Location in the Banana Belt

No, I’m not selling real estate, I am just enjoying where we live. In South Dakota we know all three members of our Congressional delegation and the governor by their first names. We have Deadwood and we have the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Mount Rushmore belongs to us, not to North Dakota, even though some apparently think the mountain bounces back and forth between the two. We have the Badlands in the 244,300 acres Badlands National Park and although North Dakota also has Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it encompasses only 70,000 acres. The badlands in the two parks have different characteristics but South Dakota’s are more “bad.”

We have Wind Cave National Park that boasts their buffalo makes them desirable to start herds elsewhere. The park’s buffalo descended from a handful of calves captured by Fred Dupree and a herd later expanded by Scotty Philip.

The climate in the southwest corner is unlike the balance of the state; it is the Banana Belt of South Dakota due to the Black Hills on the western edge, which temper the weather. Hot Springs is the home of Evans Plunge, the world’s largest naturally heated indoor swimming pool, at a constant 87 degrees. Indeed, that is where tourism in the Black Hills began, as the Plunge is the oldest commercial family attraction in the Hills, in continuous use since 1890.

Perhaps our greatest asset is that the people who have lived here for some time know how to neighbor. It is not something you are; it is something you do. The new transplants, however, are not quick to catch on. A neighbor found that out first hand.

As he was driving to his home in the Black Hills, down the winding gravel road, he came upon a small boy who had crashed his bicycle. He stopped to help him, just before the boy’s father drove up. The father jumped out, grabbed his son and bicycle and didn’t even acknowledge the neighbor. At least a greeting would have been in order and a thank you would have been nice. This father had not learned that neighboring is a verb.

After our recent major spring snowstorm, people neighbored up. Those with the right machinery such as tractors and loader buckets or blades, Caterpillars and high clearance vehicles, helped those nearby, as a courtesy. Individuals with snow removal businesses were hired to do their thing. Spring storms are the best, as the snow slowly melts when the weather warms more each succeeding day and the moisture sinks into the ground.

If you just moved here, don’t despair at the storm. Know that you are living in the most mild area of South Dakota. The Feb. 13, 1889 issue of the Hot Springs Star explained one of the local mottos. “The most beautiful weather we have had this winter is appreciated by the denizens of the Banana Belt and everything is in readiness to make a vigorous attack on the spring work.”


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