“South Dakota doesn’t give a damn about its dumb reputation.”

I love Rock n’ Roll as much as the rest of us. And I am a pie-in-the-sky, think we can all hold hands and get along despite our differences kind of gal.

But, do I think the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (along with many others who are not part of the Association but share the same point of view) is narrow-minded to question Joan Jett being the face of the state’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float? Not at all. It seems simple marketing tactics to me.

I’m more surprised Macy’s, a commercial marketing powerhouse, wouldn’t have better thought through the process from the get-go if indeed, Macy’s Parade officials made that initial call.

Had the roles been reversed, would Macy’s have made the same initial decision? I can just hear it..

‘Hey, we’ve got a list of sponsors and, well, the ones Joan thought might work best aren’t available .. but here’s a good match! Let’s have Joan Jett’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.’

Pretty sure there would have been some requests for a change there, too. Someone please remind me again, why is this such a big deal and why it has gotten to the point of grade-school like name calling?

While working on content for someone else today, I came across the following article and thought it worth a share. From Death and Taxes, http://bit.ly/1bytiZe

Could ranchers here and the state not have made a big deal about the outspoken PETA advocate and vegetarian riding on their float next week? Absolutely. Would it not have been a big deal and solely focused on the ‘entertainment value’ as many would like to think is all it is? Perhaps. Would it possibly make more sense from a marketing standpoint, that on a float that represents the state of Great Faces, Great Places and a largely agricultural community that puts foods in the mouths of Americans everyday, Americans that request it because not everyone is a vegetarian, that there is someone who isn’t vocally opposed to that way of life? I think it’s fair.

I’m not sure, however, that it means the people here are backwards, behind or that as Entertainment Reporter, Robyn Pennacchia so eloquently put it:

“The State of South Dakota doesn’t give a damn about its dumb reputation.” 

“GOOD JOB, SOUTH DAKOTA. Way to prove that you are nowhere near awesome enough to have Joan Jett on your parade float. Seriously.”

I am quite certain that if the Chicago area based reporter ever would like to visit the state and better understand the culture, community and people here, there would be many doors opened to her despite the comments made and tone of her article to help her better understand why questions were raised.

Many friends have occasionally made snide remarks or at least joked since I started dating the Cowboy about how backwards this state seems to be. It may be, in some ways. South Dakota may be years behind in other ways. I won’t argue with you there. While that can at times be incredibly frustrating, it at times can also be refreshing. As many in our society look for a simpler way of life, to unplug once in a while, to get back to the roots of slow cooking, time with their kids, living somewhere they feel safe enough to let their kids run freely outside without worrying what harm may come to them, working with the land, knowing who your neighbors are and the value of visiting with them (almost all urban infill projects have a focus on this right now) and knowing where your food comes from, South Dakota seems to be doing a lot of things right.

The invitation stands, Robyn.

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A Night of Nothing, Almost.

I talked with a girlfriend about this earlier today .. about slowing down. Getting caught up again. With work. With life. With getting enough exercise and sleep. Perhaps a haircut and a professionally done color for the first time in, well .. let’s just say far too long.

Summer is supposed to be a time of rest, relaxation, of naps in the shade, long afternoons fishing at the river, of camping or lazy days at the beach or the pool with the kids.

Right?

Or, are we kidding ourselves. Does that place in life still exist or is there just this bizarre fantasy of what we think summer is supposed to be that we try to live up but that doesn’t exist anymore? It seems just about everyone I know has been on the go so much, trying to enjoy summer or life, they’re exhausted.

And relieved school is once again about to start.

cartoon image of dash

We got back the other night, late .. from the Cowboy’s grandmothers funeral. It seemed that night, to be the culmination of many months on the road. Back and forth to Wisconsin, to Wall, to events, to visit family and friends. All wonderful things.

But tonight is one of the first sincere down nights the Cowboy and I have had in far too long. And there is this very grounding feeling in knowing with the start of the school year again, that means for the most part, we will be home.

He booked us both a massage. Something he has only ever done once for himself. Which tells me something about how much he needs a night to regroup as well…

It feels amazing, to slow down. Even if only for a few minutes .. some friends I haven’t seen in probably 10 years just called and said they are passing through in an hour and are hoping to catch up.

Back into the car we go ..

 

Spurs

We were sitting on the back porch of a friends home last night catching up. Every time someone got out of their chair to go grab something to eat, drink or whatever the reason .. there it was.

The jingling of spurs.

Spurs

Never knew how comforting a sound that would be ..

…………….

I didn’t know much about spurs until I met the Cowboy. Never spent much time around any horse people that wore them. Perhaps a couple. I didn’t understand the value in them, especially when working with a stubborn horse. Not until recently, anyway. I often go to the arena to ride without them because I like to think that I can get a horse to mind because, well just because I want to be nice. And because I know they are good horses. The cowboy informed me the other night am to wear them whenever I ride, regardless. It came as I was increasingly frustrated one of the newest horses to the herd was definitely not going to do what I was asking her to do. And the Cowboy was frustrated with me.

“How many times have I told you to always have your spurs on,” he said .. in a stern tone of voice as the horse reared.

“You’ve got to wear them to help get their attention sometimes,” he says to me today, knowing this is today’s post. “You’ve got to have something to make them respect your legs or your leg cues. Horses often become desensitized to someone sitting on them for any length of time. They do what they want and often do as little as they have to when they can get away with it. It’s like a kid. if there’s no consequence to any of their behavior, ever .. pretty soon they’re always pushing boundaries and going their own way versus the way you want. And a 1200 pound horse pushing boundaries can be dangerous. Most horses don’t behave well just because they want to please you. That’s a rarity.”

My spurs now live on my riding boots. Right alongside the entire family’s ..

…………..

I’ve also learned that the piece that fell off my daughter’s spur earlier this summer that needs replacing .. is called a rowel. A much more technical term than the ‘back of the spur’ as I’ve been calling it until recently. Go ahead and laugh all you veteran cowboys out there. At least I’m trying. And admitting how much I know I have yet to understand about this life and lifestyle.

So far .. despite the setbacks, falls and challenges, it’s been a lovely ride.

220px-SpurDiagram.svg

The parts of a spur include (via Wikepedia):

  • The “yoke”, “branch”, or “heel band”, which wraps around the heel of the boot.
  • The “shank” or “neck”, which extends from the back of the yoke and is the area that touches the horse.
  • The rowel, seen on some spurs, a revolving wheel or disk with radiating “points” at the end attached to the shank.

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.

*Another snow day.

I just heard one of the local Sioux Falls 10pm anchors say, “she recommends you take a multivitamin and maybe go tanning”.  The statement rounded out a report about a growing number of people experiencing depression due to the seemingly never-ending winter here.  Tanning.  Extreme measures apparently for extreme situations.  That’s not really something you hear people recommend anymore.

……………….

I’m not sure that in 6 years of school in Madison, Wisconsin .. we’ve had as many snow days as we’ve had in 3 months of school in South Dakota.

The house has been bustling it seems, at least a couple days each week this ‘spring’, with our 11 y.o. home from school.  Snowbound.  There have been countless late starts.  Early releases.  Days of no school at all.

Today was another early release.  And while the snow had only been falling a couple of hours .. by the time school had gotten out, the normal trip in to bring her home took 3x as long as usual.

I cancelled some afternoon business meetings I had really wanted to get to as a result.  I just didn’t want to risk it.  Again.

snowy roads

One of the more heavily traveled roads in and out of town ..

Country roads here are a different beast than they are, back in the Badger State and the Prius has been a champ of a car so far.  While I adore the gas mileage and it’s been a great vehicle for us, I desperately need 4 wheel drive.

Why?  Because everyone else has them and I’m the little (wo)man out there fighting the good fight, it seems.  Everyone’s always waiting on me to stop holding up traffic.  Passing.  Splashing.  Waiting for me to hit the ditch so that they can pass.  Well, they’re not that crass.  But you get the idea.  Either that or I need chains for my tires.

When snow falls here, it doesn’t fall.  It blows.  Sideways.  And where there aren’t massive random drifts, the snow sticks on the roads really, only when vehicles drive over it.  Creating an unbelievable icy mess even the plows seem to have a tough time clearing and getting out in front of.  So everything instead, shuts down.  Schools.  Businesses.  Highways.

This past month snowstorms have closed the Interstates here north to south and east to west pretty much across the entire state on multiple occasions.   And kept us home more than I’d ever imagined.   Hard to believe.  The Cowboy worries it’s just hard for me to be home so much.  A big switch from having a job that had me going into work to report the news regardless of the weather – getting into the anchor desk however I had to get there.  Now, being a product of the news and bunkering down at home to ride what has been at least one major storm a week.

Short of getting a little restless, and having my own work from home days disrupted by a house full of family that was supposed to be elsewhere for the entire day .. it’s been strangely entertaining and a bit refreshing to have everyone around and just spend some down time together with nowhere else to go.  In part, because we can’t.

Speaking of refreshing .. this snow shouldn’t stick around long.  And hoping it’s the last we see of it this spring.  Temps are supposed to be in the 70’s by the weekend.

“When are you going to get a job?”

I looked at the Cowboy and almost bust out laughing.

We were driving the other night with all the kids in tow .. and one of our 5-year-olds from the far back says in a very confident voice, “When are you going to get a job?”

Quite certain the question wasn’t his own but rather one he had heard someone else ask… I assured him that I am working.  It may not look like my last job and at it may look different at times but I am working and I always will.

And then I asked if he was worried about it.

“No,” he replied.

“Is there a certain job you think I should have?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

The Cowboy and I looked at each other and started to laugh as his older siblings jumped on him telling him how rude that was to ask.  It assured him again, that it was fine he asked.  I didn’t care.  I instead, have found it rather interesting there are a couple of people seemingly more concerned about me finding ‘a job’ they feel fits what they think I should be doing, more-so than the Cowboy or I.  And I’m pretty sure its not a 5 year old.

……

I have worked my entire life.  Since I was about 10, actually.  If we wanted anything above the basics, which my parents were happy to provide, my brother and I had to earn the money on our own to buy it.  At the time I didn’t think much of it.  But as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the life lessons that responsibility taught me.  (I only wish had been a bit more responsible with what I’ve earned over the years, on so many levels.  But that’s a whole other discussion.)

At 10 I started mowing lawns.  At 11, add to that, babysitting.  At 12, came a morning paper route.  At 14 the local florist was looking for some good part-time help.  Maureen was a blast to work for.  At 15, I started what became a very lengthy waitressing career, in a small restaurant in my hometown.  Every Saturday and Sunday morning, I’d pour coffee and serve up eggs and bacon for the entire front of the house and scrub bathrooms before leaving my shift.  At 16, I continued to waitress, babysit and at 17 added to it working at the local Cenex and feed mill as an administrative assistant.  I continued those jobs and threw in lifeguarding the 6am morning swim 3 days a week through my senior year.  College had me working 20-30 hours a week through 16-18 credit semesters and two to three jobs, usually waitressing, beverage carting, prep cooking or cleaning hotel rooms in the Wisconsin Dells during the summers.  I took my first broadcasting job at a station in Missoula, Montana for $13,500/year and worked at the bagel shop around the block just so I could have something to eat.  In recent years I’ve turned to music to help supplement my salary and keep the lights on.  I’ve done it because I’ve wanted to.  To support myself, to support my family throughout it all.  I have done it because I’ve needed to.  Throughout it however, I I have enjoyed a wonderful career.  And, I have not complained.  I’ve just worked.

Career -

Career –

Never.  Never has there been a break in my resume.

Until about two months ago.