I do not have deep roots in South Dakota. The reason I live here is rooted in my beloved's alma mater. She graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
It is difficult to explain some of the idiosyncracies of this part of the country. We have lived here for four years now--working in Sioux Falls, my experience feels a little more integrated, as if I am a part of something. I live here, I work here, my wife works here, my daughter is growing up here. Integrated. Living here has grown on me. Living in South Dakota for the newcomer is an acquired taste.
From time to time I will give an outsider's perspective on South Dakota life. It may help some of my family and friends and whoever gives a damn an idea of where I live.
Some fast facts:
+ The entire state of South Dakota has a population of about 750,000 people--approximately the population of San Fransisco, California. Sioux Falls (approx. 130,000) contains nearly 1/6th of the population of the entire state. About the entire rest of the state shows up in Sioux Falls on Saturday to shop. I try to stay home.
+ South Dakota has ONE telephone area code.
+ South Dakota has 15 towns/cities over 5,000 people.
+ South Dakota has one member in the US House of Representatives (Stephanie Herseth)
My mother came to visit last February to help me and my daughter after I had had reconstructive knee surgery. I had a speaking engagement near Waubay, South Dakota, that I wanted to keep. My mother was agog at the lack of visible civilation on this drive. Sure, we could see some signs on that trip--life in Brookings and the outskirts of Watertown--but generally not much. Lots of farmland we could see beyond the snowdust that was blowing across the interstate and US Hwy 12.
South Dakota is not for the faint of heart. However, it is where I live. I have been steadily learning to embrace it--the wideopen spaces, the quirky culture (someday I will tell you about Snicker Salad), and the people who love their communities and have deep connections with land and people.
It is not easy to wrap my mind about South Dakota.
But God created it. And here I am.