South Dakota is truly part of the breadbasket of the world. As far as you can see and for miles beyond is soybeans like this field or corn. To most of us it is just a matter of patriotism when our government announces possible sanctions of agricultural exports to Russia for their misbehavior to Ukraine. To a lot of farmers it means a possible loss of markets and lower prices for their crops. Nothing is cost free.
The Damn Dam spans the Big Sioux River just outside the small town of Flandreau, South Dakota where my dad spent his boyhood. He and his brothers and another friend all went in together and bought a canoe and lived what sounded like the Tom Sawyer life on the lake behind the dam. Fishing, camping, canoeing, and “hanging out.” It still looks like a good place to hang out.
It was called the Damn Dam by my mother and my Aunt who were very tired of visiting the dam every year and never missed an opportunity to not go. It was all in good fun though. My Dad and his brother still like to go and I like to go because they like to go and they have great stories. The stories get better ever year. I’m much to polite to say anything about that though.
Cousin Robert, Dad, and his brother at the Damn Dam.
I was in the tiny little town of Flandreau, South Dakota. Flandreau, like lots of other small towns across the Midwest USA has grain elevators. They look simultaneously timeless and recently unused. They seem to be the tallest structures in town.
The grounds are neat and tidy though. Everything in the upper midwest seems neat and tidy.
Near the grain elevators is one of the largest quonset huts I’ve ever seen. It also didn’t look to be used but the grass is neatly mowed. The morning that I took all these pics the sky was as gray as the metal on the structures.
This is the Moody County Courthouse. Moody County had its few days in the national news early in 2004 when a jury sitting in this courthouse sent South Dakota’s Governor Bill Janklow to jail for manslaughter for killing a motorcyclist while speeding and running a stoplight. They are still talking about it in town. You don’t want to mess around with the citizens of the rural midwest. If you do they’ll send you somewhere where you can reflect on your actions, for a good long while.
Bars in South Dakota are serious business. You go there to drink. If you want to eat you go to you a restaurant. And no, your kids are definitely not welcome here. Here in Oklahoma if you want to have a bar you have to serve food also. The Bar-X Lounge in Flandreau is a bar’s bar. If you want to buy decent beer in Flandreau (no, Bud Light is NOT decent beer) you go the Bar-X Lounge and stand in a little alcove and get your beer. No unmasculine browsing or looking at a lists or anything, you stand up like a man and see if they got what you want. If you have a problem with that I think it best you don’t say anything about it. Not that I’m trying to tell you what to do or anything.
The best part of the Bar-X is that my Dad and his brother are friends with the owner (or one of the owners or a former owner, I’m not really sure.) Eddie is his name and he is a heck of a guy. I’ve been hearing stories about him all my life and finally got to meet him for a few minutes.
Hey, have you ever wandered around a small town early on a Sunday morning?
Check out the action in Flandreau here.
Sioux Valley Baptist Church is a small clapboard church sitting on a dirt road a few miles from Trent, South Dakota and right across the Big Sioux River from my Great Great Grandfather’s original homestead. He donated the land the church sits on. The church was dedicated in 1888 and has been in service ever since. It is a tradition in my Dad’s family that they attend services in connection with the annual reunion. It is pretty cool to see the church still holding services and knowing that my ancestors had a hand in getting it started.
The service is simple and heartfelt. The music is great. The prayers and praises concern thankfulness for a safe rodeo season and livestock showings at the County Fair, concerns about illnesses. Somehow the pastor, Rita Webber remembers everything and mentions it during the prayers. The sermon is likewise great.
Somehow this is all accomplished without powerpoint slides, amplified guitars, video segments and all that. Totally Old School and relaxing.
Last week I went to South Dakota for a family reunion. The main activity is a big picnic at the City Park in Dell Rapids. I’m not very good with large groups so I am not one to mingle and merge and start conversations up. Nor am I into shoving my camera into the faces of people. After the picnic there is kind of an “afterparty” at the homes of one of the relatives and in this lot smaller group I’m a lot more comfortable.
The get together itself is great but the house also fascinates me. It has always seemed perfect to me. My great grandfather bought it in the mid 1940’s when he retired from farming and it has been in and out of the family ever since. I remember crashing in the living room one weekend in the late 1970’s during the reunion weekend.
So somebody at the get together mentioned that it was designed by an architect named Dow. So of course I start googling around and low and behold it I find out that it is a house with a name, the “William G. Milne House” and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Moreover, it is considered to be a Queen Anne Style house and was built in 1902.. It was designed by a Wallace L. Dow who apparently was a famous architect who designed a great number of public and private buildings during his career. Of course I felt a little guilty thinking about drinking beer on the back porch of such a distinguished house. Not too guilty, just a little guilty you understand.
I have a little history with the house. Like I said that my Great Grandfather owned it for a time. My dad has slides from a trip we took one Christmas in the late 1950’s.
This a family shot. I’m the good looking guy sitting on the lady’s lap. That lady is my grandmother. Brother Bob is the guy in red at the bottom of the photo.
And here is me on the staircase of the house. I can’t believe I had so much hair. Where did it all go? I love those suspenders also.
Anyway, I love serendipity. How about you? Have you made some interesting connections lately?