…. and onto Mitchell, South Dakota!

My trip to China was wonderful. The Emergency Room was interesting, the Fragrant Hills Beautiful, the Botanical Gardens striking. I’ll remember special places — like a delicious barbecue restaurant or the bustling downtown of Beijing, as well as the special people I met. But all things must end, and soon we found ourselves flying east from the Northern Capital of the old Middle Country to the Middle-West of the Northern New World…

Now the wheel had shifted. It was my turn to show the Beautiful Country as she had shown me fair Cathay. Not only the beautiful sunsets of Lincoln, Nebraska…

But also Cows. Cows are remarkably shy animals around people, and in clumps made a calculated retreat from a distance gaze.

Even simpler animals, turkeys merely gobbled excitedly at the nothing that confuses their lives.

The Cows were seen on Old Highway 16, but the Turkeys are part of the industrial farming operation of the Old Elm Springs Colony of the Hutterite Church. The hutterites are Germans from Russia. These German-speaking Tyrolian and Bohemian pacifists were invited into Germany by their countrywoman, Sophi von Anhalt-Zerbst, and left under late Czarist, Leninist, and Stalinist oppression. Those that stayed behind would perish in Siberia. Generally they found a happy home in the United States…

… if one ignores the occasional pogroms. The actual old Elm Springs colony was abandoned at the outbreak of the Great War, a time of anti-German lynchings and burnings-in-effigy in South Dakota. The Maxwell Colony had its cemetery plowed over, and one wonders how these brick buildings so decayed in a mere two decades of unoccupancy…

The Jim River, from an abandoned structure:

Another of an abandoned colony building at the Jim. The Jim River Valley is the most strikingly beautiful region of South Dakota east of the Missouri.

Ghosts of the Dead Past

The new colony, the old colony, and the river. Click on the image for a sense of scale impossible in this cropped portion

Red Star over Ethan. Noted the Communist (actually, probably “industrialist”) style of a star at our lunch stop

We ate at this country dinner, The Cooks Inn. By chance I met a man who knew my ancestral town in South Dakota, and we discussed my great uncle.

The banks of Lake Mitchell on the dammed Jim. This is at the ancient Indian village, a fortified farming settlement of the Mandan from a millennium back. That was before they were ethnically cleansed by the Ojibwe, who in turn felt the Sioux’s tender mercy.

Unlike the Ojibwe and themselves before them, the Sioux had their lives and fortunes protected by their conquerors. The United States and the State of South Dakota recognizes a number of quasi-sovereign Indian reservations, and race-based discrimination never reached the genocidal levels the Sioux would have found familiar.

No trip to Mitchell is complete without seeing the facade of the utterly disappointing World’s Only Corn Palace. “Do we have to go in?” tdaxp: “No.”

One thought on “…. and onto Mitchell, South Dakota!”

  1. I'm highly amused by your radical shift in locale, while maintaining the same level of fascination with your surroundings. Perhaps being in another country opens your eyes to the things we take for granted. I know that being in NYC made the rest of my life feel pretty simple. Also, it must be nice to breathe easy again, eh?

  2. Rob, being back in America opened my eyes — and my lungs! In my month in China, I saw clouds on just two days. The sky is always a portrait here, the animals are well fed, and the countryside is beautiful.

    I hope to add western South Dakota, Indiana, and Texas to the travelogue soon.

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