I’ve been offline because Steve and I were in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Yes, the land of Rocky Raccoon.
We stayed in beautiful Spearfish Canyon in the northern Hills. Clean air, clean water, breath-taking views.
We had a reunion with my family, my dad’s two brothers, and all the cousins and grandchildren. My dad’s father was a school principal in Mitchell, South Dakota (home of the Corn Palace), and every summer his family stayed in a cabin the Black Hills. When we were little, we vacationed in the Hills many times.
My Uncle Tom has had a rough year; he lost his second wife and his first wife who was the mother of his six children. Then he had a brain hemorrhage and underwent major surgery. He’s not normally a sentimental guy, but he clearly enjoyed the gathering—especially one night when about forty of us sat around a campfire listening to the old men talk about their childhood, their parents, and their Uncle Jim and Aunt Kay who were second parents to them when they went to college in California. Aunt Kay is in her 90s and wasn’t able to make the trip.
My dad and brother went trout fishing and caught some large ones. I enjoyed meeting some of my cousins whom I hadn’t seen for over thirty years. And there were lots of little ones running around playing hide and go seek or begging for piggy back rides from their uncles and second cousins.
One of our favorite pastimes in the Hills is counting deer. We climb in the car as dusk is falling, drive out into the less populated areas, and begin counting. We’d sometimes see ten or 15 deer in a small meadow. I think they hit a record this year counting 381 in about 2 hours!
In addition to deer we saw jack rabbits, wild turkeys, hawks, red squirrels, elk, and my sister’s family saw a mountain lion! No bears, grizzly or black. The last bear was shot in 1920.
We also go on lots of hikes. This year, thankfully, we stuck to marked trails and didn’t get lost or have to climb down a cliff to get back to our car. We played golf and horse shoes. Steve, it turns out, is quite adept at horseshoe tossing and made it to the Harkness finals held the last day of the reunion.