Monday, October 13, 2014

Doin' Dakota Southern Style

Last week we perfected our drawl in the great state of South Carolina, but this week we head to the ‘center of the nation’ (well, if you include Alaska and Hawaii) to South Dakota!  I’m ready to teach my Dynamic Duo all about a Corn Palace, a drugstore with signs around the world, a town responsible for the dead man’s hand, and the land that inspired an iconic American author.  That’s right, we’re on our way through The Mount Rushmore State this week, so come along for the adventure!

The most recognizable feature of South Dakota is of course the four presidential faces Gutzom Borglum carved in the granite of Mount Rushmore.  Located in the famed Black Hills near Keystone the National Monument draws over 2 million tourists annually.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are immortalized in the sculpture started in 1927 and completed in 1941.  I found all these fun facts that I plan on sharing with the kiddos this week.  When I asked Noah today what four presidents made up the monument he came us with Washington, Lincoln (pause) - Obama!  I plan on rectifying THAT one immediately this week ;-)  (In all fairness the kiddo brought home a 49/50 on his first timed math test today - he gets a pass and then some.  We happy danced in the kitchen when I pulled it out of his book bag this afternoon.)

While I’m sure they’ll get plenty out of Mount Rushmore, I have a feeling they may be a little more taken with the town of Mitchell’s Corn Palace.  The Corn Palace is built out of reinforced concrete, not corn. Every spring, however, its exterior is completely covered with thousands of bushels of native South Dakota corn, grain and grasses that are arranged into large murals.  The building is known for its artistic decorative features including minarets and kiosks of Moorish.  I have a feeling that given a choice, my twosome might pick the Corn Palace over Mount Rushmore as a ‘must see’ on a trip to South Dakota.

Then again, given that Noah was ready to move to Idaho when I told him it was the go to place for gem mining, he may rather make a trip to The Homestake GoldmineDiscovered in 1876 during the Black Hills Gold Rush the mine has produced over 39 million ounces of gold.  As of 2001, when it ceased gold mining operations, it was the second most productive goldmine in the United States.  The mine is now known as the Homestake Experiment whose “purpose was to collect and count neutrinos emitted by nuclear fusion taking place in the Sun.”  I have a feeling Noah would love to take a tour of the mine to see if he could find a stray flake or two of gold.

The Bean would probably rather take a trip to De Smet, though so she could make a stop at a few of the historic homes featured in the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Though not born in South Dakota, Wilder featured South Dakota in numerous books in her autobiographic Little House series.  Her family moved frequently during her youth, but eventually settled in De Smet, where Laura was a teacher for a time and eventually married   Almanzo Wilder.  Her books “By The Shores of Silver Lake”, “The Long Winter”, “Little Town on the Prairie”, “These Happy Golden Years” and “The First Four Years” all feature Laura’s life in South Dakota.

The both would probably like Jewel CaveThe cave is the third longest cave in the world, with just over 166 miles of mapped passageways.  Open year round, visitors can take any of three tours;  the scenic tour, a half-mile loop through a paved and lighted central portion of the cave accessible by elevator; the historic tour, a candlelight tour through the earliest-discovered part of the cave; and a wild caving tour, through an undeveloped part of the cave near the scenic loop.  The cave was originally discovered by brothers Albert and Frank Michaud who dynamited the opening to enlarge it.  The found a cave filled with calcite crystals that resembled sparkling jewels which led to the Jewel Cave name.  Sounds like something I’d like to see!

We’ve also already talked about a few states that have been known for the fossils buried under their soil much to the delight of my duo.  In that case, a trip to Badlands National Park may be in order.  Terrain described as Badlands is characterized by steep slopes and little vegetation and often feature canyons, ravines and gullies.  Fossilized remains of camels, three-toed horses, oreodonts, antelope-like animals, rhinoceroses, deer-like mammals, rabbits, beavers, creodonts, land turtles, rodents and birds are found through the 244,000 acres of parkland.  

If Grant has any say on a potential South Dakota trip, I have a feeling he may like to make a stop in the town of Deadwood.  The town (named after dead trees found in its nearby gulch) popped up in the 1870’s during the Black Hills Gold Rush.  The early settlers came to Deadwood to mine for gold, but the town attracted its share of rough and shady characters. The town’s population was mostly males who patronized the many saloons, gambling establishments, dance halls, and brothels which were considered legitimate businesses.  Notorious western figures such as Wild Bill Hickok (who’s murder at a Deadwood saloon led to the “dead man’s hand” I alluded to earlier) and Calamity Jane put the town on the map.  Guided tours take visitors through main streets, graveyard and other points of interest in the Old West town.

After all our trekking through South Dakota if we ever do go, we may be parched and in need of a drink or ice water.  That same thought occurred to Dorothy Hustead, wife of Ted who in 1931 opened Wall Drug in the town of Wall.  Frustrated by their lack of ability to attract customers to their store Dorothy came up with the idea to offer free ice water to travelers who stopped in the store.  They put up signs outside of town (even though Ted thought it was silly) and Wall Drug became a hot spot!  Soon the signs sprang up everywhere – across the country and even across the world!  The tiny drug store has grown by leaps and bounds and is now more like a shopping mall, complete with  a drug store, gift shop, restaurants and various other stores all under the Wall Drug umbrella.  The New York Times described it as “a sprawling tourist attraction of international renown [that] takes in more than $10 million a year and draws some two million annual visitors to a remote town.”  Only in South Dakota!  (Oh, and just because I thought it was fun, based on the ‘how many miles to Wall Drug” signs, I mapped it and we here in the Hills are officially 1,133 miles from Wall Drug!)

After all that adventuring we’d of course be hungry for some authentic South Dakota grub.  To meet that need for us here tonight I made this South Dakota Dinner.  This was an easy thing to put together tonight since it’s Monday, which means that screwy religious education time for Noah (yep, I am probably going to complain about it every Monday, just be warned).  Maybe I shouldn't say easy to put together because I had to take some liberties with this one...  Half the ingredients listed in the recipe are never actually called for in the recipe.  So I ad-libbed a bit and put my Michigan spin on South Dakota's dinner ;-)  In all fairness I did use everything the recipe called for :p  And for dessert, you may remember when the Bean and I made kuchen back in North Dakota, but it is actually South Dakota’s official state dessert.  So I chose this Pear Kuchen recipe for us to try out tonight.  The Bean again helped me out with this one - I think she's becoming a kuchen expert.  I actually like this recipe better than the one from North Dakota, but to each their own!  Plus the finished cake was absolutely beautiful!

Alright, so are you ready for South Dakota this week?  Definitely lots to see and do in the state where Pierre is actually pronounced ‘peer’ and it’s sure to be an interesting week.  We’re ready!  Check back tomorrow if you want to know what chislic is!  Until then…

South Dakota Fun Fact of the Day:  Belle Fourche is the geographical center of the United States of America, designated in 1959 and noted by an official marker and sheepherder's monument called a "Stone Johnnie".

South Dakota is up!

A cutie ready to make some kuchn

Noah's first math test!  49/50 - so proud of him!!!!!!  (He earned video games tonight - a very rare occurrence around here period, and never during the school week.  Grant and I are ecstatic for him!)

This handsome little boy came home in his folder tonight.  Hmmm, think he looks just a TAD like his Daddy?

South Dakota dinner - doesn't look that appetizing but Grant's words were "I love meat and potatoes"  He'll be a very happy man this week...

Dinner's on

Pear Kuchen - isn't it beauitful

This was AWESOME (and you know when I'm saying it, it was good)

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