This editor’s mom, Noma Sazama, turned 94 on September 21. Generally, it involves a bit of planning because where she now lives, Martin, South Dakota, is wedged between the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations.
Plane travel to the town is limited to medevacs, which are generally flown to either Sioux Falls or Rapid City. The first night in Martin I heard a helicopter and thought there must be some kind of police activity—but my sister started laughing and said I must be from Los Angeles. The helicopter was a medical transport.
A rental car from Rapid City is generally an option, but this September there was, and usually is, a large influx of tourists to see Mount Rushmore, 60-ft-high granite sculpture of the faces of four presidents, and also to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is still being carved.
My dad when I was a teenager said, “Crazy Horse won’t be finished in my lifetime.” Now, I don’t think it will be finished in my lifetime either. It was started in 1948, and then the artist thought it would be completed in 30 years. Now, the hand, arm, shoulder and top of the horse’s head is expected to be finished in 2037. If it is ever finished, will be the world’s largest mountain sculpture.
I’m sure many of my readers attended the Sturgis Motorcycle rally held the first week of August, and traveled through Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road and Hill City, on their Harley’s. The draw in Hill City is a dinosaur museum started by my cousin Peter Larson. He excavated Sue, the largest T-Rex ever discovered and at this museum you can see Stan, which is the second largest T-Rex excavated click here.
My readers, world travelers, may have traveled the eastern part of the state to Mitchell, taking in the world’s only Corn Palace.
Resident Cindy Simon sent me a text me while I was in South Dakota with the message that she had received about a sculpture. “I don’t know why this hasn’t received more publicity, but this 50-foot sculpture was unveiled recently in South Dakota. It’s called Dignity and was done by artist Dale Lamphere to honor the women of the Sioux Nation.”
The statue was erected in 2016, off Interstate 90, where it overlooks the Missouri River. The sculpture features a star quilt. Automotive paint expert Brook Loobey assisted with the colors for the quilt, and Albertson Engineering of Rapid City ensured the sculpture would endure the strong winds common in the area. This editor was able to see it when she attended the Master Gardener’s convention with her mother in 2021.
But I digress. This editor’s sister picked me up at Rapid City and we started the approximately two-hour car ride to Martin. Generally, we take the back way, which routes us through Badlands, Scenic and at Sharps Corner turning off and continuing to Kyle.
This time we decided to try a different route, the back, back way by going straight at Sharp’s Corner to try and hit Highway 18.
This editor put the end point of Martin in Google Maps and we followed it as it had us turn at BIA Highway 23 at Porcupine.
There was indeed a road. It went from a two-lane pavement to gravel – and looked like the road might go through a pasture.
Additionally, cell phone reception went in and out.
There was nothing for miles and miles, no homes and no cars, nothing.
I pointed out the positive to my sister who was driving, “At least we can’t be arrested for speeding.” Eventually, we did hit a paved road.
A second sister pointed out that many people come out to the Res with phone maps and promptly end up on little gravel roads like the one we took.
Once we finally arrived, we started preparing for the big birthday celebration – what to wear, what to wear!
The Native American Heritage Association (NAHA), receives about 20 to 50 boxes of clothing from across the United States weekly. The nonprofit then delivers items that “so many Native American families will treasure” to the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Crow Creek, Cheyenne River or Lower Brule Reservations.
They dump the boxes on the street about a block from my mom’s house and people go through them. My sisters and I found matching outfits sent from Urban Outfitters.
NAHA is a well-intentioned program, but someone should ask people what they really need. All of the different xxs gym wear and the clothes that no one else wants in the United States, doesn’t always find a home here, either. Whatever is left is taken to landfill. Luckily some company probably gets a tax write-off, so all is not lost.
Once, boxes and boxes of prescription glasses were left. Of course, no one could use them because they didn’t match what was needed, so a relative took them to the Lion’s Club in Rapid.
One of the best places to get lattes in South Dakota is at Lou’s in Martin. Owner Tyler Nolett crafts a good cup of Joe. He also makes fresh doughnuts every morning — and smothered burritos with sausage gravy, that is large enough to split between three people ($9).
The pubwich, an invention by Warren Peterson, who owns the Pizza Shoppe on Main Street, is a cross between a calzone, a pizza and a sandwich. He makes everything
from scratch, and while he was working on my order, he managed to babysit three kids (6, 7 and 8) and catch me up on the town gossip. The pubwich was big enough for two people ($13).
Then it was onto the main event, the annual Master Gardener Convention that was held in Spearfish, South Dakota (we took the main roads, including the interstate). The event always falls around my mom’s birthday near the end of September.
Soil science was the main topic this year and absolutely fascinating. Seriously. At the banquet that evening, the group was gracious enough to sing Happy Birthday to my mom, while my sisters and I spruced up for the occasion.
My takeaway is I’m the luckiest person in the world to have a great family, kids and husband, and the opportunity to experience so many different cultures and areas of this country.