Now we understand…

Maybe I got confused watching too many cowboy and Indian shows in my misspent youth, but I always assumed that the Badlands – which I now know are in South Dakota – were bad because that’s where the bad guys hung out and went to escape frontier justice.

Nope.  The Badlands are so named because they are simply that.  Bad. Lands.  No one can live there, and no one would want to spend much time in these arid awful hills.  The modern traveler can be so grateful for paved roads and air-conditioning.  

But like many places, the Black Hills are interesting to look at from the safety of a carefully designed overlook.  In fact, they are incredibly dramatic.

Here’s a video of the vista to prove it! (That is not me talking, just for the record.)

We saw them after leaving an equally famous site – though completely man-made.  That is the famous Wall Drug of Wall SD. A little drug store got famous by plastering road signs all over advertising “free ice water.”  Amazingly enough, that turned the tide and tourists began flocking in. Now, Wall Drug can offer you anything you might desire in the way of food, books, clothing, drugs, spiritual solace and lots of entertainment. It is an institution that draws people from all over the world.  Observe the Frenchman admiring the Mt. Rushmore plasterworks.  In fact, a Wall Drug poster was evidently placed in the London Underground at one point, and the English came to see what all the fuss was about, as do 20,000 people a day currently – in the summer season.  And remember – this, like everything in South Dakota – is IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!!!

Here’s a video of the vista to prove it! (That is not me talking, just for the record.)

Also in Wall is the Wounded Knee Museum.  The battlefield itself is further away, but this was a sweet and tearful memorial to the Indians who lost their lives there.  The box of Kleenex nearly did me in.

Wall also features the National Grasslands Visitors Center, which explains the flora and fauna of this area. Yes, you have to have soul to appreciate the prairie.

And then we ended our touring for the day at the Prairie Home Museum, with a preserved sod house.  The family that owned this had it very rough – and lived in the house from 1909 till 1949.  Times were tough. The line was:  “The government will bet you $18 and 160 acres of land that you’ll starve to death in five years!”  About 90% did indeed give up and go home – or somewhere more hospitable.

Did you notice the white prairie dogs?  We thought they were very unusual, but then learned they are one of five species of prairie dog.  Not albinos, they are evidently highly praised in Dubai, where they are raised and bred and as pets.  These guys go for $100 a pop, and then they get a free ride to the desert of Dubai.  See, this place isn’t so isolated! (But the prairie dogs are among the few with options…)

One thing we missed today because it was completely booked was a tour of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  All the missiles in 150 launch silos were deactivated in 1991, but it still is kind of creepy to think about what is under some of those rolling fields.

See?  There is lots going on in South Dakota.  Go know.

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