Within 1 1/2 hours of our home base, we could find both the spires along Needles Highway and the desolation of the Badlands.
Located in the Black Hills, Needles Highway curves and winds through 14 miles of magnificent rock formations called 'needles.'
On the other hand, the Badlands are a moonscape on earth that includes jagged cliffs, deep canyons, and sharp buttes a portion of a giant salt water sea whose floor was pushed up by volcanic activity.
Just before entering The Badlands, we visited an original prairie homestead built by a "sodbuster" in 1909. One of the few sod dwellings intack today, sod homes were built into a hillside with walls made of prairie buffalo grass because of their densely tangled roots. These homes were built by homesteaders following the enactment of the Homestead Act. The original act declared that any citizen or intended citizen could claim 160 acres - one quarter square mile - of surveyed government land. Claimants must "improve" the plot with a dwelling and grow crops. After five years, if the original filer was still on the land, it was his property, free and clear. Although there have been many changes over the years, we were surprised to learn that it remained in effect until it was repealed in 1976.
We could only imagine the hardship that these strong, independent people endured living on the edge of The Badlands...especially in the early 1930's. However, we were struck, too, by the civility of their homes. There are additional pictures in the photo album showing a wall-papered "living room" with a Singer sewing machine in the corner. Although the livingroom had a wood floor, the kitchen/eating area with a bedroom behind had a dirt floor...all the while with china dishes on the table.
It wouldn't be a trip to The Badlands without a stop at Wall Drug...so named because it was built on the edge of the northern extension of the "badlands wall." Their claim to fame (besides the Wall Drug bumper stickers you can find just about anywhere in the US) is free ice water and donuts. We had two people tell us "you have to try the donuts." They were good but nothing spectacular but as I think about it...for 85 cents who wouldn't have a donut on somebody's recommendation? :) So the legend lives on. :)
We were surprised when we actually walked in to a real drug store (if you can call one two-sided shelf with aspirin and sundry other items a drug store), but in all fairness, it does have a pharamcy and a soda fountain. The rest of Wall Drug is actually an indoor mall designed like a typical western town and full of souvenirs, leather goods,a boots and western clothing shop, a bookstore, and even a traveler's chapel. And you know why you see so many Wall Drug bumper stickers across the U.S.? They're free!
I can't help but contrast the pioneers like the Sodbusters who homesteaded and Ted and Dorothy Husted who opened Wall Drug...both on the edge of the Badlands... with Paul and me. We are pioneers of a sort since our lifestyle is a bit unconventional. However, reading about these pioneers, the common theme is a desire for independence and freedom.
It has been thought provoking to reconcile this drive we have with the sermon we heard on Sunday...that our true freedom is in Jesus Christ and independence is a dangerou illusion. We need to embrace the truth that as God's son and daughter, we are secure and safe in our Father's heart and therefore we can trust His plans for us.
One more posting should wind up our time in South Dakota. Today we were able to relax and get some things done around "home." Molly got a much needed grooming, (she no longer looks like a melted hot fudge sundae!), Paul got the cell phone antenna booster installed in the motorhome which required drilling a hole in the roof! Yikes! and we took a bike ride on a nice trail that runs through the campground. I'm really enjoying being able to bike ride since my bad knees make walking pretty painful. The new folding bikes we got are great...although Paul misses his mountain bike...but as you can see, it's challenge to put the bikes back in the car when were done. :) Pray that we'll find a easy way to do it...Paul's threatening to put a "For Sale" sign on his! :)
Until next posting...blessings.
Paul and Margery