Location, location, location
No, I’m not selling real estate, I am just enjoying where we live. Don’t tell anyone but South Dakota is an undiscovered gem. The entire state is home to fewer than 750,000 residents. We have no state income tax. We know and address all three of our congressional delegates 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 Wind Cave National Park, one of few purebred bison herds in the world. 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 tempers the weather. This nomenclature is not new; I first read it in a local newspaper from the 1890s. Hot Springs is the home of Evans Plunge, the world’s largest naturally heated indoor swimming pool, at a constant 87 degrees.
Until Dec. 31, 2001, South Dakota had the largest working gold mine in the Western Hemisphere, located at Lead. (It is pronounced leed because it relates to a lede or channel of gold in the rock.) Now this same piece of real estate is the Sanford Underground Research Facility, a world-leading laboratory for researching biology, engineering, geology and physics.
Another world-class scientific study is taking place at Hot Springs, 100 miles south of Lead. Found here is the largest collection site of mammoths in the world, dubbed simply, The Mammoth Site. In addition to the in situ displays, there is a laboratory, bookstore, gift shop and a scientific library. Other exhibits include a fabricated skeleton to show how large they actually were. The town features the Pioneer Museum, located in an 1893-built locally quarried sandstone school and Evans Plunge, the Black Hills’ oldest family attraction, in continuous business since 1890. The outstanding 18-hole Southern Hills Golf Course is also a draw.
Perhaps our greatest asset is that the people who have lived her 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.
In between two major scientific establishments are the beautiful Black Hills and all that they encompass. We, along with our neighbors, have the best rural life, just don’t tell anyone. ❖