South Dakota Trip 1, and Finding Stories

May 17, 2010

The Historic (Haunted?) Adams House in Deadwood SD

In April, I survived a 5-day trip through the Black Hills with my sister. I say survived because I was exhausted by the end of the first day, and my fatigue level just got worse from there; the day we drove south from Deadwood to Hot Springs it decided to rain (why do we always say “it’s raining?” What is “it” that can do such things?) and fog came up (or down) (or maybe it was clouds; we were much higher than usual), and it got very windy. So I have many photos with raindrops on the camera lens (I need some sort of thingy to put on the end of the lens to protect it, although since some of the rain was blowing at us, I’m not sure that would help) and my photo of the famed Crazy Horse Memorial-in-progress looks like a photo of fog, with a black blur behind it. Not book-worthy, I fear.

I did wonder, as I looked at the mountain being shredded, what Crazy Horse himself would have thought about the monument/memorial. Remember that the Black Hills were sacred to the Lakota, even more sacred than the rest of Mother Earth. I can’t imagine a Lakota leader and spiritual man, which is how he is described by his people, would appreciate having a mountain blasted and carved into his image, or any other for that matter. But maybe it’s just me. The fact that there are no known photos of him makes it even worse, at least to these white eyes. The Lakota name for us, “wasichu” (meaning both fat or greasy, and greedy) seems even more appropriate when you enter the visitor center after paying the $20 to get close enough to see the monument. When it isn’t raining and foggy.

Hot Springs was a wonderful break for my sister and me. We stayed at an old hotel across from the railroad station, the River Rock Resort and Spa? I apologize to the owners; I was exhausted and looked like a drowned rat when they welcomed us in and led us to our room. The owners have been remodeling it, trying to keep to the spirit of the original hotel (ca. 1890?), but modernizing the bathrooms for our modern tastes, and of course including televisions! The high-ceilinged rooms, hardwood floors, and vintage furniture were a delight, and the restaurant, open only for dinner, was amazing. (Blue Vervaine, it’s called, if my sieve-memory is working.) And the spa — oh my, we were ready for that. If you’re a hotel guest, you’re welcome to use all the amenities — sauna, hot tub, hot sand room, and hot granite room. Hot sand room? you may ask, like I did. Yes, a room with six or so inches of sand on the floor, covered with canvas and then topped with a layer of sheets and rimmed with pillows. Heated from the bottom, and the light had a dimmer. I spent half an hour in there, in the spa robe they gave each of us for the duration of our stay, lying in the hot sand that I shaped to accomodate the needs of my aching body. And oh, it was heaven. The heat soaked into muscles and joints, and put me right to sleep. I spent another half hour there right before bed.

Mostly I spent that last half hour there because Shari hadn’t mentioned anything about hot tub and bathing suits, and the name “HOT SPRINGS” apparently didn’t register in my brain. So she was in the hot tub, joined by the couple who had been sitting next to us in the restaurant. She told them why we were there, of course, and as so often happens when our mission is made public, stories appeared. I spoke with the woman myself the next morning, since they’d gone to bed by the time I emerged from the hot sand room (Oh, I want one in my HOUSE!), and she told me two stories that aren’t in any source I’ve ever found. Wonderful stories! I also got a story from a woman in a coffee place in Lead, with the wonderful name “Sacred Grounds” (the coffee place, not the woman…), where we also stopped to get out of the wind and light rain the previous day.

Sometimes I am told ghost stories, and sometimes I eavesdrop on other people’s conversations (those times when you can’t help it, when they’re in a booth behind you, for example, and speaking LOUDLY), and get ideas that become seeds for stories. One such seed came to me at a coffee and muffin place in Carson City, NV, where I wrote much of the first draft of my novel-in-progress, currently in its a hundred-and-eleventy-second revision. Behind me one morning were three elderly women, speaking very LOUDLY. They were talking about funerals, of all things, and one of the women was very concerned that the funeral home might steal the gold teeth from her body when her time came. She told her friends that she had decided to leave them to her nephew in her will. I’m not sure what story that will be, but what a detail! (And of all the things I may leave my nephews, my teeth will not be among them!)

You just never know where a story will start. A casual conversation, someone else’s conversation, or a dropped remark about the fastest gun in the west, who briefly worked for Ambrose Bierce as a coach guard, and who never got the kind of fame, or infamy, of other fast guns like Wild Bill Hickock, or Billy the Kid. Keep your eyes and ears open all the time, and stories will come right up and sit in your lap!

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5 Responses to “South Dakota Trip 1, and Finding Stories”

  1. Hot sand room? Wow! I love that part, and I love the sense of the journey and the stories you’re collecting. Lori, I am so delighted that you’re writing. You’ve got a fabulous sense of humor, an eye for details, and a great ear for voice and story. You go!

  2. Julie said

    Lor, what Susan said! I’ve never heard of a sand room, but sounds like something every house needs! The stories you are gathering sound fascinating. I can hardly wait to see your first book and now this one–and your novel. Good going!

  3. leescott58 said

    Thanks to both of you — this is a much less stressful process than the first one, when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, or what the publisher wanted (the response to my many questions was typically “It’s your book; whatever you want!” and I wanted a little guidance!). Now I know they’re happy with my writing, and I can just settle in and collect stories, and get them written! (and the hot sand room was totally awesome; it is something every house needs! What a wonderful relaxing, de-stressing experience! All it needed was a touch of aromatherapy, and it would have been perfection!)

  4. What a wonderful trip, despite your fatigue! I love the picture of the haunted house–it’s a gorgeous place! And the hot sand room, hmm, me too in my house!!

  5. Lori,
    Love your picture of the haunted house and for the hot sands, my husband loves spas, hot baths, saunas, etc. He would kill for the hot sands. It does sound wonderful. Speaking of it… So instead of it’s raining, do we say. Rain is falling? 🙂

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