Allen’s Hill

I mentioned earlier this week how I am spending the week at a dear friends cottage along the Wisconsin River .. with no phone, television or internet. It’s been a blessing, in more ways than one. Leaving the cottage each day to go somewhere I can get an internet connection has meant some beautiful morning drives ..

Eddie's Hill

Eddie’s Hill

I showed this photo the other night to my dad, who I was grabbing a beer with along with some other friends. He said to me, and pointed out to the others, “That’s Allen’s hill, that hill there on the left.”

I’ve lived in this area my entire life and never known that hill had a name. Nor had I stopped to think about it. Most streets, hills, buildings .. etc. do, whether they exist in the city or the country. Places known for those that have come before us and for any number of reasons, left their mark.

How often do we stop to question why things are named what they are? And how much cooler or meaningful will those places be to us once we understand?

 

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The Cottage ..

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. – Henry James

the lake

I’m staying all week at a cottage on Lake Wisconsin, one that is home to me. Actually it is the summer home of my very best, oldest and dearest friends. Her family’s cottage. It just feels like home because I’ve been coming here since I was a child.

My girlfriend and I and all of her relatives and other friends we’ve grown up with, we all now bring our own children here. I pray that someday this sweet, totally old-school and full-of-charm little cottage still stands and that our children someday are reminiscing about their childhood summer days spent on the Wisconsin River. Like we do now. And that they bring their own children to this shore..

………

I hadn’t intended to be in town, back in the Madison, WI area all week but I’m here to both work and wrap up some family matters. Matters I thought might be easily resolved long ago. Some things will just never be easy.

Reflecting, amidst the chaos in one area of my life, on everything else that is so good in every other way. I am so incredibly grateful for this time at the cottage, for the reminders of all that is good about summer, of simpler times, of no television or internet when I don’t want it, some emotional peace and quiet, for a lifelong friendship .. and time here with my own daughter.

Farm Fresh Eggs ..

I had been sitting the other day at the kitchen table, where most of my work is done anymore, when I heard the Cowboy’s van pull up.  He shoes out of a van that is a story in and of itself. Anyway …

I went to the door to greet him, it had been a long day. And as he got out of the van, I saw him reach for and pull out a plastic bag that was absolutely full. I knew what was in it, he often brings bags like this home.

“We got eggs,” he said smiling.

EggsThere are customers of the Cowboy’s that often will send wonderful treats home with him. Farm fresh eggs, fresh bread, wonderful vegetables and the list goes on. I am incredibly grateful not only for their generosity to our family but also that they appreciate the work the Cowboy does trimming and shoeing their horses for them to the extent, I believe this is the country version of a tip.

Fry ’em up!

The Locals.

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.”
–Anonymous

Amidst the hustle and buzz of people talking, kids crying, cars pulling in and out and footsteps sounding heavy on the old wood floors as families shop and browse through Wall Drug .. I have learned one of the most fascinating stops may simply be a table in the restaurant next to a few of the locals.

…………

I hadn’t sat down for more than a few minutes when I heard, “Where are you from?” I look over at the table full of gentleman next to me and answer. I had already been quietly entertained by the conversations happening at their table but was trying very hard to focus on the work ‘to-do’ list in front of me.

I once again, picked the wrong place to sit, if I thought I was getting any work done.

Wall Locals

We chatted for a few moments, then I turned my attention back to my laptop and a series of emails I had to get out that morning. I wanted to get them out quickly and get back to family. But, my answering emails would only be momentary. More questions came, some chuckling and good old fashioned ribbing of the tourist sitting there trying to ‘work’. I looked up knowing my efforts at that moment were going to be fruitless.

There were three tables as I looked down the line, full of older local gentleman, gathered for coffee. All giving each other an incredibly hard time. Laughing all the while. They ranged between middle-age and older, many with weathered hands and obvious signs of hard work and a lot of sun over the years on their faces. But they were all smiling. And as they left, one by one, they were talking about who would be back again tomorrow.

Butch, Dan and I were the last three left sitting in our little area. I kept thinking they might head out shortly too and I could get back to work, but we talked for nearly an hour. As stressed as I was about work and about being away from the family for too long, I took a deep breath and realized instead, what a wonderful moment this was.

I learned quite a bit about Wall that morning. Names, history, who’s who sitting around those tables and what each of them have done in and around Wall over the years. Where they came from, family histories, some very interesting things unique to one of their jobs I was asked not to share. More about each of them, Butch and Dan. And they continued to inquire about me. It was refreshing, fun and made me feel that much more at home in my new home state of South Dakota.

A phone call from one of the women waiting on one of my emails snapped me back into the reality of my morning, of the time and what I had yet to get done.

“I’m sorry, guys, I’ve got to get back to work,” I told them. They reassured me it was fine and it was time for them to get to their days as well.

“We might be back tomorrow,” said Butch as the two got up to leave. “Maybe we’ll see you again.”

I am relatively certain, we will.

Free Ice Water

When I was about 8, I think, we drove on our first family vacation out west. I remember the Corn Palace. Wall Drug. Deadwood. Mount Rushmore. Black Hills.. the trip went on.

Black Hills sign

I didn’t like it at the time. I didn’t like the wide open spaces. I thought it was hokey we stopped in a town just because they were advertising ‘Free Ice Water’. Why would someone do that, I thought. Everyone serves free ice water. I had no intention on ever coming back. To Wall Drug. Or “out west”. Not on purpose anyway. Looking as far as the eye could see on much of that trip with no one in sight, meant to me, we would most likely get a flat tire somewhere or attacked by prairie dogs. Cell phones didn’t exist. We’d shrivel up and die and no one would ever find us. I wanted to get back home to Wisconsin. Where there were people around. People that would see if anything were ever to happen to us. And they would be there to help.

………..

We were in Wall again last weekend. Chances are, you probably don’t even know the town is called Wall. Not Wall Drug. Because the town’s done such a great job marketing itself and the free ice water.

Anyway, I had a minor freak out moment the first night we got there, to myself, as I soaked up the scene around me. Sitting that night on the back patio of what is now a family member’s home just a block away from the Drug Store, I remembered the scene described above and thought to myself, am I really here? Living like a local? WTH? How did this happen? I could hear and see people talking and laughing and having a beer around me but everything was muffled and distant. My mind started racing through major life events between my childhood and now.

I snapped quickly back into how awesome this new reality is.

………..

While we live in eastern South Dakota, a big part of the Cowboy’s family is from the Wall area.

The Cowboy and one of his brothers pointing out to kids, a family photo in one of Wall Drug Store's back hallways..

The Cowboy and one of his brothers showing kids a family photo in one of Wall Drug Store’s back hallways..

There is incredible history to both his family here and to the area that I feel people miss, unfortunately due to all the trinket shops that line the main street through town. Wall wouldn’t be what it is without this couple block stretch so don’t get me wrong. It’s a ton of fun, tourists coming through each year sustain this little community of incredible, hard-working people and we’ve enjoyed all Wall has to offer each time we’ve gone now to visit.

But here’s the deal: I walked over early last Friday to the Drug Store. I wanted a cup of coffee and a quiet spot to get some work done. I ended up ‘out back’, where I was told I could find both.

Despite how many times I’ve been back to Wall as an adult, as a single mom bringing her daughter back for the same childhood experience I had myself and in the times I’ve been here with the Cowboy, I’ve never seen what I did that morning.

Through the Alley ...

Through the Alley …

All was quiet. The walls weren’t yet masked with throngs of families working their way through the buildings. And it was there, for the first time, I sincerely saw it. History. So much history of that area. Photos of families. Of pioneers. Of ranchers. Of the Native American culture that is still so very genuinely present. A culture there people are proud of. That often gets lost, understandably, in all the shopping, stretching of legs on perhaps an otherwise long road trip, of needing to feed the kids that are screaming and not feeling up for a history lesson.

But what a part of Wall you are missing ..

Speaking of something else you may be missing on a rushed trip through the area, the locals. Met two this past weekend, writing about tomorrow. So much for getting a whole lot of work done that morning.

Can’t wait to go back.

The Team

I’m not sure what else I can write that will say anything more than the attached photos do for themselves .. along with a description I posted with one of these on FB the other day:

“No telling the incredible scenes one may come across on South Dakotas backroads but stopped for this one yesterday. Retired farmer who still works with this team of horses from dawn to dusk each day. Also realized, in talking with him a few minutes, my husband shoes his horses. Small world .. and a beautiful one at that. When you can peeps, take the backroads.”

Loren 2 edited

Loren 1

Out of bug spray.

We stopped by a few stores on our way home yesterday. “Do you have any bug spray left, or After Bite?” I asked.

“No, we’ve been out for days and we’re not sure when more will be coming in. Everyone is out,” the woman I spoke with last yesterday said, shaking her head. She added, “I know a lot of the municipalities here, at least in the eastern part of South Dakota, are spraying right now to try and get it under control but nothing seems to be working. It’s just a really bad year.”

Arena Lights

It’s okay, I thought to myself. We had just stopped by the grocery store and I grabbed another bottle of vanilla.

……………….

A conversation about how bad the gnats are this year – not the flies or mosquitos – has temporarily replaced ‘how’s the weather’ it seems at just about every gas station, grocery store, softball game, pool visit or backyard party. At least for now. I’m not writing to complain about them or the fact I’m covered in bites and that the swelling still hasn’t gone down in my one eye after three gnats attacked a few days ago. Neither has the little neighbor girls who got bit in her eye yesterday too. (It seems the face and behind the ears is a delicacy for the little buggers.)

I’m simply writing to relay the two totally old school solutions everyone seems to swear by, because nothing else seems to be working.

1. Vanilla http://tinyurl.com/nr3j8dj

2. Dryer sheets http://tinyurl.com/cscayqo 

One of the neighbors says he knows quite a few famers in the area that put a dryer sheet under their hat each day before they hit the fields. Do either of them work? Far fewer bites last night after working for a few moments in the garden and being out all night with company and the horses. Our little neighbor said she loved it, no bites and she couldn’t believe how good it smelled. The smile on her face was priceless as she talked about it.

No guarantees, but perhaps the next time you’re under attack, one or the other might be worth a try.  And both seem to smell much better than the alternative.