The Black Hills, Prologue: Pierre

There are some blogs — particularly Catholicgauze and Coming Anarchy — that one can’t read without feeling a love of places. I also feel that way when visiting my native South Dakota. I’ve been lucky to be to some amazing places this summer — like the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square — and to visit less famous places that are home to folks I truly love, like Fort Wayne, Indiana and Nacogdoches, Texas. Yet South Dakota will always be South Dakota.

A Country Church at Fort Thompson, Crow Creek Indian Reservation

If you’ve made it to this bizarre sculpture, you’ve probably driven for 3.5 hours and are still half an hour away from Pierre on SD 34

The Imposing Capital Building. Our Governor‘s personal secretary gave me a baseball card with his face on it. Rounds ’06!

The All-Seeing Eye of the People Looks Down On Their Legislators. Or something. Actually it’s just the capital rotunda, but it’s fun imaginary what some of the symbolism means

This is easier to figure out. Girls with their tops misadjusted are good.

The Supreme Court has its own cozy nook.

Foreground: The lush capital grounds. Background: the arid Great Plains.

Our old Governor’s Mansion was a 1930s WPA project, and in such bad condition that our Governor, who is from Pierre anyway, moved back to his old house. Eventually we built him a new one, and this is about the view he has from his back yard.

The main division in the state is East River – West River. South Dakota is split in two by the Missouri, with a Central Plains, crop-based economy in the east and a Great Plains, cattle-based market in the west. From this park one can stare out into the frontier-but-East-River City of Pierre to the barbarian West River lands beyond. The uncouth locals of Fort Pierre, West River, South Dakota stare back at us. (In the entire history of South Dakota, no one from West River has ever been elected Governor.)

Last images from East River on this trip. When I worked for the state in Pierre I lived about a block from this spot.

Over the River, and to West River’s unending steppes!

The Black Hills, a tdaxp series
0. Pierre
1. Crazy Horse
2. Custer State Game Lodge
3. Blue Bell Lodge
4. Mount Rushmore
5. Goofy Custer
6. The Badlands

5 thoughts on “The Black Hills, Prologue: Pierre”

  1. Since there are so few of us who are from South Dakota, I’ll bite. When I was a little kid our family spent weekends one summer at the actual fort at Ft. Thompson, which I believe ended up under water. We collected bricks and cleaned the mortar off of them. My parents used them to make the floor of their living room.

  2. sonofsamphm1c,

    Cool! I didn’t know you were a fellow South Dakotan!

    I have similar memories of looking for the chalk stones of Old Scotland, before that abandoned city was flooded by the Janklow Dam. [1] I think I still have some of the chalk rocks about…

    I wonder how long before the small farm towns across our state know the same death as old Fort Thompson and old Scotland.

    I’m rarely happy when I think of South Dakota’s future. Sioux Falls, with its wealth and gifts [2], will probably do quite well. The second-tier towns may sleep at their current size. But most of the towns will become unremembered sisters of Garðar and Roanoke.

    Too bad.


  3. Last year I was home for Christmas. I went way out west of Aberdeen looking for one of my dad’s bulls (he loaned it out to a rancher friend,) and I was astonished at how empty that area has become. It was a great way of life, though I never thought that when I was a younger.

    Did South Dakota magazine include Scotland’s artillery piece in their article? When I was a kid I used to organize assaults on the artillery piece in Wessington Springs. It was on top of a high hill. A couple of years ago I took my Texan kids to the top and my cannon, to a chorus of “sure dad, lost again?”, had vanished. I found it in the magazine. They’d moved it to the cemetery: an indefensible position.

    I don’t know anything about Janklow’s dam, but one of my relatives grumbles often about that damn Janklow!

  4. The same river runs through North Dakota; is it divided economically the same way? Genuine question; I’ve never been closer to that area than Cheyenne.

  5. Dan has more important concerns right now, and I guess I’m the only other Dakotan wandering through here.

    For as similar as the two states are, there are remarkable departures; still, I think the west river and east river economies are probably very similar to the other state’s counterpart. East river is mostly farming land, and west river is mostly ranching land. Most people think west river is more beautiful, but the east river prairie has its own refined beauty, which seemingly goes unnoticed by many.

    I think North Dakota has more mineral wealth.

    My wife’s family is Russian German. They have a fascinating history, and there are bunches of them in both states. Lawrence Welk was Russian German.

    I hope Dan’s dad is doing okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *