Weather: Partly cloudy and warm.
Last Thursday, after our business in Aberdeen was done, Frogwing and I took a leisurely ride down South Dakota Route 37 to Huron. This is a road I call “Agriculture Alley”, because there are nothing but farms as far as the eye can see. The prairies are billiard-table flat, and the road is dead straight, all the way to the horizon. The only entertainment comes from the appearance of tiny towns at regular intervals along it’s length.
The towns along 37 are centered around a grain elevator and a couple of other support activities, usually including some sort of bar-n-grill to feed hungry farmhands coming in from the fields. Now, if a traveller wants to know anything about the history of a place, where better than the local watering hole to find out?
I mean, some “journalists” busy themselves digging through musty old documents in the basement of the county Hysterical Society or library, and that’s all well and good. But if you want to know what’s really going on, and hear the best stories of days gone by, just buy the local geezer a drink, settle in, and listen as he proudly delivers his collection of myths and legends, gathered over a lifetime in a small town.
This is the way history was passed down in the old days, the Grand Oral Tradition. It may not always be strictly accurate from a factual standpoint, but it is guaranteed to be a whole lot more interesting than what you will find in the archives of some long-dead local newspaper.
Take these three fellows, for instance…
If I hadn’t been on a business trip, I might have settled in for a few hours playing cards and soaking up the local lore of Turton, South Dakota. They certainly weren’t in any hurry. “Ted’s Country Corner” was a local cafe that had fallen on hard times, when these three old gents and one other fellow chipped in and bought the place.
These men are all in their seventies or older, and I’m pretty sure they have no intention of running a profitable business here. They just needed the grown-up equivalent of a clubhouse, where they can get together for their afternoon card games and hang out just like they did when they were kids. I enjoyed the short time I shared with these distinguished country gentlemen, and I hope to visit them again someday.
So Frogwing and I poked around quite a bit that Thursday afternoon. Every time we approached the dirt road leading to a little farm town, we turned off the highway and headed for the water tower. That’s the rule I go by, when investigating small human settlements. Water is a precious commodity, and we tend to put our water towers close to the center of our lives and communities. If there is anything worth seeing in a small town anywhere, you will probably run across it on the way to the water tower.
This is how we met up with The Dinosaur.
I was astonished when it came into view around the backside of an old barn. I don’t remember which town we were in, because I was too rattled to take notes. Notice how it tries to blend in with the foliage. The thing was either sleeping, or waiting for us to come close enough so it could pounce, I don’t know which.
At first I thought it looked like one of the first tanks to appear on the battlefield in World War I.
But then I realized that it was some ancient agricultural wonder; an implement of great utility and… oh, what the hell. I have no idea what it is, or was. But it sure was big. Modern art, if you ask me.
Anyway, that was the trip from Aberdeen to Huron. At the end of it, I checked into the Crossroads Hotel, ate a light dinner, and fell into a sound sleep just after the sun went down. In the morning, I would audit the Huron plant, and after that Frogwing and I would begin our weekend odyssey across the Great Plains to Fort Pierre, and beyond.