Bits & Pieces

A solution to travel bans 

 

In this time of travel bans, I thought I'd make a suggestion. If my South Dakota friends would still like to see the world, they can do it without leaving South Dakota's two-lane roads:

 

See the World on South Dakota Two-Lane Roads

 

From Alexandria to Astoria, Bristol to Burbank, and Carthage to Colombia, I realized we can see the entire world simply by driving the two-lane roads of South Dakota.

Imagine being in Bristol in the morning and Frankfort in the afternoon. What a great place to live.

I wonder, is there a racetrack in Richmond or a battlefield in Gettysburg? Are there submarines in Groton? Maybe we should take a road trip and find out. Perhaps we can find out the allure of “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” along the way.

Imagine going from Columbia to Britton in forty-five minutes! The Concord SST has nothing on us! Want a quick trip? How about Britain to Havana in fifteen minutes (wait, that's across the border – scratch that). How about Naples to Vienna in less than ten?

 We have some wonderful places to see here in South Dakota. We can sail down the main street of Hudson or Gallop over to Gary.  Want to see Scotland? Sure, it's south of Mount Vernon.

I hear Hayti is nice this time of year. Too tropical? Stockholm is only an hour away. While Lebanon is three hours from Toronto, it is only forty minutes from Java.

You can go to Orient on your way to Eureka, be sure to visit Tolstoy along the way.  Ever been to Spain? Me neither but you can find it just north of Bristol.

 

There are many friends to visit as we travel across our South Dakota world. Bradly is close to Wallace and nearby Florence. Stop in and say hello. Gary and Bruce are on the eastern side of the state. I don’t think they want to go to Yale but you can, it’s just a bit farther west. You can Chase Dupree to Red Elm if you have Faith. Perhaps we could Volunteer near Union Center unless you prefer Stonewall.

HazelThomas, and Henry are near one another we could visit them all in one day. Maybe we’ll include Lili. If you want to take the easy way to see America, you can do it in Brule County. Look it up, you'll see.

You won’t find a Hooker in Letcher, though the names are unusual, they’re not Vulga at all.

So take a two-lane tour around South Dakota and see the world. Don't forget to visit James. He has a river near Bath.

 

Posted HERE March 17, 2020

Life on the High Plains

The Harvest

This appeared on the Flyover County Blog October first.

I have had the privilege of living in the middle of farm country for the past twelve years. I have learned a good deal since moving here. Much of it to do with farming. When I grew up the US Central Plains were called the “The World’s Breadbasket” because of the acres upon acres upon more acres of wheat grown around here. Today it is called “The Corn Belt” or “The Grain Belt”. 

Life on the High Plains takes on a whole different flavor this time of year. Everyone who can be is involved in the harvest. There are pre teen boys and girls coming home from grammar school and climbing into six figure equipment to spell mom or dad. There are great grandfathers in the eighties running combines and semi tractor trailers. The “Family Farm” takes on an entirely different meaning during these weeks. I have a neighbor (a young man today) who has been driving tractors hauling grain carts since he was six years old. I worked with a great grandpa who pulled a one hundred twenty thousand pound twin trailer semi truck at the age of eighty nine.

At home, things are different too. Mom may be cooking, but not for the table. Everything she prepares is packed and taken out to the folks in the field. There is no sit down supper. Everyone eats on the fly. Local restaurants set records for take out orders in October. This happens when mom is in the field too.

Each year during this time I come out of my retirement and drive a semi tractor-trailer for a neighbor. That’s right, for six weeks I am semi-retired. (Okay I had to do it - sorry). I drive loads of grain to the local elevator or the farm for on-farm storage. I get to travel across the two lane roads of Middle America and see the great ballet in action. Large green and red combines are moving in slow motion across the fields. To me they look like modern day prairie schooners cleaning and gleaning the fields. I watch the grain disappear into large tractor towed carts then to hopper bottom semi trucks. I see the fields, bright green just weeks ago, give up their bounty to the men and women who labored to get the best possible results.

Day after day for the next four to six weeks I will watch the food come out of the fields. I will watch as people, young and old, work to feed not only America, but the world. When it is over, the fields will be bare and ready for snow cover.

Life is cyclic almost everywhere, but here, in farm country, the cycles are much more defined. Thank you, neighbors, for allowing this not so country boy to become a part of feeding the world. 

I have had the privilege of living in the middle of farm country for a past twelve years. I have learned a good deal since moving here. Much of it to do with farming. When I grew up the US Central Plains were called the “The World’s Breadbasket” because of the acres upon acres upon more acres of wheat grown around here. Today it is called “The Corn Belt” or “The Grain Belt”. 

Life on the High Plains takes on a whole different flavor this time of year. Everyone who can be is involved in the harvest. There are pre-teen boys and girls coming home from grammar school and climbing into six figure equipment to spell mom or dad. There are great grandfathers in their eighties running combines and semi tractor trailers. The “Family Farm” takes on an entirely different meaning during these weeks. I have a neighbor (a young man today) who has been driving tractors hauling grain carts since he was six years old. I worked with a great grandpa who pulled a one hundred twenty thousand pound twin trailer semi truck at the age of eighty-nine.

At home, things are different too. Mom may be cooking, but not for the table. Everything she prepares is packed and taken out to the folks in the field. There is no sit-down supper. Everyone eats on the fly. Local restaurants set records for take out orders in October. This happens when mom is in the field too.

Each year during this time I come out of my retirement and drive a semi tractor-trailer for a neighbor. That’s right, for six weeks I am semi-retired. (Okay I had to do it - sorry). I drive loads of grain to the local elevator or the farm for on-farm storage. I get to travel across the two lane roads of Middle America and see the great ballet in action. Large green and red combines are moving in slow motion across the fields. To me they look like modern-day, prairie schooners cleaning and gleaning the fields. I watch the grain disappear into large tractor towed carts then to hopper bottom semi trucks. I see the fields, bright green just weeks ago, give up their bounty to the men and women who labored to get the best possible results.

Day after day for the next four to six weeks I will watch the food come out of the fields. I will watch as people, young and old, work to feed not only America, but the world. When it is over, the fields will be bare and ready for snow cover.

Life is cyclic almost everywhere, but here, in farm country, the cycles are much more defined. Thank you, neighbors, for allowing this not so country boy to become a part of feeding the world.
 

The Post Office Walk

 

An incident similar to this actually happened to me when I was visiting a friend in rural Iowa back in the eighties. It typifies life in small town America.

 

To set the stage, Bill Weber is a suburban transplant and new to small town living. Henry is the mayor of Helen, SD (pop 295). Henry owns a small engine repair shop and Bill is a realtor in the county seat.

 

Henry's home is less than one hundred yards from the post office, yet Henry would drive to get his mail each morning. When Bill challenged Henry about driving such a short distance, Henry replied it took too long to walk.

 

Bill bet Henry a cup of coffee at the Helen House Cafe they could walk to the post office from Henry's home in under five minutes. Here's what happened.

 

* * *

 

Bill walked up to Henry’s door at eight fifteen Friday morning. He didn’t get the chance to knock. Henry greeted him with a coffee in a ‘to go’ cup. “Good morning, Bill.”

“Good morning, Henry.”

“Nice morning for a walk. Didn’t you bring a jacket?”

“I have one in the car. I don’t think I’ll need it just to go a couple hundred feet.”

“Bill, please take my advice, get your jacket.”

Bill laughed, “You’re going to play this to the bitter end. All right, I’ll play along.” Bill went back to the Escalade and got his replica Navy Leather Flying Jacket from the front seat.

“Nice jacket,” Henry said. “Well, ready to walk?”

“Sure thing. Let me start the timer in my phone, just to keep things honest.”

“Go ahead, but you won’t need it.”

As they walked down the driveway, Bill told him the story about the jacket. “I had a neighbor back east who was a Navy Veteran. He used to fly in those big submarine hunter airplanes. He had a jacket like this. When he retired, they let him keep it. I liked the looks of it so I found this replica on line.”

They got to the sidewalk and turned toward the corner. Bill was thinking this was an easy bet in about one minute they would arrive at the Post Office. A pickup truck pulled up and the window came down.

“Good morning Bill, Henry.” Oscar Richlind was sitting in the driver’s seat. “You folks in cahoots trying to figure out how to sell the town this morning?”

“Actually we are working on a bet,” Henry said.

“A bet?”

“Bill bet me I could walk to the Post Office in under five minutes.”

“That’s funny Henry. I’d better get going then or I’ll screw up the bet for Bill. I’ll stop by the shop later. I want to talk to you about the zoning change I need.”

“Do that Oscar.”

“How’s that house, Bill?”

“Couldn’t be better.”

“Good. We’ll, see-ya.”

“Have a good day Oscar,” Bill said as the window went up. “One of the best things I ever did was buy his house. June and I really love it.”

“I see you sold Wendell’s place.”

“That was easy. The couple…..”

Ka… Bang!

“What the…..”

“Oh, sorry about that.” A man on an antique tractor said as he pulled to a stop. “I just can’t get the backfire out of this thing.”

“Good morning, Terry. You know Bill Weber?”

“You’re that Real Estate man that moved into the parsonage, right?”

“That’s right,” Bill said. “And you are?”

“Terry Falcon, I’m the Parts manager at Helen Case.”

“So, what’s this? You folks are doing ‘take your tractor to work day?’” Henry asked.

“Oh no, we do that in August when things are a bit slower,” Terry replied, not realizing it was a joke. “I can’t get the backfire out of this engine. Every time I pull back the throttle quickly, it backfires. I’m taking it to the shop so Larry can look at it at dinnertime. I saw you walking so I figured I’d ask you about it, too.”

“I know a little about those old magneto ignitions,” Henry said. “If Larry can’t figure it out, bring it by the shop and I’ll give it a look.”

“Sure thing. Well, I’d better get going. Those parts won’t sell themselves.” With that, Terry spooled up the engine rpm again and drove off toward Helen Case IH Implement and Supply.

“That’s a beautiful antique,” Bill said.

“Terry has about six of them. He restores them for a hobby. He says he does it to make money, but he has never sold one after he got it done.”

As they got to the corner another car pulled up. “I thought it was you.”

“Good morning Harvey,” Bill said. “How are you?”

“I’m doing fine. I need to talk to you about Uncle Alan’s house. We moved him to Lazy Acres last month and we want to sell the place. Can you handle it?”

“Sure,” Bill answered. “Let’s find a time when we can get together and walk through it.” Bill reached for his card and handed it to Harvey. “Here, this card has all my numbers on it. Give me a call and we’ll set it up.”

“We’re holding the household and furniture auction in two weeks so the place will be cleaned out. You think I should hold back the appliances?”

“Let’s take a look before the auction. I want to see for myself before I give you any advice.”

“Good enough. Look, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you early next week.”

“I’ll call you if you want,” Bill replied.

“Please do that,” Harvey said with a nod. “We’ll see ya Bill, Henry.”

“So long Harvey,” Henry said.

They got to the corner and crossed the street. A man was walking the other direction and stopped. “Good morning Henry, Bill.”

“Good morning Dan,” Henry said, smiling. “How you feeling?”

“Feeling good now. Doc says I need to walk at least a mile a day to build up my stamina.”

“That’s going to be difficult here in a couple months,” Bill said out loud what he was thinking, “I don’t think I’d want to walk a mile or more on a cold South Dakota winter morning.”

“I got a treadmill at an auction sale the other week. I have it in the basement for when it gets really cold. I don’t think I’ll like it as much. I like to get outside and see things as I walk. Did you see the Lesterton’s are getting a new roof?”

“No,” Henry said. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“They aren’t shingling, they are going with a steel roof.”

“Steel?” Henry said. “That’s kind of spendy, isn’t it?”

“Earnest told me it was about the same, or a bit less.”

“That’s surprising,” Bill said. “I always thought the steel roofs were more money than the standard shingle roof.”

“Me too, until Ernest set me straight.” Dan looked down the road, “Well, I’d better keep moving. I’m not getting my exercise standing here.”

“Have a good day Dan,” Henry said for both of them.

Bill and Henry walked up the sidewalk to the Post Office as they reached the front of the building, a woman walked out. “Henry, I thought you were inside. I saw your Jeep here.”

It was at that point that Bill noticed Henry’s jeep in the parking lot.

“No, I put it there last night. I walked over with Bill this morning.”

The answer satisfied the woman. She didn’t ask for any further explanation. “Are you and Grace coming to the Ladies Auxiliary social this Saturday?”

“Grace mentioned it last week. I sure intend to be there. Is Agnes going to bring her rhubarb pies?” Henry turned to Bill, “Agnes Higgins, that’s Alice’s mother in law, makes the best rhubarb pie in the world. I’m not partial to rhubarb, but I love her pies. They auction them off as part of the fundraiser. The pies will go for over fifty dollars each.”

“They’re that good?”

“They’re that good, plus it's a donation to the Legion Auxiliary,” Henry said.

“Agnes has been baking pies this whole week. She’ll have plenty,” the woman said.

“Then I’m sure we’ll be there,” Henry replied.

“Wonderful, well I’d best get on my way.”

“See you at the social,” Henry said.

“You bet.”

They walked into the Post Office and Henry said, “Think you need to check your timer?”

Bill looked at his phone. Nineteen minutes had passed since they left Henry’s driveway. “Nineteen minutes. But you can’t count the last encounter. You would have seen Alicia anyway when you drove over.”

“Not necessarily, I could have been over and back before she got here.”

“How about the time with Harvey? He stopped to talk to me.”

“You know Harvey, he would have stopped even if I had been alone. He would have had a question about the sale, or something else.”

“Point taken. You win. I’ll buy the coffee,” Bill said.

“I’ll drive. I want to get there before dinner.” They both laughed.

“Good morning Beverly,” Henry said.

“That’s a cheery voice, I guess you won the bet.”

“Hands down,” Henry said.

“I learned another lesson in country living this morning,” Bill agreed.

 

* * *

 

You can find this story and others like it in Flyover County.

 

I got a nice letter from a fellow author I met at the Doland Book Signing. He writes a weekly column for the Brookings Register. 
Here is his note:


Hi Richard
We visited a bit in the library at the book signing. You were kind enough to buy a couple of my books, Postcards from SD and the one about SD prohibition. I write a weekly column for the Brookiings Register. Have written the column Stubble Mulch (look it up under soil conservation) for forty years.
I used some of your comments in my column for next week, and thought you'd like to see it. So I hope you can pick it up.
Cheers
Chuck Cecil

 

And Now - with the permission of the columnist, here's the article:

 

Stubble-South Dakota Nicer

For July 15, 2015

By Chuck Cecil

611 words


 

   I met a man in Doland with a message for us.

   He’s an East Coast transplant who writes enthusiastically about life in South Dakota.

  “You people don’t realize what you have here,” Richard Skorupski mentioned as we visited through an Independence Day afternoon at a book signing in the Lilliputian but well-stocked Doland Public Library.

  He grew up among the hustle, bustle and get-out-of-my-way south central New Jersey. He spent a career in the Navy, retired in 1993 and returned home.

  Along the way he visited a Navy buddy in rural Iowa, spending several days with his friend traveling to neighboring farmsteads hawking animal feed supplements.

   Skorupski enjoyed that Iowa visit so much, and was so taken by the rural lifestyle and the friendliness of the people, that he decided to leave his native state he calls “The Peoples Republic of New Jersey.”

 He and his wife Cheryl now live on a hobby farm near Doland where he spends his days writing about what he finds here, and during harvest, driving a truck for his neighbors.

  The Skorupskis love their prairie life and their newfound neighbors. He’s convinced that we who live out our days in flyover country often fail to realize just how good we have it.

  In fact, he’s written a book about flyover “county” that he calls “Kent County” but as every Superman fan knows, it’s actually about the S.D. county of Clark east of Skorupski’s Spink County.

  “It’s wonderful out here,” he says.

   “I just met a lady just a few minutes ago who had been viewing the Doland All-School Reunion Fourth of July parade from a lawn chair on Main Street,” he told me as we chatted in the library.        

   “After the parade she became engaged in meeting old friends as she strolled about, reminiscing with former classmates. A half-hour later she realized she didn’t have her purse with her.”

   She hurried back to her parade spot, found the lawn chair still there and her purse still in it.

  “Now try that in New York City or New Jersey,” he said.

  And he’s right. Just recently I noticed similar instances of South Dakota life.

   While helping move a piece of antique farm machinery to the Brookings County Museum in Volga, we passed the Phil and Tara VanderWal place just north of Highway 14 through Volga.

  As we lumbered by at two miles an hour, an inconsequential piece of iron about six inches long fell from the old binder we were escorting to its new museum home.

   We didn’t see it break loose. But Tara was looking out her window as we rattled noisily by, and saw it fall on the highway. She retrieved it, jumped in her car and brought it to the museum a mile away just as we were pulling into the place.      

     What a nice thing to do.

    Then a few days ago, leaving Volga with a trailer loaded with another heavy museum item, we discovered one trailer tire gasping, and brake and blinker lights that were also on the fritz.

   We stopped at the AgFirst Farmers Coop in Volga and explained our dilemma to Manager Brad Mitchell. He dropped what he was doing to lend a hand.

   Twenty minutes later we were on our way.

   We tried to pay him. But Brad shook his head. “Forget it. It’s on the house,” he said.

    Minnesotans call their state “Minnesota Nice” and I’m sure it is.

    I’m calling our state “South Dakota Nicer.”

    That’s because it is, and sometimes, it takes good folks like Richard Skorupski, Tara VanderWal, and Brad Mitchell to remind us how lucky we are to live out here among such kind and caring folks.

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