Greetings from South Dakota and the capital city of Pierre where the great Missouri River bisects the state into two geographically and socially distinct halves know to its residents as “East River” and “West River”. Eastern South Dakota is home to most of its population and crops while the western section is dominated by ranching and is home to most of the state’s tourism.
We spent 5 days in our hometown of Madison, South Dakota where we renewed our driver’s licenses (mine was VERY expired!), met with our CPA and conducted other business. We stayed at Lake Herman State Park about 3 miles out of town but it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere! Our site was right on the water over looking Herman Pond where we had an unobstructed view of the wildlife in the area to include one critter who tried to haul away our Jack Daniel’s wood chips….hopefully he didn’t eat too many!! We took a couple of long hikes around the lake, caught up on chores and just relaxed.
We also visited Dennis’ new VFW post in town a couple of nights where we met many nice town folk to include Ima Jean, the secretary and active women’s auxiliary President. Come to find out she was very good friends with my relative, Joe Foss, when he was Governor of South Dakota in the late 1950’s. She also remembered other family members so we shared a few stories about the Foss family.
We have spent two days in Pierre at Farm Island State Recreation Area along the Missouri River. We had a nice spot a bit back from the river but within a short walking distance. After we set up camp we ventured into town to visit the State Capitol building, which was framed by a beautiful lake, statues and memorials. We spent the most time at the WW II Memorial and Flaming Fountain. This Memorial depicts someone from each branch of the service, to include a WAC/WAVE (we couldn’t tell which) all saluting their respective flags and the flags of South Dakota and the USA. Upon closer inspection we noticed that the Marine aviator looked a lot like my Uncle Joe Foss to include his signature cigar. Many of his WW II photos show him smoking a cigar after returning from sorties over the Pacific during the war. We walked all around the capitol building and it was amazing how much access we, as the general public had there as compared to California! We were even more amazed when we passed Governor Daugaard’s office-the sign on the door said “Please, come inside”. Welll……we did! Unfortunately he was attending a conference but we spoke with his Executive Assistant and one of his security personnel; they couldn’t have been nicer and we learned a lot of history from them, also.
We started our first full day here with a 4-mile hike from the campsite to Farm Island. Farm Island is now connected to the mainland via a causeway that was built in the late 1930’s by CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and was used for recreational use by the locals. Most of the buildings were wiped out last December when the Missouri River flooded out cities from South Dakota south to Iowa. We then ventured into town and toured the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Museum. It provided us a comprehensive but not overwhelming history of the state and it’s people.
We are off to Custer, South Dakota in the morning where we will decide which route to take next….