Editor's Notebook

Join our Editor-at-large and founder, Bernie Hunhoff, as he offers stories, quips & travel tips gathered as he roams South Dakota. Other magazine staffers may contribute here or there as well. Enjoy the South Dakota miscellanea.

Writer's Block in South Dakota

November 3, 2015

Editor's Note — Pierre native Joseph Bottum went to Washington and built a career by writing about politics and religion. When he and his family came home to settle in Hot Springs, he knew there'd be challenges to continuing his career path in South Dakota. But he wasn't thinking that the new roadblocks would have antlers and four legs. We reprint this essay from The Weekly Standard.

She seemed more curious than frightened, the doe-eyed ... doe, I suppose, and we studied each other for a long moment or two. She, calm in a farmer’s field, looking over the fence line. And me, unmoving in the wreck, staring back at her through the shattered glass.

Then some click of the cooling engine, or maybe a groan of bent metal and drip of radiator fluid, convinced her that I wasn’t worth her time. The deer trotted a few yards further along the fence, leapt it with a neatfoot bounce, and disappeared off into the woods — leaving me to climb my way out of my broken car and scrabble back up to the highway, hoping to flag down some help.

Odd, really, to see her so clearly, so sharply, when I never actually saw the other deer, the one I hit at 80 miles an hour on a South Dakota highway—the one that left me with a couple of cracked ribs, a chipped collarbone, a gouged ankle, and a sprained wrist. Oh, and a spectacular set of bruises placed around my body with the precision of a drunken xylophonist.

Plus, of course, a totaled car. There are, it is said, more deer in North America today than there were when the Pilgrims landed. Certainly there are more out on the western prairies. The Homestead Acts often required the planting of acres of trees to prove a farmer’s claim, and those windbreaks and narrow groves have added up to a massive national nature preserve: a refuge for white-tails and mule deer. Of course, they then wander out onto the highway, where there’s not much refuge for either deer or the drivers who hit them.

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, in the days since my accident, has a story of animals on the road. The problem, in my case, is that the first notice I had was the darkening of my field of vision as the windshield bowed in at me. Picturing the accident now, I realize that the deer probably didn’t see me, either. Driving into the dark, with the twilight behind me, my car would have been invisible, and the deer must have jumped up out of the long fall grass of the road’s shoulder at exactly the right moment to slide across the hood of the car and land, back first, on the windshield.

But I see that only in retrospect. At the time, the craze of cracks in the safety glass left me blind as I flinched and swerved, only to slide sideways down the steep embankment and bang along a 50-yard line of—what else?—trees planted as a farmer’s windbreak maybe a hundred years before. Eventually, the fender was bent in enough that the front wheel could catch on one of the trees, swinging the car 180 degrees so that the driver’s side could get its own share of smashing.

I’m not sure where, along the way, the deer fell off. A little blood on the fender, as though I’d clipped its legs, and some hair on the windshield shards were all that was left—even on the trail of plowed down grass I’d left behind. However badly injured, the deer somehow managed to walk away from the accident.

Which is better than I did. For me, it was more of a crawl out of the car and up the embankment to wait for help. After I declined an ambulance, a paramedic told me I’d need X-rays and taping up, and, sore as I was, I’d be even sorer the next day, once everything tightened up. So I signed the highway patrolman’s accident report and had the tow-truck driver drop me off at a Sioux Falls car-rental agency— deciding that, since I still faced a six-hour drive back home to the Black Hills, I might as well do it immediately rather than wait for the painful stiffness of the next day.

That may have been a mistake. The Midwestern demand for self-sufficiency, an often self-defeating virtue drilled into my boyhood, was strong enough to get me up and moving. Strong enough, for that matter, to keep me going about as far as Rapid City. But, man, the hour in the car beyond that, driving home into the Hills, was a trial.

Still, I figured that if the deer I hit could walk away from the accident — if the other deer, the one I watched from my wreck, could stay calm even after I’d smashed through her woods —  I could probably make it home, however painful the final miles. And though I saw a few deer in the woods along the way, they must have decided enough was enough. None of them jumped out into the road, and I made it at last home to painkillers and bed.

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Across the Wide Missouri

October 7, 2015

Missouri River Map Print by Mike Reagan

Our new map prints are in! Renowned watercolor artist Mike Reagan's latest work depicts the Missouri River as it flows through South Dakota, along with a few of the fish that draw sportsmen to its waters. We’re proud to offer his work as an unframed 16” x 20” art print for just $24.95 plus shipping and handling. Click here if you’d like to buy the new Missouri River map print for your home or office, or purchase it as a set, along with Reagan's South Dakota and Black Hills prints, for just $64.95.

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A Very Fair Poll

September 30, 2015

Good news! Only three percent of South Dakotans want to head for the border. That’s what we learned in our South Dakota Happiness Poll, a quick one-question quiz that we handed out to fairgoers during our 30th anniversary Fair Tour.

Our circulation director, Ashley Wagner, crunched the numbers for us. Here’s how attendees of the Turner County Fair in Parker, Central State Fair in Rapid City and South Dakota State Fair answered the question, “How do you rate life in South Dakota?”

  • 44 percent marked “paradise” 
  • 47 percent said it’s “plenty good”
  • 6 percent voted for “satisfactory”
  • 3 percent said “where’s the border, I’m leaving.”

Katie Hunhoff, our magazine’s editor and publisher, said that the Happiness Poll could become a regular feature of our fair visits. “Ninety-one percent said life is plenty good or paradise. We think it might be interesting to see if that number goes up or down in the years ahead.”

“There’s also a valid question of whether fair-goers are happier than people who don’t eat SDSU ice cream and pork sandwiches,” she said, “but the people we talked to seemed like a good cross-section of South Dakotans — except that country music fans might be over-represented. Our state fair booth was right next to Sherwin Linton’s stage.” 

She said the poll also might be tainted by the philosophy of one respondent who said, “It’s paradise but let’s not tell anybody.”

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Cornstruction Nearly Complete

July 22, 2015

We stopped by Mitchell's Main Street this week to see the progress on major renovations to the Corn Palace. Though the project is running a few months late, the end — or the cornstruction as some call it — is nearly complete.

We got a quick tour from Katie Knutson and Cherie Ramsdell. Katie is the director of Mitchell's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Cherie is the artist who designs the murals — a task once done by the legendary Oscar Howe.

The changes are making the old palace seem warmer and more people-friendly. Old concrete pillars in the lobby have been redesigned as corn ears, and decorated with ceramic tile from Italy arranged in an abstract way like kernels on a cob. A second floor balcony now hangs above Main Street. Already, the community is using it for Thursday night concerts. A bright second floor area is now devoted to Howe, the Lakota artist. Huge windows have been reopened. The outdoor murals are larger than ever. And the new steel domes give an abstract look of corn husks, especially when lit at night. (They were still sitting on the street when we stopped.)

Congratulations to the Mitchell community. They've embraced our corn culture with the palace since 1892. John Philip Sousa performed there in 1904, and since then the big brick barn has been Mitchell's invite to the world. Today's Corn Palace leadership has done all of South Dakota a great favor by modernizing and reconfiguring the architectural treasure. Plan to stop and see the changes on your travels.

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Chol and Amon

July 9, 2015

Chol Atem and Amon Ortman have something in common, though they lived 100 years apart. Amon was a pioneer healer, the founder of the Ortman Chiropractic Clinic at Canistota that is celebrating its 100th year this month. More about Chol in a few paragraphs.

We have always loved the story of Amon Ortman, the farmer with a gift for healing. The legacy he created through the generations continues today, and we've featured it on several occasions in South Dakota Magazine.

Of course I never met Amon Ortman, but I feel like I know him because like many of you I grew up with old-timers like that. People who worked hard. Who cared about their neighbors and their communities. People who thought you could do great things right here in South Dakota as well as anywhere else in the world.

I can easily picture Amon, after a hard day’s work of his own in the field, coming to the farmyard and finding a neighbor waiting with a sore shoulder. And I can see him inviting the neighbor to maybe sit on the running board of the car. They talk about the rain --- or the lack of rain – and Amon lays his hands on that bad shoulder.

People like Amon and places like Canistota have made all the difference for South Dakota. The Ortmans and the Husteads and the Andersons and the Hubers and the Larsons and the Brockelsbys and the Bakers and ten thousand other families who've gutted out their dreams, stuck it out and made it work.

Now to Chol Atem. Earlier this year, in our May/June issue, we did something different in the magazine. We invited a few dozen people to write words of advice for the high school and college students who would be graduating this year.

We called them “letters to graduates.” I thought the most touching letter came from a young man we've come to know who works at a convenience store in Yankton. His name is Chol Atem. I met Chol when he came to Pierre to help us pass a policy that discourages the State Investment Office from investing funds with companies who support the kind of genocide his family faced in Sudan.

Chol grew up 7,500 miles away from South Dakota, across the Atlantic Ocean. He was one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” driven away from his small town by terrorists who burned and ravaged his town and killed his relatives. He didn’t want to leave but he had no choice.

He survived, miraculously, and came to study at Mount Marty College in Yankton. He now lives and works in Yankton. And what did he tell our young readers of the magazine?

He had no choice but to leave home. But Chol challenged young South Dakotans to think twice before leaving their homes. “Step up to the plate and stop this chronic cycle of mass exodus to other states by generations of young South Dakotans,” he said. “It is time to invest and build our state of South Dakota. It takes one step to form an unstoppable movement. We are who we are by where we come from.”

“There is nothing like home,” says Chol, who had to find a new home in South Dakota. “I challenge you to rise beyond something bigger than yourselves. Invest your talents and expertise in building your state.”

Chol’s birth home and the Ortmans and Canistota are an ocean apart in more ways than one. But he and the Ortmans hold the very same idea of home.


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"Look At Me"

June 16, 2015

Ms. Wheelchair South Dakota will have a simple message when she represents our state at the national event in Des Moines, Iowa at the end of July.
    Look at the person, she says, not the disability.
    Dixie Lemme, 65, of Sioux Falls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, and has been using a wheelchair for the last nine years. “Lots of times people see the chair, they don’t see you,” Lemme told Jill Callison of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Lemme is a comedian who knows how to communicate a message. So she entered the pageant to tell the story of people who happen to have disabilities.
    “I just want to open up some eyes to hopefully make people see things,” she says. “People that are disabled have jobs, they have their family, but people have prejudices about them.”
    Congratulations to a real champ for people with disabilities. She’ll make us proud in Iowa.

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Meet Our New Yote

May 22, 2015

Our publishing house is once again in harmony now that we’ve brought on USD alum Ashley Wagner to lead efforts in circulation and marketing. A Jackrabbit/Coyote balance (previously a two-to-one ratio) is essential to a happy workplace at South Dakota Magazine.

Ashley, a Wisconsin native, recently married a local farmer and high school teacher. She and her husband Brandon live on the family farm near Utica. Here's how she answered some of our tough questions.

What's on the top of your "South Dakota To-Do" list?
I would love to take a helicopter ride over Mount Rushmore!

What's your favorite trail?
Lewis and Clark trail by Spirit Mound (just outside Vermillion). I was on the track team while attending the University of South Dakota and we would go to Spirit Mound to do hill workouts. Let’s just say you get very close with your teammates during hill workouts.

If you could meet one character from South Dakota history, who would that person be?
I would love to meet Wild Bill Hickok. But then again, who wouldn’t want to meet that troublemaker. 

What is your favorite South Dakota eatery?
My husband’s family has introduced me to Marv’s Bar in Utica. It’s a small bar with “regulars” and everyone knows you. I love it because it is so different from anything I have ever seen or grown up with.

As a transplant to farm life, what advice do you have for other new farm wives?
Don’t sweat the little stuff (something I am still working on). And check pockets before washing clothes. I don’t know how many times I have temporarily broken my washing machine because of a loose nail or fence wire being stuck in the machine.

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Museum Politics in Viborg

May 14, 2015

“History is recorded by the victors,” said Winston Churchill.
    “History is made by those who show up,” said Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century Israeli leader. Combine his quote with Churchill’s and you have the answer to why the wonderful and not-so-little Daneville Heritage Museum in Viborg has such a nice collection of Democratic memorabilia.
    We spent a morning this week in Viborg, working on  a story that will be published in our July/August issue. This is an 800-population boom town in Turner County, one of the more Republican conclaves to be found in East River, South Dakota (not that Republican conclaves are rare by any means in the state). The well-kept little downtown has a hardware store, three restaurants, bank, hospital, grocery store, vintage auto restoration shop, historic movie theater and all the other amenities you might expect. Towns 10 times Viborg's size don’t have all that downtown.
    And it has a wonderful museum that actually has a decent revenue stream. “We joke sometimes that the museum will be here long after the town,” says Rich Skola, who directs the facility. That’s because of the generosity of many local individuals and families, but especially because of Alphie “Toots" Peterson, an avid historian who donated much time and money.
    Her husband, Merle, ran as a Democratic candidate for state legislature in the 1960s when Ralph Herseth and George McGovern were leading a resurgence of the party. She died two years ago, at age 94, leaving the museum some of her assets. She’s perhaps one reason why the Daneville museum has a 1960 poster of the Democratic ticket, with photos of Merle and McGovern and all the other candidates — along with a big poster of McGovern, plus an exhibit of Hubert H. Humphrey and other Democratic memorabilia.
    Somewhere in the museum, there’s an Eisenhower collector’s plate, says Skola. A few visitors have kidded about the space given to Democrats in a Republican county. But nobody really seems to be bothered by the exhibits.
    And it’s not that Turner County voters won’t elect Democrats. Roberta Rasmussen, a local farmer and activist, represented the district in the 1990s. Roberta has also been active with the local museum, and Skola says she may be more responsible for the Democratic paraphernalia than Toots. More recently, grocer Tom Jones was the state senator from Viborg.
    So just show up, as Disraeli said 200 years ago. And save your posters and bumper stickers.

Note — In the spirit of complete transparency, we should note that the writer is a Democratic state senator from nearby Yankton County. That might help to explain his undue fascination with the above subject matter.

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Damn Tornado

May 11, 2015

Sarah Liberte took this photo of the Zion Lutheran Church, destroyed by the Mother s Day tornado.
Sarah Liberte took this photo of the Zion Lutheran Church, destroyed by the Mother's Day tornado.

Damn the tornado. What else can you say about a soul-less storm that attacked the pastoral little town of Delmont on Mother’s Day morning?
    Nine people were hurt. How badly we don’t know. But all of the 250 citizens of this town and all who care about it are also hurting. Not bleeding. Not bruised, perhaps. But hurting.
    Here in South Dakota we like to be friends with Nature. She sustains us. Gives us sun and rain to grow and live. And yet every now and again, Nature erupts and we find that she’s neither friend or foe — but rather a force.
    Most of us who live in southeast South Dakota know Delmont as a quiet little place between Mitchell and Yankton. Maybe you’ve heard of the Delmont pickle party? Or maybe you’re one of those who, while driving Highway 18 through Douglas County, turns north a mile or two to grab some of the amazing brats at the Blue Bird Locker. You check to see that the turret on the Onion House is still there. You see if anyone has done anything with the big brick grocery store with the murals. You admire the steeple on the Lutheran Church. You notice that everything is mowed and nicely tended downtown. And then you’re gone until next time.
    Hearing of the destruction is hard enough for those of us who are casual fans of the town.
    But for the 250 people who live there every day — and for the several thousand people who care deeply about them (yes, a town of 250 is always bigger than 250) — it must be unimaginable. Something only those who have suffered and survived such storms can understand.
    Our May/June issue of South Dakota Magazine has stories from the survivors of last summer’s June 18 tornado in Wessington Springs. The Springs citizens were honest and frank about the experience. No sugar-coating or grandiose toughness. “I’m still going through it, it’s still hard,” said Donna Krueger, who lost her husband to cancer three months after the storm.
    “It’s pretty hard to come back from,” said Ward Barber. “But what choice do we have? As long as we’re alive we’ll make some kind of memories.”
    In Delmont, the Onion House is badly damaged. The Lutheran Church is cut in half. The town is evacuated.
    Nature didn’t win and fortunately no one lost a life. The town is more than 125 years old. Life will go on for the town and its people, because it’s the nature of things. It’s going to be hard. Let’s look for ways to help.

— Bernie Hunhoff

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Welcome, Mr. President

May 5, 2015

By Bernie Hunhoff

Mr. President, welcome to South Dakota. You’ll be landing Air Force One on Friday in the center of our great USA. The official geographic center is near Belle Fourche, a six-hour car drive straight west of where you’ll speak in Watertown.
    In between are farms and ranches, towns and small cities — all populated by mostly hard-working and decent people who don’t expect much of the Washington whence you come.
    Oh, we’ll take what we can get when offered. We’ve seen enough hard times — droughts, floods, hail storms and tornadoes — to know that you don’t bite anybody’s hand. But we don’t expect much. Most of us were raised with the belief that the next government check — like the next rain — might be the last for awhile, and we’re ok with that.
    We figure we'd have the same number of farmers and ranchers if Washington had never sent a nickel through an ag program. We farm because we farm. For the sake of pure patriotism, we'd host Ellsworth Air Force Base for the nation even if it didn’t add a dime to the economy. Our Native American citizens would still call places like Pine Ridge and Standing Rock their home even if you tore up the treaties and never spent another dollar on the rez. And we would have probably allowed you (I say “you” because as president, you represent the government to us) to flood our middle section of the state by the four Missouri River dams even if we didn’t get some fine walleye fishing in exchange.
    As a state senator, I can promise you that we’d find a way to balance our state budget if we lost the 40% that comes from Washington. It wouldn’t be easy, but we’d survive the same way we dig out of blizzards. One shovel after another. Our senior citizens appreciate Medicare and Social Security, but the cost of living is lower here so we’d probably even get by without those wonderful perks.
    Washington is a million miles away from our daily lives.
    I wish you had a a day or two to spend in South Dakota. You could take federal Highway 212 from Watertown and drive to Belle Fourche, past the most cussedly independent folks on our planet. Most of them don’t belong to your political party, but you could stop in any small town or pull into any farm driveway and you’d be met with the biggest smiles you’ve ever enjoyed. As a Democrat, you’d love the giant concrete donkey at Tinkertown, just west of Watertown, and the immense fiberglass pheasant at Redfield.
    As you cross the great Missouri, America’s grandest river, you’ll enter the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, one of the places where our government sent the Lakota. It hasn’t worked well from most viewpoints. Capitalism hasn’t taken root. Health care is a disaster. Alcoholism is a problem. But it is Home to the Lakota, with a capital H. The reservation people face many challenges, but it wouldn't take you long to find very spiritual and determined people who are working to make things better for the next generation.
    The Cheyenne also marks the gateway to true cowboy country. On down Highway 212, you’ll want to stop for a hot beef sandwich and some conversation at the Faith Livestock Auction Barn. The salty ranchers of West River are everything Ronald Reagan dreamed of being.
    South Dakotans neither love or hate the government you run. Likewise, most neither love or hate you. Oh, we have a few political nut cakes. But fewer than most places. Most South Dakotans are too busy with daily life to think a lot about Washington and all your problems.
    But don’t get me wrong. I welcome you to South Dakota. We all welcome you. We’re always happy when folks come here and spend some money, just as we like a good rain.

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South Dakota's Wildlife Ambassador

April 30, 2015

A young lady from South Dakota is the modern-day “Marlin Perkins” for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Earlier this week I had a chance to get acquainted with her when she spoke at a meeting of South Dakota’s retired teachers in Pierre.
    Stephanie Arne breaks all the molds. She was a high-achiever at Riggs High School in Pierre, and enjoyed her years as a biology student at South Dakota State University.
    But she’s not the 9-5 type, so as soon as she got her degree in Brookings she took to the road — working for any wildlife organization that had an opening. It hardly seemed like a great career path. She took low wage jobs with the country’s finest zoos in Omaha, San Diego and Honolulu. Good experiences if you love critters, and she does. Not a good way to save for your first mortgage.
    Even zoos couldn't hold her back. She eventually traveled the world for a decade, finding ways to work with animals in Thailand, Japan and Africa. She showed up in Australia without a clue as to how she was going to make ends meet, and soon she was giving wildlife tours on day charters.
    She became known as a wildlife ambassador — a person passionate about birds and animals and the challenges they face on an fast-changing planet. “You should have a show,” friends kept saying.
    And then she heard about a job opening with Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of the most respected wildlife shows in the history of broadcasting. She and about 500 others applied. Upon meeting her, it’s no surprise that she won the position once held by renowned naturalists Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler.
    She acknowledged that while she always had the support of her parents and teachers, they probably didn’t figure she was on a great professional trajectory while earning barely sustainable wages, sometimes for scooping pelican poop. We expect our youth to be more responsible: stay safe, earn your way and fit the mold of today’s demanding workplace. Be a square peg in a square hole.
    Fortunately, Stephanie followed her heart. She did what she loved, what she thought was important. By those important standards, she was a success even before she was chosen to host Wild Kingdom.
    Steph strongly credits her South Dakota upbringing and education, and is proud to always call this home. Several of her teachers were in the audience as she spoke. Buttons were busting off their jackets as she spoke about the importance of a great teacher.
    Now she’s teaching the world about the nature. She’s known as the wildlife ambassador, but she’s also a fine ambassador for Pierre and Brookings and our entire South Dakota. And for young people brave enough to resist the normal patterns of society.

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Turton: Food, Frogs and Philosophy

March 18, 2015

Funny how so many memories of life in a small town revolve around food. That’s the thought that came to me as I thumbed through a little book called “Memories of Turton” that was sent to me awhile back by Kay Britten.
    Turton is south of Aberdeen, a town of a few dozen with a magnificent old Catholic church. In June, the feast day of St. John the Baptist is celebrated with real gusto at St. Joe’s. The public school’s mascot was The Frogs, a reference to the French culture of the first settlers. Students now go to Doland and neighboring towns, but good-humored folks still carry on the frog theme.
    The school and church are also fondly remembered in the little book, but they take second fiddle to the culinary delights of rural South Dakota.
    Jean Barrie Sundvold related that she likes to tell about “when Dad was chopping the heads off the chickens in the backyard, and they would flop all over the yard. We canned them one year and had to take the meat off the drumsticks because they were too big  to fit in a quart jar.”
    On that same topic, Jeff Barrie reported that there is truth behind the old saying, “Running around with your head cut off."
    Myrna Barrie Syverson recalled the little cafe where she gathered with friends after ballgames to enjoy fried egg sandwiches and Cokes with salted peanuts. She also mentioned, “the rabbit hunts on  Sundays … making hot chocolate and sandwiches for the hunters.”
    Cory Syverson liked burgers and Mello Yello at the Corner Station and catching pike on the bridge over the river. He also recalled big frog hunts — but those didn’t end with a meal. “When we caught them all, we took them all up to the church and let them go!”
    Jeff Barrie said one lesson he learned early: “If you’re a vegetarian, pack your own lunch.”
    But there were many memories that have more to do with feeding the soul. Alaish Wren said it best when she wrote, “I love the freedom of Turton, and the steadiness of it. I love the forgotten-ness of it. When you come home from Turton you’re never really sure if all of that really happened, or if it even exists or goes on existing while you’re away. Maybe it just appears for you only. What a treasure."

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Which Way Did They Go?

March 17, 2015

What happened to all the sheep in South Dakota? As we travel about the state, it’s plain to see that we don’t have anywhere near the numbers of just a few years ago.
    Coyotes and mountain lions are probably partly to blame. Farmers and ranchers are, on average, getting grayer. And lamb prices aren’t often high enough to scratch the competitive itch.
    Our 2014 sheep count was just 255,000 head. That’s about one-sixth as many as we had in the 1960s.
    Sheep and wool were big industries, especially in certain West River counties. But most ranchers prefer to raise cattle these days. For better or worse, a colorful piece of our rural culture is slipping away.
    Maybe it’s topic we should explore in greater length in the main magazine. Let us know if you have any good sheep stories.

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South Dakota's Best Seller

March 2, 2015

They say paper is dead. Especially paper books. Anybody who still reads books is buying e-books. So goes conventional wisdom.

But in the age of blogging and Facebook and all the other diversions, book publishing has returned to South Dakota … returned with class and success.

Book publishing, when done correctly, is a difficult mix of creativity and commerce, two things that can be incompatible in rural places. Still, South Dakota has had some good publishing houses.

The Center for Western Studies on the Augustana College campus has produced some timeless and important tomes. There was once a University of South Dakota Press in Vermillion. Aberdeen had a privately owned book publisher, though the name escapes me. There was a Brevet Publishing in Sioux Falls. Pine Hill Printer in Freeman helped several hundred authors self-publish. Linda Hasselstrom has had success with books under a name only rural people would even understand, Windbreak. We’ve published a handful of books here at South Dakota Magazine.

Just as many of our university and private book publishers were winding down, along came the South Dakota Historical Society Press in Pierre. As an arm of the state historical society, it was publishing a half dozen or so books a year and doing it quite nicely under the leadership of Nancy Tystad Koupal.

Book runs in South Dakota are generally under 5,000 — and often 1,000 or 2,000. The SDHSP was sometimes exceeding those numbers, and by all accounts doing an excellent job of publishing important regional manuscripts that deserved to be bound for today and forever.

And then the SDHSP published Pioneer Girl, the brutally honest 1930 autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nancy optimistically ordered 15,000 copies. And they sold. She ordered again. And then again. Seventy-five thousand to date, and now Pioneer Girl is showing up on “best seller” lists.

Maybe the internet and e-books will eventually kill book publishing. But you know what Harry Truman proved about conventional wisdom. And the 1987 Minnesota Twins. And so on.

Success is always nice, but it’s especially beautiful when it happens to nice people like Nancy Koupal and her band of book publishers in the little city of Pierre.

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Talking Late Winter

February 23, 2015

Weather is always a good conversation starter for South Dakotans, especially in February and March as we await the coming of Spring. We’re predisposed to be a patient people. Long winters do that to you. So no one wants to be too negative about the roller-coaster weather patterns that we traditionally endure this time of year. But when the temperature starts to rise into the 30s and 40s, a real South Dakotan can almost taste and smell the season that lies ahead.
    Longtime South Dakotans know how to find that right balance between winter weary and overly optimistic, but for newer citizens of the state we offer these examples of how you might start a conversation this time of the year:
    * “Just be glad we’re not living in Boston.”
    * “Have you ordered your garden seeds yet?”
    * “Looks like perfect weather for calving.”
    * “They’ll be planting corn before we know it."
    * “You don’t have to shovel the cold.”
    * “There’s not much moisture in snow anyway.”
    And if worse comes to worse: “I hear there’s a X*#!*# blizzard coming!”

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This Magazine's Roots

January 19, 2015

South Dakota Magazine turns 30 this year. You can trace its roots to 1985 when the first issue was published — or you might go back to January of 1921 when this lady was born.

She's Margaret Modde Hunhoff — born in Oto, Iowa. She and her family survived the Great Depression, and she began to write as a child. She came to South Dakota to study nursing at Mount Marty College in the 1940s, and married Bernard Hunhoff, a Utica farmer.

They had eight sons, and she continued to write poetry. She was guided by the great Adeline Jenny, for many years the poet laureate of South Dakota. She wrote about good times and hard times on the farm. She still writes a newspaper column for the local Observer.

Three of the eight —including Bernie, this magazine's founder — have worked extensively in journalism but they all agree that she's the writer in the family.

At her birthday party, a seven-year-old granddaughter Laura wrote a poem titled "Spring." It was all the present this 91-year-old Hunhoff matriarch needed to have a happy birthday.

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Welcome, Young & All

December 23, 2014

All our readers are special, but Colton Trooien is really high on our list this Christmas. Here’s the deal.

We get thousands of new readers every year at holiday time. Most are parents and grandparents, people rooted in their communities. We work really hard to get the magazine in front of high schoolers and college students. And we appreciate every one of the above.

So why is Colton so special? Well, when asked what he wanted for Christmas he didn’t say an X-box or an electric train or a new bicycle. He’s eight years old. A third grader at Deubrook Elementary School in Toronto.

And what does he want for Christmas? A gift subscription to SOUTH DAKOTA MAGAZINE.

Colton’s grandma Marie Trooien and Santa Claus alerted us to his Christmas wish. Marie says he’s a special kid who loves geography and discovered South Dakota Magazine at a book sale.

He and his folks are related to Trygve Trooien, the Astoria farmer who collects farm overalls and occasionally stages an Overalls Fashion Show. So Colton’s roots run deep in South Dakota.

We are privileged to have him join the ranks of our illustrious readers.

Welcome to Colton, and to all of you who are receiving South Dakota Magazine as a Christmas gift this week.

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Our Joyful Weaver

December 22, 2014

Grete Bodogaard and her husband, filmmaker Chuck Nauman, have been hanging out in the little Yankton County town of Volin for a number of years.

Many of us who live here in southeast South Dakota felt quite blessed to have such a gentle soul in our commuity. Grete and Chuck didn't participte a great deal in community activities, but they were apt to show up now and then. And you might catch them at Mac's Pub, which was across the street from the old Volin Bank where they lived and worked.

I looked for them on several trips to Volin this summer and fall, but to no avail. After asking around, I was told they had returned to the Black Hills because of Grete's health. She is serioiusly ill. Our thoughts and prayers go to her and her family.

When in Rapid City last weekend, I attended a forum at the Dahl Arts Center on Seventh Street downtown and felt fortunate to happen upon an exhibit of Grete's creations titled "Celebration of Works."

Grete was born in Norway, and learned some of her techniques in the old country. She came to the United States in 1969, and she quickly spun her way into our hearts and into our art culture. She is not only one of South Dakota's greatest and most accomplished artists, but also considered one of the master weavers of our time.

"As I travel on my journey around the sun I have learned to spin fibers, dye yarns and weave my thoughts and ideas," she says in an introduction to the exhibit. "Weaving is my other language, my expression of joy and frustrations."

Her contributions to South Dakota have brought only joy, and we thank her for that.

The exhibit will be up through Jan. 31, 2015.

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Winner! Whereizzit in South Dakota?

December 18, 2014

Let's see if we can stump you with a quick Whereizzit contest! Trent Preszler took this photo somewhere in South Dakota. Here's a hint: the shed is somehow connected to a local food-growing program.

To win, be the first person to correctly identify the location or name the small town that is nearby. You'll win a free gift subscription which you can keep for yourself or award to anyone you wish! Good luck.

Looks like you need a few extra clues!
Clue #1: Let's cut the state in half. This scene was found West River. 
Clue #2: Ok, let's try quarters. Focus your efforts north of I-90. 
Clue #3: It's on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. 

We have a winner! Three, actually — Gary Wilson of Volga, his daughter Jessica, and their atlas guessed La Plant. Trent Preszler took this photo on Highway 212 at the Sam D. Horse Community Center, where they're working on a food and garden project called "La Plant Grows Its Own Food." Good luck in the next growing season, Dewey County gardeners, and thanks to all who participated in our contest!

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Christmas Jingle & Mingle

Friday, December 12

Please join the South Dakota Magazine staff for a holiday open house and book signing Friday, December 12. Visit the historic Pennington House at 410 E. Third Street in Yankton for cookies, hot apple cider and great gift ideas including our new map print of the Black Hills and our book, South Dakota 125. Meet the authors and get your books signed!

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