One of the fun things about having moved around a lot is that you learn that most places look a whole lot alike any more, from the strip malls to gas stations, from fast-food chains to housing developments. And don't even get me started on the "industrial parks", where large metal sheds are the new factories (no windows, two doors, completely anonymous). Even Josiah Bounderby would think they were a little too utilitarian.
On the other hand, the other fun thing you learn is that, underneath all that sameness, there are real differences.
One thing that puzzled me when I first moved up here, was why there were so many cornfields standing, unharvested, well into November, December, January, February... I mean, there's brown corn, with cobs, with snow. So I asked about that: "Was there some sort of blight?" And was told that the corn was freeze-drying in the fields, to save the cost of corn dryers. Who knew? I'd been living in the South for the last 17 years, where they harvest at harvest time, i.e., the fall, because if they leave the corn in the field, it'll rot with all the rain. Up here... well, we're colder than that.
Here's another puzzler:
There's lots of signs here in South Dakota for "Limousin Service". As a newcomer, I had two questions:
(1) why were there so many limousine services in rural South Dakota?
(2) why didn't they spell it right?
Later I learned that a Limousin (outside of Sioux Falls) is a cow. French origin, from the Limousin, but all over the place up here, along with Angus, Shorthorn, Simmenthal, etc. And, of course, Limousin Service is about breeding. (Which sometimes happens in limousines, too, but we won't get into that.)
BTW, this is NOT a misspelling, but deliberate:
There are more than one of these signs along I-29 between Sioux Falls and Mitchell. Dick knows how to make you look. Betcha he gets a lot of calls, too.
BTW, this is why I regularly put characters asking stupid questions into my stories. God knows I've done it often enough.Thankfully, there are other ways to find out what's going on in a new area than running around asking crazy questions. For one thing, find out who's the biggest gossip in town and park yourself next to him at the Norseman's Bar or her down at the Laskin Cafe.
Another way is to read the local paper. And not just the local daily paper, but the local weekly paper, which services the whole county. We have one, called "The Peach". If you need field irrigation wells, farm & home wells, high capacity pumps; if you want to buy a limousin 2 year old bull or an Angus yearling; if you need retrenching or a ride to Branson to see Daniel O'Donnell; or any sort of job in the healthcare, farming, or hog confinement industry, the Peach is the place to go.
Did I mention barn straightening? Seed cleaning? Bean stubble baling?
Also pork loin feeds, and church suppers, all of which are other places where you can go and get fed while catching up on the news/gossip/weather report.
And then there are the Locals, where we find out what to do with our spare time:
- Dist. 8 Conservatives Luncheon
- Laskin Duplicate Bridge
- Arts Council
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Sr. Citizens Dance (hugely popular; if you're a guy who loves to dance, you will not sit down for longer than it takes to have a cup of coffee or a highball to pep you up for the next dance.)
- Christian Motorcyclists Association
- VFW Auxiliary Sunday Brunch - every Sunday, great pancakes, come on down!
- The Country Swingers (more dancing; get your mind out of the gutter)
Like what happened to the person who posted "Acres of good used hog equipment for sale"? What happened to THAT hog containment operation? And why does s/he say, "Save this ad"?
Or why is someone "looking for used mobile homes, 1995 or older, will pay CASH." Do they breed? Are they refurbished and sold as new? Or are they being shipped up to the Bakken for the man-camps?
Or the sale of "Positive Rain Gutters". (Watch out for negative rain gutters, they will leak and you.)
And there are auctions galore, of course. These are important, not only because you can bid on everything from TOOLS OF ALL KINDS (and they ain't kidding!) to Antiques, Trucks, Household Goods, Implements, Stationary Engines, Parts & Pieces, and the land itself. Auctions are where people gather. They last all day; food (or at least coffee) is often served; and people stand around and catch up on everything, from who's there and who isn't.
And speaking of auctions, we had a humdinger back in September. You remember the Gear Up! scandal, where, early in the morning of September 17, 2015, a fire destroyed the home of Scott and Nicole Westerhuis and their four children in Platte, South Dakota. Our Attorney General Marty Jackley determined that Scott Westerhuis shot his entire family, torched the house, and then shot himself, all because he was about to be caught for embezzling enough funds - and no one still knows how much - to build a $1.3 million rural home, a $900,000 gym complete with basketball court, etc., etc., etc., on a combined salary of $130,000.
Well, look to your right, folks. Yes, they auctioned off what stuff survived the fire that night. For a detailed look at what was on auction, read Cory Heidelberger's blog HERE.
As you might expect, the auction was a major topic of discussion around town. Many of us agreed that we would not be anxious to have any item from that property because we are almost all superstitious, and feel like the TVs might go on and off by themselves, or perhaps the desk roller chairs might start swiveling around in the middle of the night, like at, say 2:57 AM when someone used the Westerhuis landline to call Nicole Westerhuis' cell phone...
The land itself was sold at auction to the Platte Area Ministerial Association, who plan to open an interdenominational Christian camp there. Unfortunately, they only had the $37,000 down payment and are trying to raise the rest of the $370,000 bid. They've set up a GoFundMe page, which hopefully will work. (Although I can't but wonder if an exorcism might also help...)
And where did the funds that were raised go? To pay for the funerals; compensation for estate representatives and attorneys; a dozen credit card companies, banks, and workers. Meanwhile, Gear Up! will not be reimbursed nor, apparently, the State of South Dakota.
And speaking of Gear Up - Mid Central Educational Co-op Director Dan Guericke is accused of backdating contracts to avoid a government audit, plus sighing at least 17 illegally secret contracts on behalf of Mid Central worth $3.8 million. Where, oh, where did the money go? (see all of Angela Kennecke's report HERE.
Speaking of Guericke and Westerhuis, "Guericke spent more than an hour on the phone with Scott Westerhuis the evening before the tragedy and when the board questioned him about what was said, sources tell me that Guericke told them the two really didn't talk about much at all." Mm-hmm.
Did I mention that they STILL haven't found Scott Westerhuis safe?
Ah, South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.