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By Staff | Jul 6, 2012

Every so often the Black Hills will call, and my wife and I will answer even though we know that it’s long-distance and collect.

It’s a haul from our house to the Black Hills, a trek that chews through most of a day. It’s also fairly boring, with the scenery consisting mainly of miles and miles of miles and miles. I passed the time by guessing which would be the last field of soybeans and which might be the last corn field.

We were rewarded when we finally arrived at a randomly selected Black Hills hotel. As my wife checked in, I lugged our luggage across the parking lot. I stopped to grab a lungful of mountain air and savor the aroma of the summertime pine forest. Off in the distance, a thunderhead cascaded over the rolling highlands; forked tongues of lightning flicked down to lick the hilltops.

The glory, the majesty! What a breathtaking vista! Or maybe I just wasn’t accustomed to the altitudinous air.

We stayed in the historic town of Deadwood, known historically for its wild and wooly history. For more than a century after its gold rush beginnings in 1876, Deadwood’s “rooming houses” operated openly. Gambling took the place of girls in the 1980s, so the theme of the town remains “leave your money in Deadwood.”

Gambling doesn’t interest me but food does. My wife and I chose to dine at the Deadwood Social Club, located above Saloon No. 10, the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was historically shot while engaged in a friendly game of poker. Well, maybe it wasn’t all that friendly.

The grub at the Social Club was excellent, although the service was slow. I won’t say how slow except to mention that Deadwood Gulch lost several inches due to erosion while we waited for our victuals to arrive.

We are wild and crazy people and are naturally attracted to wild and crazy things. This explains why we wended our way the next day to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.

The Mammoth Site is a dig that contains the remains of huge, hairy behemoths that once roamed the area. And no, I don’t mean Alec Baldwin.

Over 25,000 years ago, a water-filled sinkhole attracted mammoths, some of which fell in and perished. We were told that all the mammoth bones belonged to young males. This is pure speculation, but I suspect that each of them uttered final words along the lines of “Hey guys, watch this!”

The Mammoth Site featured a full-sized replica of an adult mammoth. It’s crazy to imagine herds of those colossal creatures lumbering across our prairies. It’s even crazier to imagine a bunch of guys saying to each other, “See those 10-ton elephant-like beasts over there? Let’s go kill one with our pointed sticks!”

Later that day we went to Crazy Horse Memorial, where they were doing a rare night blast. The biggest problem for me was the fact that we had to wait until night. We passed the time by participating in our favorite sport, namely, people watching.

One particular woman strode purposefully by, wearing a safari vest and carrying a tall and serious-looking walking stick. It appeared that she hoped to create the impression that she had just conquered the wilds of a deep, dark jungle even though we knew full well that she had just arrived from the wilds of the parking lot.

We stopped for a bite at the snack bar, which multiplied our opportunities to observe homo sapiens in their natural habitat.

I espied a family that included two girls, one about 9 and the other perhaps 14. I couldn’t hear what was being said but divined from her actions and body language that the teenager found it unbelievable that she was related to the lumpy, pallid beings who claimed to be her parents. Why was she forced to endure their presence? How could she have sprung from their loins? Why couldn’t her parents be Brad and Angelina?

We eventually repaired to the parking lot to escape the madding crowds. I wandered around and happened to bump into a nice young couple and their five children. Their kids, unlike many we saw in the visitor’s center, were extremely well-behaved.

Turned out that the young family were dairy farmers from central Minnesota. This explained their kids’ excellent behavior: people tend to grateful for the small things when daily life includes the distinct possibility of a wet tail to the face.

I asked the young dairyman how his family’s summer vacation was going.

“We’re having a blast!” he replied without hesitation.

And you could say the same for my wife and I, especially when they began to touch off the dynamite.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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