Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel some years ago that suggested thatyou can’t go home again…and he’s wrong. We just finished visiting my former home, Rapid City, South Dakota, and it was even more charming than I had remembered as a kid–and the city hasn’t changed as much as I have. I lived in Rapid from 1968 to 1971; old pictures say that I was pencil-thin and had a bit of a moptop–words that haven’t been used to describe me since about 1980. But I do still use pencils and (occasionally) mops.
Last night near Main Street Square in Rapid, we had a lovely dinner at theIndependent Ale House(who in the world wants partisan ale, anyway?). Apparently enjoying local fare means 46 beers on tap, Sicilian pizza and Greek Salad. The food was very good, the service great, beer selection excellent, and there was a moving display of beers that even included the date that the keg was tapped.
The opportunity to drive by my former houses and a few other significant places in town, like Dinosaur Park, was a strong draw…and Souzz was extraordinarily patient. She even repeated a few of my sister’s poses from 1968 (see photos).
After visiting Rapid City, we had a nice visit to Mount Rushmore andCuster State Park and are now heading south toPringle, a small community of about a hundred that my brother Jack calls home. Jack has always called summer tourists (like us) “pilgrims,” so I am tempted to show up in aMiles Standishcostume. But whatever I wear when I go to Pringle, my experience in Bell Fourche taught me one thing: it won’t be shorts.
We’ve made our way down to Rapid City, South Dakota, by way of Bowman, Bell Fourche, and Devil’s Tower. Rapid City was my childhood home, and Suzy has endured countless re-tellings of stories from back in the day. I touched (or, rather, re-touched) on the fireworks caper, Mayflower moving boxes, skiing at nearby Terry Peak, football games at 20 below, and my sister’s neighborhood “day care.”
Regarding day care, it was here in Rapid in 1968 that my enterprising 12-year-old sister provided babysitting for the entire block, all for 25 cents an hour. Us kids learned things like how to hard-boil an egg, how to sew, and how to make hand puppets—certainly risky topics with two older brothers. Somehow I survived, and I owe my sister a debt of gratitude to this day (I still make amazing hand puppets).
The highlight of today was lunch in Belle Fourche (pronounced “Bell Foosh”), a ranching town of 5000 on the way to Rapid City (it’s often just called “Belle,” much like Rapid City gets shortened to “Rapid” by the locals). We were standing outside the Belle Inn Restaurant debating lunch options when a sign near the entrance caught my eye. It said “Cowboys, scrape sh*t from boots before entering.” It wasn’t a joke; it was a necessary…albeit indelicate…reminder. And it clinched our decision. This was the place for lunch.
As we entered the restaurant, pretty much every table paused and looked up—but expressions were more curious than suspicious. We were new faces with different accents and (way) out of state tags…but there was one other thing that set us apart.
Belle is a ranching town where a lot of folks are clearly used to working in the fields around livestock and perhaps heavy equipment. The Belle Inn’s customers were younger, older, farmers, ranchers, maybe even tourists…but even on a day that hit 90 degrees, they were definitely NOT wearing shorts.