Since Montana and South Dakota are the locations of so many historical sites, we decided to go to the place of one of the US Army’s greatest losses outside the Civil War, Little Big Horn. I did not know the back story of this battle, so the museum gave us a lot of interesting tidbits. One thing that struck me was a photo of Sitting Bull, the famous chief involved in this battle, wearing a large crucifix on a chain around his neck. The placard read that the crucifix was given to him by Fr. DeSmet, the famous Jesuit who toured all over the mid-West. I needed more information as to why. It just so happened that in the car I had a book of short stories with Catholic themes. I reviewed the table of contents and it just so happened that there was a letter in there from Fr DeSmet regarding his meeting with Sitting Bull in 1868 when he convinced a council of Indians to sign a treaty with the US government. Of course, the government wanted their land, promised them food, clothing, lodging and a reservation. They got only a little land, in the end. Sitting Bull and his people decided to go to better lands. The govenment objected. Hence the battle, in 1877, when Custer and his men caught up with them. The land consists of rolling hills in a semi arid environment with very few trees, mostly just some brush. One could get easily lost because it all looks the same. There is no place to hide a horse, much less a battalion. Sitting Bull was a very spiritual man who wanted peace and justice. He was assassinated by his own people in 1890.
Learning about the Sioux and the Lakota and the other western tribes made me realize how awful the US has treated those who are not Anglo-Saxon Protestants through the past centuries. And now the government is causing harm to the Iraqi Christians by not doing enough for them. There are many things Washington could do without sending soldiers over.
Thursday night we stayed in Sturgis, SD. Sturgis, outside of Sioux Falls, is the site of the nationally famous “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally” in August and Oktoberfest in September. The RV park is designed for RVs towing motorcycle vans, so the pull-through sites are 100 feet long. The city itself is lined with saloons (yes, that is what they are called out here!) and souvenier shops. Of course, we couldn’t help ourselves. We bought gifts for several people. And the grocery store was much cheaper than we have been paying so we stocked up and had steak on the grill for dinner! We met a storekeeper who had moved from Alaska to South Dakota in the past few weeks. He was still settling in. Hubby and storekeeper exchanged stories and compared knives, of which the new transplant had quite a few. He also had an eclectic collection of Bibles, silver flatware and Alaskan memorabilia. I found a copy of “Story of a Soul”, which doesn’t fit in with the rest of his stuff, but he made a buck off me.
We were so close to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument that we just had to go. They are within 16-17 miles of one another in the Black Hills. The artist of the Crazy Horse monument never finished even after 35 years and his children are now working on it. The amount of money required for the project is astronomical! The Lakotas own the land and are planning for a university, a tech research center, a medical center and a museum (this is already in place) all on the site. The feds offered them millions to help build it but they refused, remembering all the trouble they got into 125 years ago when they agreed to accept something from them. I had no trouble paying for the admission so that they can continue their work.
Mount Rushmore, although more famous, is not as impressive as the Crazy Horse site. Perhaps because I commiserate with the Indians, perhaps because the finished monument will be so much larger. Perhaps because this is one thing the feds don’t have their hands in and I am good with that.
We had to get back on the road and were driving along Rt 80. Signs started to pop up along the side of the road. “Free Ice Water…Wall Drug”, “Hot coffee 5 cents…Wall Drug”, “Something to crow about…Wall Drug”, Free coffee and donuts to honeymooners…Wall Drug”. Every mile or so for 30 miles!Well, we just had to stop in Wall, SD to see what this was. It is not so much a drug store as it is an event. A train depot and corral to take pictures in. A loud dinosaur head which screeches for two minutes every so often,trinkets, souveniers, chocolate shop, bed and bath products… On and on. The series of buildings takes up two blocks. It is the stop to take bus tours to! It was fun to look around and take a few photos. But it was getting late and we had used up our shopping joy in Sturgis, so we started looking for a place to stay for the night.