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Chance Encounters of a Rural Kind
Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the September/October 1998 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117.
There’s Mount Rushmore. There’s Crazy Horse. There’s the Corn Palace. Nationally known monumental projects, involving renowned artists, years of effort and enormous expenditures of money.
And then there are the simpler pleasures. Take rural mailboxes. Simpler perhaps, but every bit as delightful. Particularly delightful because they are unexpected, they are stumbled upon, they jump out at you like a jack-in-the-box with a grin on his face.
But are they really so simple? Look again. Consider the expert mortaring involved in persuading a pile of bricks to turn a rounded corner. Consider the effort involved in welding a collection of horseshoes so that they, too, turn a corner. And consider the skill involved in forging a piece of metal into a whimsical sculpture of a mother kangaroo and her baby.
Although no tourist guide describes them and no map pinpoints their location, finding a unique rural mailbox is not at all difficult. All you have to do is pick a country road — any country road — and point yourself in whichever direction suits your fancy. This is best accomplished on a long, leisurely, absolutely aimless day. Just keep going: sooner or later you will find your mailbox. And there it will be: a giggle, a surprise, a delight.
But what’s the creative spirit behind all of this? Best not to ask. Try asking a South Dakotan to explain his “artistic motivation” and be prepared to be laughed out of the state. South Dakotas are not inclined toward self-important pronouncements.
But if their owners refuse to talk, their creations are more than willing to speak on their behalf. Listen to what they have to say: “Look at me. I’m here. Out in this vast and overwhelming space, I exist. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a very clever fellow.”