|The massive Gavin Point Dam on the Missouri River|
near Yankton, S.D. with an even bigger sky above this week.
My husband Jeff took me out here this week to visit the family, many of whom live in the pleasant southeastern South Dakota city of Yankton, in the Missouri River valley.
I continue to be fascinated by the big sky here. They say Montana is Big Sky country, but South Dakota has to be in the same league as Montana.
As proof, Jeff took me to the Gavin Point Dam, which is on the Missouri River near Yankton. And later, Drew, the son of Jeff's cousin Shann, took us for a spin on his boat on Lewis and Clark Lake, which is behind the Gavin Point Dam.
The light was exquisite. On the boat ride, small showers and thunderstorms erupted in the distance, and a strong sun peeked in and out of the billowing white and black clouds. Orange sandstone cliffs ring the lake, adding to the color.
I could have stayed out there all night, though I'm sure Drew wouldn't have appreciated being out on that water as it got cold overnight.
I continue to find a number of quirks in the area that just adds to the fun.
|A beautiful sky on Wednesday on Lewis and Clark Lake|
behind the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River
near Yankton, South Dakota.
At and near the Gavin Point Dam, I noticed a lot of people, mostly high school age boys, armed with bows and arrows. Did we stumble upon a Boy Scout camp?
Nope. They shoot fish with arrows here. They even do it from overlooks near the dam. They shoot the fish, and a line attached to the bow and arrow allows the fishermen to haul the fish up the cliff into their hands.
The parks around the dam even have a number of helpful kiosks where people can clean and cook their fish.
Everybody in Yankton goes to Charlie's Pizza, so we did too after we finished the boat ride. It looks like it hasn't been redecorated since the 1950s or 60s, which makes it a cool place.
For some reason the sign out front has a badly rendered painting of the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe with an air vent lifting up her white dress.
In the Charlie's Pizza men's room, there are two photographs of Marilyn Monroe and a movie poster from the 1950s camp classic "Attack Of The 50 Foot Tall Woman."
There is no explanation as to why that is.
Back at home in Vermont, almost all the flower gardens have mulch in the beds, surrounding the plants.
In South Dakota, nobody uses mulch. Instead, all the flower beds, and I mean virtually all of them, have smooth round river rocks, averaging about the size of hens eggs in the gardens. The rocks supposedly hold down the moisture and block weeds like mulch is intended to do.
|A garden in back of the Modereger home in|
Yankton, South Dakota, after I planted a few
perennials. They use river rocks for mulch in South
Dakota, not mulch, like in New England.
I planted a few perennials and annuals in the Moderegers' garden, just to feel useful. I wonder how the rocks will affect the plants. Will the rocks collect heat and cook the plants on hot, sunny days?
It seems to work for everybody, though, and peoples gardens look healthy enough. And the soil beneath the rocks seemed rich and moist enough when I did some planting.
The rocks must be mostly a South Dakota aesthetic. Out here, it's dry and windy and sunny, which evokes the bleached, vaguely barren look the rocks give. It works here. New England is damp, cool and woodsy, so mulch seems to fit the surroundings more.
We'll give it a go.
Two days from now, I'll head back to Vermont. I'll miss Yankton. Part of it is because I spent the week being a slug. I didn't do anything useful or productive and slept in mornings until what for me is the crack of noon. (I'd get up at around 7 or 8) In Vermont, I usually get up at 4 a.m.
But a large part of why I will miss Yankton once I leave is it is so comfortable here. It's not a flashy place. Yankton is well kept, productive and energetic enough, but definitely not frenetic. It doesn't feel like everybody is in intense competition with each other in Yankton, like it does in the dreaded "Back East."
People work hard here, that's for sure. But they work hard because they want to feel good about themselves. They want to provide for others. They want to contribute. They want to make sure everything is in order and working. But they're not trying to impress others as much as you sometimes see on the East Coast.
All this is a generalization, of course, based on my first impressions and clouded by my lack of expertise.
But first impressions matter, and I'm sure getting a good one in Yankton.