a little detour. I have gone past this park many times but never stopped. I'm glad I had a reason today.” — Raw54

Thanks to those who sought out last year’s cache and learned a little bit about South Dakota history at the Berdahl-Rolvaag House. Part of Augustana’s Heritage Park, the house was built by Norwegian immigrant Andrew Berdahl near Garretson in 1884. Andrew’s daughter Jennie married “Giants in the Earth” author Ole Rolvaag, and some of their possessions can be found inside the home. A 1909 schoolhouse once used near Renner Corner, Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, and the cabin where Ole Rolvaag wrote are also located at Heritage Park, south of 33rd Street between Grange and Prairie Avenue in Sioux Falls.

Our 2016 geocache will be ready soon! When we have coordinates for you, we’ll post them here in Editor’s Notebook.

Leave a comment

Best of the Web

January 13, 2016

Our January e-newsletter featured a look at the most popular stories on our website last year. It was such a great list that we thought we'd share it here too. (If you'd like to receive our free e-newsletter, click here to sign up!)

Favorite Town
Colombe’s Colome — Named for a dashing and daring rancher, this Tripp County town still has cowboy attitude.

Most Watched Video
How Do You Say Sinai — Speaking South Dakotan is not always as straightforward as it might seem. South Dakota Magazine staff try pronouncing this tricky town name in Brookings County.

Most Popular Historic Article
The Verne Miller Story — Following the trail of a Beadle County sheriff turned gangster.

Most Viewed Photo Gallery
Abandoned, Not Forgotten — Dan Ray shares photos of the former St. Mary’s convent and school south of Zell.

Favorite County
Tale of Two Paths — No matter what road you take, Gregory County is worth exploring.

Most Popular Hike
Up Close — The Crazy Horse Volksmarch gives hikers a unique view of the mountain carving in progress.

Favorite Food
Freeman’s Savory Soup — Summer savory provides a subtle punch to a traditional German dish.

Most Popular Sport
Love for the Game — Six baseball lifers explain their passion for our national pastime.

Favorite Business
Brookings’ Rhubarb King — Jan Sanderson has perfected his ruby-red crop one plant at a time for 35 years.

Most Popular Article
Welcome, Mr. President — Bernie Hunhoff’s open letter to the president following news that Barack Obama would deliver Lake Area Tech’s commencement address.


Leave a comment

Writer's Block in South Dakota

November 3, 2015

Editor's Note — Pierre native Joseph Bottum went to Washington and built a career by writing about politics and religion. When he and his family came home to settle in Hot Springs, he knew there'd be challenges to continuing his career path in South Dakota. But he wasn't thinking that the new roadblocks would have antlers and four legs. We reprint this essay from The Weekly Standard.

She seemed more curious than frightened, the doe-eyed ... doe, I suppose, and we studied each other for a long moment or two. She, calm in a farmer’s field, looking over the fence line. And me, unmoving in the wreck, staring back at her through the shattered glass.

Then some click of the cooling engine, or maybe a groan of bent metal and drip of radiator fluid, convinced her that I wasn’t worth her time. The deer trotted a few yards further along the fence, leapt it with a neatfoot bounce, and disappeared off into the woods — leaving me to climb my way out of my broken car and scrabble back up to the highway, hoping to flag down some help.

Odd, really, to see her so clearly, so sharply, when I never actually saw the other deer, the one I hit at 80 miles an hour on a South Dakota highway—the one that left me with a couple of cracked ribs, a chipped collarbone, a gouged ankle, and a sprained wrist. Oh, and a spectacular set of bruises placed around my body with the precision of a drunken xylophonist.

Plus, of course, a totaled car. There are, it is said, more deer in North America today than there were when the Pilgrims landed. Certainly there are more out on the western prairies. The Homestead Acts often required the planting of acres of trees to prove a farmer’s claim, and those windbreaks and narrow groves have added up to a massive national nature preserve: a refuge for white-tails and mule deer. Of course, they then wander out onto the highway, where there’s not much refuge for either deer or the drivers who hit them.

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, in the days since my accident, has a story of animals on the road. The problem, in my case, is that the first notice I had was the darkening of my field of vision as the windshield bowed in at me. Picturing the accident now, I realize that the deer probably didn’t see me, either. Driving into the dark, with the twilight behind me, my car would have been invisible, and the deer must have jumped up out of the long fall grass of the road’s shoulder at exactly the right moment to slide across the hood of the car and land, back first, on the windshield.

But I see that only in retrospect. At the time, the craze of cracks in the safety glass left me blind as I flinched and swerved, only to slide sideways down the steep embankment and bang along a 50-yard line of—what else?—trees planted as a farmer’s windbreak maybe a hundred years before. Eventually, the fender was bent in enough that the front wheel could catch on one of the trees, swinging the car 180 degrees so that the driver’s side could get its own share of smashing.

I’m not sure where, along the way, the deer fell off. A little blood on the fender, as though I’d clipped its legs, and some hair on the windshield shards were all that was left—even on the trail of plowed down grass I’d left behind. However badly injured, the deer somehow managed to walk away from the accident.

Which is better than I did. For me, it was more of a crawl out of the car and up the embankment to wait for help. After I declined an ambulance, a paramedic told me I’d need X-rays and taping up, and, sore as I was, I’d be even sorer the next day, once everything tightened up. So I signed the highway patrolman’s accident report and had the tow-truck driver drop me off at a Sioux Falls car-rental agency— deciding that, since I still faced a six-hour drive back home to the Black Hills, I might as well do it immediately rather than wait for the painful stiffness of the next day.

That may have been a mistake. The Midwestern demand for self-sufficiency, an often self-defeating virtue drilled into my boyhood, was strong enough to get me up and moving. Strong enough, for that matter, to keep me going about as far as Rapid City. But, man, the hour in the car beyond that, driving home into the Hills, was a trial.

Still, I figured that if the deer I hit could walk away from the accident — if the other deer, the one I watched from my wreck, could stay calm even after I’d smashed through her woods —  I could probably make it home, however painful the final miles. And though I saw a few deer in the woods along the way, they must have decided enough was enough. None of them jumped out into the road, and I made it at last home to painkillers and bed.

Leave a comment

Across the Wide Missouri

October 7, 2015

Missouri River Map Print by Mike Reagan

Our new map prints are in! Renowned watercolor artist Mike Reagan's latest work depicts the Missouri River as it flows through South Dakota, along with a few of the fish that draw sportsmen to its waters. We’re proud to offer his work as an unframed 16” x 20” art print for just $24.95 plus shipping and handling. Click here if you’d like to buy the new Missouri River map print for your home or office, or purchase it as a set, along with Reagan's South Dakota and Black Hills prints, for just $64.95.

Leave a comment

A Very Fair Poll

September 30, 2015

Good news! Only three percent of South Dakotans want to head for the border. That’s what we learned in our South Dakota Happiness Poll, a quick one-question quiz that we handed out to fairgoers during our 30th anniversary Fair Tour.

Our circulation director, Ashley Wagner, crunched the numbers for us. Here’s how attendees of the Turner County Fair in Parker, Central State Fair in Rapid City and South Dakota State Fair answered the question, “How do you rate life in South Dakota?”

  • 44 percent marked “paradise” 
  • 47 percent said it’s “plenty good”
  • 6 percent voted for “satisfactory”
  • 3 percent said “where’s the border, I’m leaving.”

Katie Hunhoff, our magazine’s editor and publisher, said that the Happiness Poll could become a regular feature of our fair visits. “Ninety-one percent said life is plenty good or paradise. We think it might be interesting to see if that number goes up or down in the years ahead.”

“There’s also a valid question of whether fair-goers are happier than people who don’t eat SDSU ice cream and pork sandwiches,” she said, “but the people we talked to seemed like a good cross-section of South Dakotans — except that country music fans might be over-represented. Our state fair booth was right next to Sherwin Linton’s stage.” 

She said the poll also might be tainted by the philosophy of one respondent who said, “It’s paradise but let’s not tell anybody.”

Leave a comment

Cornstruction Nearly Complete

July 22, 2015

We stopped by Mitchell's Main Street this week to see the progress on major renovations to the Corn Palace. Though the project is running a few months late, the end — or the cornstruction as some call it — is nearly complete.

We got a quick tour from Katie Knutson and Cherie Ramsdell. Katie is the director of Mitchell's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Cherie is the artist who designs the murals — a task once done by the legendary Oscar Howe.

The changes are making the old palace seem warmer and more people-friendly. Old concrete pillars in the lobby have been redesigned as corn ears, and decorated with ceramic tile from Italy arranged in an abstract way like kernels on a cob. A second floor balcony now hangs above Main Street. Already, the community is using it for Thursday night concerts. A bright second floor area is now devoted to Howe, the Lakota artist. Huge windows have been reopened. The outdoor murals are larger than ever. And the new steel domes give an abstract look of corn husks, especially when lit at night. (They were still sitting on the street when we stopped.)

Congratulations to the Mitchell community. They've embraced our corn culture with the palace since 1892. John Philip Sousa performed there in 1904, and since then the big brick barn has been Mitchell's invite to the world. Today's Corn Palace leadership has done all of South Dakota a great favor by modernizing and reconfiguring the architectural treasure. Plan to stop and see the changes on your travels.

Leave a comment

Chol and Amon

July 9, 2015

Chol Atem and Amon Ortman have something in common, though they lived 100 years apart. Amon was a pioneer healer, the founder of the Ortman Chiropractic Clinic at Canistota that is celebrating its 100th year this month. More about Chol in a few paragraphs.

We have always loved the story of Amon Ortman, the farmer with a gift for healing. The legacy he created through the generations continues today, and we've featured it on several occasions in South Dakota Magazine.

Of course I never met Amon Ortman, but I feel like I know him because like many of you I grew up with old-timers like that. People who worked hard. Who cared about their neighbors and their communities. People who thought you could do great things right here in South Dakota as well as anywhere else in the world.

I can easily picture Amon, after a hard day’s work of his own in the field, coming to the farmyard and finding a neighbor waiting with a sore shoulder. And I can see him inviting the neighbor to maybe sit on the running board of the car. They talk about the rain --- or the lack of rain – and Amon lays his hands on that bad shoulder.

People like Amon and places like Canistota have made all the difference for South Dakota. The Ortmans and the Husteads and the Andersons and the Hubers and the Larsons and the Brockelsbys and the Bakers and ten thousand other families who've gutted out their dreams, stuck it out and made it work.

Now to Chol Atem. Earlier this year, in our May/June issue, we did something different in the magazine. We invited a few dozen people to write words of advice for the high school and college students who would be graduating this year.

We called them “letters to graduates.” I thought the most touching letter came from a young man we've come to know who works at a convenience store in Yankton. His name is Chol Atem. I met Chol when he came to Pierre to help us pass a policy that discourages the State Investment Office from investing funds with companies who support the kind of genocide his family faced in Sudan.

Chol grew up 7,500 miles away from South Dakota, across the Atlantic Ocean. He was one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” driven away from his small town by terrorists who burned and ravaged his town and killed his relatives. He didn’t want to leave but he had no choice.

He survived, miraculously, and came to study at Mount Marty College in Yankton. He now lives and works in Yankton. And what did he tell our young readers of the magazine?

He had no choice but to leave home. But Chol challenged young South Dakotans to think twice before leaving their homes. “Step up to the plate and stop this chronic cycle of mass exodus to other states by generations of young South Dakotans,” he said. “It is time to invest and build our state of South Dakota. It takes one step to form an unstoppable movement. We are who we are by where we come from.”

“There is nothing like home,” says Chol, who had to find a new home in South Dakota. “I challenge you to rise beyond something bigger than yourselves. Invest your talents and expertise in building your state.”

Chol’s birth home and the Ortmans and Canistota are an ocean apart in more ways than one. But he and the Ortmans hold the very same idea of home.


Leave a comment

"Look At Me"

June 16, 2015

Ms. Wheelchair South Dakota will have a simple message when she represents our state at the national event in Des Moines, Iowa at the end of July.
    Look at the person, she says, not the disability.
    Dixie Lemme, 65, of Sioux Falls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, and has been using a wheelchair for the last nine years. “Lots of times people see the chair, they don’t see you,” Lemme told Jill Callison of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Lemme is a comedian who knows how to communicate a message. So she entered the pageant to tell the story of people who happen to have disabilities.
    “I just want to open up some eyes to hopefully make people see things,” she says. “People that are disabled have jobs, they have their family, but people have prejudices about them.”
    Congratulations to a real champ for people with disabilities. She’ll make us proud in Iowa.

Leave a comment

Web Design by Buildable