|Anyone who has ever driven I-90 through South Dakota knows that the scenery is pretty flat with not much to look at but watch the wind and some crops that grow along the freeway. Sadly the crops we saw...corn (only 2 feet tall at the most and tasseled out), soy beans, sorghum and sunflowers (maybe 30 inches tall and flowers were very small) have all been devastated by the hot, dry weather with no rain for what seems like forever to these folks. However stopping for fuel along the way and visiting with the people there and in rest areas, they certainly are a resilient bunch with a ready smile and that friendly mid-western attitude that you tend to forget when living in the city. Even with the drought, they visit and tell you how this too shall pass. As we got closer to Mitchell it seemed to be greener with more trees and the crops were looking somewhat better. Closer to the Badlands some of the farmers had cut their corn and baled it while others had harvested some and left several rows in several different places which we assumed was to catch snow and much needed winter moisture. The weather has cooled to the high 70's to low 80's but the wind is relentless and everyone you ask says it is always like this (sometimes it's even worse)! Mitchell is a pretty little town surrounded by farmland. We toured the famous World's Only Corn Palace which was first built in 1892. Early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building's exterior to prove the fertility of the soil in hopes of attracting immigrant farmers to settle here. Over 100 years later it is still the tradition and every summer the outside is stripped and redecorated with a new theme using corn and grains. Over 3000 bushels of rye, oat heads and sour dock (a sorrel used in salads and medicine) are tied in bundles and attached. When the corn is ready roughly 275 thousand ears of several varieties and colors of corn are husked and sawed in half lengthwise and nailed to the building following the patterns of the year's design. Sadly this may not happen this year as the corn crop is so bad, especially the colored corns. The Palace is a community center and inside the gymnasium high on the walls are also decorated with corn and grains though it is only changed about every five years. Sadly they were not giving the tour today unless you were with a bus tour as they had some activity going on in the gym (a kids tractor race)and all hands were needed on deck. Heading north from Mitchell, our destination was De Smet, home to Laura Ingalls Wilder, we were delighted to see it much greener and the crops much better. In visiting with a gentleman at a fruit and vegetable stand we were informed that great watermelons, muskmelons, tomatoes and corn grow north of Mitchell. Of course we bought some to try out! We are at the Lake Thompson State Park just east of De Smet which is the largest natural lake in South Dakota covering over 16,000 acres. A water view out the front window and surrounded by cottonwood trees, the area is beautiful and the fishing is tremendous. I stopped at the fish station to visit with several fishermen who had caught their limit of Northern Pike(up to 29 inches long), Walleye and Perch. Tomorrow looks to be a full day of seeing the sights where the Ingalls family lived in the later 1880's. Surely a place that has always been on my bucket list and I can't wait as I so loved the "Little House" books and thought as a child how FUN it must have been to have lived in that era...BTW I have changed my mind about that since becoming an adult!!!