I am told that I have wronged South Dakota. I have been thinking of it as a snow-covered wasteland populated with strong, silent people of Scandinavian extraction and many secret sorrows. In fact, it is a very beautiful place, and the people are kind and cheerful, as well as being brave and true. Whether or not they are of Scandinavian heritage is irrelevant (though in fact the census tells us that 40% are of German ethnicity, 15% Norwegian, and then the proportions go into single digits).

“It can be 20 degrees below,” one fellow told me, “and they never cancel school.”

He said this as though it were a positive thing.

So I know that Pokey and the sock monkey and all their companions will be enjoying their sojourn in South Dakota. And I apologize if I sounded snide. That was not my intention. It is merely that South Dakota, like Yorkshire, is one of the many, many places about which I know nothing.

In fairness, however, I must provide you with this link. This terrifying scene is just exactly what I thought South Dakota was like, and it is the first photo that comes up when you look for images of South Dakota. It is on a site discussing cutworms. (Granted that it is only terrifying to people with agoraphobia. Don’t you find it just a bit scary, though? Add creepy music to it mentally. That might help you get the full effect.) Another popular photo is the historical one on the right. And that is before you add the snow.

Here’s what the people of South Dakota need to do, some day when it is 20 degrees below zero and they are looking for a project. They need to put some nice pictures of their lovely state online and label them “South Dakota” so that they will come up easily during a google image search.

I have been working on the forthcoming historical encyclopedia for the state where I live. I’ve reviewed articles and fact-checked them, and now they have asked me to write one, and even offered to pay me a meager amount for doing so. Of course I have agreed to do this. We may not have many flat empty fields or much snow, but we have a startling number of picturesque violent episodes. Being a fan of mystery novels, I naturally enjoy a bit of historical violence, the more picturesque the better. Also, of course, the longer ago the better. I don’t care for current violence at all. Give me a few centuries’ distance, though, and some interesting circumstances, and I like a good murder story.

One of my favorites occurred during the Trail of Tears. The newspaper reported that a party of folks travelling through the town where I live on the Trail of Tears stopped off to buy a keg of beer. In the course of the party, someone was knifed to death.

It was clear that the party itself wasn’t news, and obviously the knifing wasn’t. Everyone carried knives around here in those days — there were fancy ones for formal occasions. The news was that someone had died. The writer appeared to feel that this was over the top, at least for a weeknight.

I had just never thought of the people being forced along the Trail of Tears stopping off for a party.

I cannot include this story in my article, because I will be writing about the county to the east of here. However, I feel sure that they have their own picturesque incidents. I look forward to learning about them.

The boys go back to school today. Last night in choir practice, Janalisa gave the excuse (she and I were having a theological discussion and missed an entrance in “Behold That Star“) that we were “still on vacation.” I have been using that excuse a lot myself.

This is it, though. Tonight is Twelfth Night, the end of the revels. Vacation is over. Life is real, life is earnest.

Oh, and we were discussing the virgin birth, and the director did not accept our excuse.