An Ode To The Badlands

And other parts of South Dakota

I was born in South Dakota. I know, the state’s reputation right now is about as positive as what everyone is hoping their COVID test will be. Which is to say, negative. There are a lot of good things about South Dakota, none of them come to mind presently but I assure you that, much like the M&M’s at Christmas time, they do exist. 

But, being from South Dakota doesn’t just mean you might get into deeply uncomfortable conversations with your family about religion, politics, and the existence of “light beer.” It also means that you grew up in one of the most gorgeous, spectacular, flattest places of America. 

It’s so flat. (How flat is it?!) It’s so flat that flat earthers use it to try to prove their point! (Buh-dump-bum)

But, South Dakota has some beautiful hills as well, referred to as the Black Hills because they are topped with evergreen trees. The Black Hills are a major attraction to people who are interested in visiting South Dakota, once they have achieved outpatient privileges.

Other attractions are:

  1. Wall Drug, an old-timey mini-mall with 5 cent coffee. The coffee is often used as antifreeze in the winter months.

  2. Mount Rushmore, a sacred mountain that white people decided to doodle on.

  3. Crazy Horse, another mountain that is carved into a statue. The statue was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala-Lakota Chef and therefore I’m not going to make fun of it. It’s beautiful, see it if you can. 

  4. The Sturgis Rally! This is a biker rally that occurs every summer in South Dakota and in 2020 was directly responsible for thousands of deaths across the midwest and great plain region. Cool t-shirts though! 

  5. The Corn Palace! Now, much to the disappointment of everyone who has ever heard of the corn palace, it is not made of corn. It is however covered in corn and is, therefore, a favorite of most Iowegans that visit South Dakota. 

  6. The fish hatchery in Spearfish, South Dakota. This is where you can, for free, watch fish make love. 

  7. Dead Wood! A casino center where Ian McShane will kick your ass. 

  8. Finally, the badlands! A stretch of crappy land where very little plant life grows. It is however your best bet to see a wild prairie dog or the black-footed ferret before we killed and wore them all. A note here, we did do this, but in doing research for this article, I found out that there were about 18 left in the ’80s then we brought them back to about roughly 600 now. Which, legally speaking, means they have the majority population in South Dakota. The Badlands also is where they shot much of Dances With Wolves, a 30-year-old Oscar-winning film starring Kevin Costner about which most people, save the population of South Dakota, have forgotten about. I love The Badlands, I always have. I remember looking out the car window on a family trip from Minnesota to South Dakota as a child at them and thinking, “Thank God I’m almost outta this car! I’m sick of these people.” 

I always enjoyed the outdoors as a kid, which was perfect for my parents who hated having me indoors. I ate a lot of cheese as a child. Anyhow, I’ve always loved the outdoors and my family’s trips to South Dakota, where we would walk and hike and meander, and other words that mean bumming around. 

My father never once lost me in the woods when we went hiking, no matter how hard he tried. 

I love the wilds of South Dakota. I love the people depending on the election cycle. I’ve written a few poems expressing my deep fondness for South Dakota and its countryside. 

A poem for The Badlands. 

These lands are bad.

Like, really, really bad.

There’s nothing good about these lands. 

A poem for The Black Hills

These hills are green.

The greenest hills I’ve ever seen.

The firs grow up thick or lean.

But no matter the size, these trees are green. 

A poem for Wall Drug 

The smell of leather

Tanned hides radiate in my lungs. 

“Stop smelling the boots!”

A poem for Mount Rushmore

We stand in lines waiting

We stand in lines contemplating 

We stand in lines understating 

Our discomfort 

A poem for Crazy Horse 

A great man astride a great beast 

His hand outstretched, pointing, reaching, searching

Towards the future  

(I told you I wasn’t going to make fun of it)

A Poem for The Sturgis Rally

You can’t always get what you want

A poem for The Fish Hatchery

Gills full of ecstasy 

Stars shine up above

Soon you will all see 

How the fishy fish make love 

Thank you for reading! 

Stay safe and have fun!

Tristan