Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2005!
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September 2005

The bonny, bonny banks

I have been reading science fiction for all of my adult life and even some of my pre-adult life. I have been more or less an active paticipant in science fiction fandom for several decades. As it chances the 2005 world science fiction convention was in Scotland. I’ve attended a number of these events over the years so it is only natural that I would be in Scotland for the big do. The big do in Scotland, South Dakota, that is.

Scotland, South Dakota, is one of the many small towns in SD, population slightly under a thousand. One of the things that small towns do is to have an annual event. In Highmore it is called Old Settler’s Day. There is a parade, a demolition derby, class reunions, and other events of a nature not to be discussed here. People who once resided in Highmore come back to visit with other people who once resided in Highmore. Scotland also has such a day. I don’t know what it is called, but I understand that there are bagpipes involved. It seems improbable that anyone from South Dakota would know how to play the bagpipe, but, then, with bagpipes it may not matter.

My understanding is that I was in Scotland on the weekend of their annual event, whatever it might be. Please understand that I was not there to partake in the big do or even to take in the bagpipes. No, I was there for the Rodeo. The rodeo, you ask?

Yes, the rodeo. A day or two before the event Barbara and Fast Eddie, Barbara being Our Lady of the Large Black Dog’s sister and Fast Eddie being Barbara’s leman (and she his), called saying that they were going to be in Scotland for the weekend for the rodeo and that we should come. It seems that Fast Eddie and Deborah’s niece Kylee, were both competing in sundry events.

The idea was attractive. Living in a small town ten miles down the road from Nowhere has its downside. Either one narrows one’s focus down to the immediate environment, or every so often one succumbs to the “go somewhere, do something, do anything before I scream” impulse. Responding to this impulse have, ah, interesting consequences.

Calling a day or two before was par for the course. Things get confused and go off in strange directions as soon as Barbara is involved. The phenomenon is contagious. Fast Eddie, otherwise a man of numerous competences, regularly aids and abets her into the forays into God Only Knows What land. Between them Barbara and Deborah settled on the notion that we should drive to Scotland (so convenient, being able to drive and not having to go by water or one of those nasty airplanes) where we take in the rodeo, and then we and B&E proceed to the metropolis of Yankton and stay there for the night. Yankton is the home of the state funny farm, a somewhat ominous coincidence.

The appointed day came; we hied (such a nice word, “hie”) ourselves to Scotland, courtesy of Maltida, my little Prius, we being Deborah and myself, and Bridger, The Large Black Dog. We occupied the front seats and Bridger occupied the entire back seat. Mark that – Bridger occupied the entire back seat

We arrived at the rodeo grounds, paid our dues, and went in search of B&E’s horse trailer. We found them, a small yappy dog whose name I am determined not to remember, and rodeo friends Rick and Nancy. Rick had a case of beer in his trunk, beer that he handed out liberally. He also was wearing a t-shirt that said “President” on the front and “Ed Halverson Fan Club” on the back. That pretty much set the tone for the evening.

I have been to national level rodeos in Omaha, Dallas, and Las Vegas. Local rodeos are a somewhat different proposition. The skill levels are lower, of course, but the neat thing is that a local rodeo has more varied events. Kylee was in two events, breakaway roping, and goat tying. I will explain these events if any actually should ask.

Fast Eddie was a member of a penning team. Penning is slightly more realistic event than many of the major events. A bunch of cattle are at one end of the arena, each bearing a number. At the other end is a pen and four cowboys. The judges call out a number; the cowboys ride to the cattle, cut out all of the cattle bearing their number, and herd them into the pen. It’s a realistic event in that people actually do have to cut cattle out of a herd, unlike bull riding, which is not anything that anybody in their right mind would do.

The evening came and went; calves were roped, steers were penned, bulls were not ridden, goats were tied, and beer and plain hot dogs were eaten. It was time to make our way to Yankton and search out food and sleeping quarters. Somehow it was decided that B&E would ride down to Yankton with Rick and Nancy, and ride back with Deborah and I. There was a slight fault in this plan. The prius is not a large car; transporting four people and a large black dog implies a substantial amount of friendliness on the part of the passengers.

We arrived in Yankton and swarmed into a local restaurant where Rick scoffed up all of the whole wheat toat and strawberry jam that he could con the waitress out of. If all goes as planned I shall bake a load of whole wheat bread and present it to him at Omaha.

We were informed by our untrusty native guides that good motels to stay at would be found on rte 81. Deborah and I were nominated to lead the way on the search for motels. Why, I’ll never know. I did ask and received nothing in the way of a coherent explanation. The flaw in this plan became evident when we reached the bridge that would carry us into Nebraska. Deborah expressed the opinion that this couldn’t be right. Behind us we saw our companions at a standstill, blinking their lights wildly. We found a handy place to turn around and went back towards our thoroughly unreliable native guides. It seems that they had forgotten to mention that we were supposed to get off of 81 and follow some other road. We meekly followed them down the road a piece and found a motel. I don’t recall its name and I certainly wouldn’t want to give them any free advertising.

All of this happened at the end of the great motorcycle rally in Sturgis. In South Dakota motorcyclists are somewhat like grasshoppers – at the right time of the year they swarm. When you reflect that half a million motorcyclists gather in Sturgis for a week to do whatever it is they do, and that the population of SD is only seven hundred thousand something, and you may get a sense of the impact the swarm has.

So it was that the motel only had two rooms left, both double queens, both in the smoking section. I have the impression that many motels don’t bother with cleaning smoking rooms on the theory that smokers can’t smell anything anyway. It may be so. These rooms certainly didn’t smell too good. Still, beggars can’t be choosers so Deb and I took one room, and Barb and Eddie the other.

Deborah had worried about whether the motel permitted pets. I carefully explained to her that I hadn’t seen any sign forbidding pets, and that I wasn’t about to ask any stupid questions.

We drove around to the entrance near our rooms. We discovered that all parking spaces near the entrance were filled with motorcyles and motorcycle trailers. We unloaded our car and B&E unloaded their stuff from Rick and Nancy’s car. (Rick and Nancy were going home and leaving us to suffer as best we could.) Bridger and I investigated our unsavory accomodations while Deborah parked the car somewhere faraway in the general vicinity of Nebraska.

We settled down for a short night’s sleep, Deb and I in one bed, and Bridger in the other. Morning came, all rose, some with more reluctance than others, and we prepared to depart. Deborah took Bridger out for his morning walk and then brought the car around. It was then that she discovered a certain horrid truth.

In the past year Bridger has been the only passenger in the back seat. There was a blanket that was supposed to protect the seat from black hair. Large and Black had pulled it down long ago – it was in a crumpled ball and the seat and the back was matted with black labrador hair. Worse yet, he had thrown up at some time in the past, and the blanket was encrusted with something.

Fortunately we had brought a clean blanket with us. Deb cleaned as best she could within five minutes and covered everything with the clean blanket. The five of us poured into the prius, Ed and I in the front seat, and Deb, Barb, and Bridger in the back seat. Deb and Barb formed bookends around the Dog and we went back to Scotland, fortunately only a half hour away.

We watched the Sunday morning events and then headed back to our haven on the prairie. And that, friends, is what you do when you can’t make the worldcon.

This page was last updated September 1, 2005.

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September 2005
Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2005!