A New Year, Some Old Business

January 4, 2011

I never did finish my Sioux Falls trip, and now have forgotten much of it. Downtown Sioux Falls is remarkably alive, for a prairie town. While I was there, there were several sculptures placed throughout the shopping/business area, part of a contest in which visitors could vote for their favorite. My favorite was hard to choose; there was a rather abstract dog, but its dogginess and spirit was very clear; there was a sheep with two lambs, one black and one white; there was a mermaid, I think, and of course a bison and an eagle, and many many more. I don’t know if Sioux Falls is always that welcoming to the arts, but I hope so! The downtown area also offered several “green spots” with seating and, at least in summer, flowing water.

The shopping in the downtown area was mainly of the small boutique variety, but the stores were all delightful. My favorite was Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Gifts. Found a lovely Celtic Cross necklace (silver) and Trinity Knot earrings.

The falls for which the City is named isn’t far from downtown, and is the centerpiece of a large park and recreation area. Atop a building next to the ruins of the old mill (it burned, so only the outer stone walls remain) is a restaurant that has outdoor eating with a great view of the falls, which are not one big waterfall, but a series of falls that have been carving the rock since, well, probably since the last ice age ended. Past what I think was a hydroelectric plant was a still pond with a little island. There were plenty of water birds in the pond, and a lovely mallard couple swam over to get a good look at my sister and me before going about their business.

The opera house in Sioux Falls has been restored beautifully, and houses an active community theater. It is alleged to be haunted, according to the Internet and some book entries, but no one could (or would!) confirm or deny those rumors to me.

Outside the city is a wooded area through which a fast stream has dug a deep canyon, about 20 feet across. It’s a park called Devil’s canyon, and there’s a wobbly plank bridge over the canyon. A sign tells visitors that at that point, the canyon is over 60 feet deep, and that at its deepest part, they were unable to find a bottom. The canyon walls also have several small caves in them. According to Devil’s Gulch lore, Jesse James went there on his escape from robbing the Northfield bank in Minnesota. When he reached the gulch, they say, the pursuers were close behind, so he and his horse jumped the gulch. Skeptics say that even a fresh horse couldn’t have leapt that distance, and James’ horse would have been anything but fresh at that point, but believers cling to the legend. Of course there are rumors that Jesse James haunts the gulch, but seriously, why would any reasonable ghost haunt a place he visited exactly once in a long and excitement-filled life? Who knows? I didn’t see any ghosts there, nor did I feel anything but the thousands of no-see-ums determined to suck all the blood from my body.

On the way home we visited a county museum said to be haunted. It wasn’t hard to debunk the “proof” offered in a certain book about haunted places in South Dakota, and I promised the county historical society that if I included it, I would be sure to tell people that it was NOT haunted at all, but rather a great place to see what the lives of the first white settlers in the area were like.

North of there, we ran into bad weather, of course. I have yet to take a trip into South Dakota and encounter only good weather. The clouds filled the sky, the wind picked up to about 30 mph, gusting to around 60, and it started to rain (mixed with snow. In late June. Humph.) We spent that night in Fargo, skipping some of the sites we’d meant to visit (do Ma and Pa Ingalls haunt their graves? I have yet to find a graveyard that’s haunted, other than St. Patrick’s in Dickinson, and that’s a residual haunting, not an intelligent one!). So I didn’t feel bad missing them. I was cold and wet from trying to take photos in the rain and wind (that wind nearly blew me over, and I have a fair amount of ballast!), and I just wanted to go home! We had a good dinner in Fargo, spent the night, and had a pleasant drive home the next day. Leaving just one more trip — that turned into two or three, but you have to do what you have to do when you must illustrate each of the 160 or so pages of the book (even when the contract states 10 to 20 photographs…)

And now it’s January, and I’m still trying to organize and write. Wish me well. Or wish a premature burial of the book. I’m not sure which I’d prefer at this point!

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2 Responses to “A New Year, Some Old Business”

  1. Smorg said

    Happy New Year Lee! ๐Ÿ˜€ You are a dedicated writer! Very glad to hear you didn’t get blown away somewhere with those gusts. I’m looking forward to the 2nd book already!

    Really, now I regret not spending more time really visiting N and S Dakota when I drove through the area in the late 90’s. It seems every place has intriguing stories to tell if you look at it from the right angle. Hope you’re having more fun writing now that you’re back in the (hopefully) well warmed house!

    Sending ya’ and the pooches all the best from chilly but clear San Diego,

    Smorgy ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Sorry it was a crummy trip, but I enjoyed reading your account of it. Now I’d like to visit Sioux Falls and Devil’s Canyon. I’m looking forward to your next book, so I hope it shapes up for you.

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