by Paula Vogelgesang | Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected].  Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.

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Hooray, it’s July! July is one of the hottest and busiest months of the year in this part of our world.

July starts off with a bang, with all of the 4th of July celebrations held around the country. Our wonderful flag, Old Glory, flies from many roof tops, flag poles and porches to remind us how very precious our freedom is and to serve as a reminder of the soldiers who fought to preserve this freedom.

I was growing up, my grandparents, who lived on a ranch in the Badlands, always had a 4th of July picnic on the banks of a creek not too far from their home. It was shallow enough that even the babies could sit in the water and splash around, watching the fish darting in and out and trying to catch frogs. It kept us kids entertained and cool all afternoon under the shade of the big cottonwood trees. If we got tired, there were blankets to rest on till we got the urge to get up and chase each other around a tree or attempt to climb as high as we dared before getting yelled at! 

We looked for rocks, bugs and all the other things kids look for. It kept us busy for hours and then we got to enjoy a big picnic lunch or supper with fried chicken, potato salad and all the other fixings. This was a great way to entertain a big group. The parents visited with far off relatives who came for the week while the older kids ‘got to chase after’ the little ones.

In our little corner of the world, the town of Interior, SD, is home to 90 hearty souls who host an annual 4th of July rodeo. They also host an afternoon of fun and games at the local park for those who do not choose to watch the rodeo. While the young folks are amused, others set up tables and benches. The grills are brought out and burgers and brats are grilled to perfection. Big jugs of lemonade, iced tea, water and coffee are set out for all to help themselves at an old-fashioned country style picnic supper. Everyone brings a dish to share or at least a bag of chips and some dip. Chunks of watermelon dot the salad table and the desert table is loaded with cakes of all kinds, cookies and even some homemade ice cream and cones as a treat for young and old alike.

As night falls, everyone brings out chairs or blankets to sit on and wait for the big event of the evening: The fireworks display!  The town buys the fireworks with money raised by a free will offering to help with the cost. The firemen set off the rockets, large and small, some exploding across the sky, shooting sparkles everywhere. The nonstop show lasts about an hour. What a fitting close for this very special day.

The town has fire trucks stationed all around the town ‘at the ready’ should an errant rocket go sideways instead of up. In all the years they have been hosting this event, they have never had a fire from the display.

This celebration is a day of fun for the ranchers and farmers who live and work around the area, as well as the many tourists who visit. Interior is just a short two miles from Badlands National Park and is accessible from Interstate 90 as well as SD Highway 44. The famous Wall Drug Store isn’t far away either, so if you happen to vacation in the area this year and want to enjoy some old fashioned country fun and good food, come join us. (If you need more information about this event or area visit [email protected]. The town phone number is 605-433-5100.)

If you happen to stop in early, be sure to visit the Cowboy Corner, a combination gas station and eatery. Sue serves fantastic prime rib every Saturday evening (except during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally week). Get there early or it’s gone!

Another noteworthy attraction is the Native West Trading Company on the west edge of town in the log house. Jen has all manner of Lakota Sioux hand crafted items on display and for sale as well as hanks of beads, if you are a ‘crafty’ person. She also has maps and information on the communities of the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is located only a few miles away.

If you visit this part of the country, you will observe combines in the fields of wheat, oats and other grains. The side roads will be filled with trucks grumbling along country lanes and gravel roads into farm yards where augers run and the grain is then stored in bins or hauled to town to the local elevators. Traffic can be slower at times due to farmers moving machinery from one field to another. Patience is a virtue here. The machines are big and don’t move as fast as a vehicle, much to the ire of city folks used to buzzing along at 60 – 70 mph.

Our folks also keep a sharp eye on the weather this time of year, trying to get the crop in before a hail storm hits and destroys a year’s work (and income). When those black/green clouds hover near the horizon as a prelude to a massive thunder/hail storm, it is a farmer’s nightmare in glorious living color.  Watching a year’s worth of work and thousands of dollars invested get beat into the ground is a hard pill to swallow. 

Some folks have insurance to cover part of the costs, but many do not. Buildings have roofs battered, shingles broken and blown away, windows are shattered and glass is everywhere. Gardens meant to help feed the family for another winter are destroyed as the plants are broken and pounded into the ground.

Thankfully, this does not happen often, but it really hurts when it does–especially when you only get paid once a year!

But, country folks are a hearty lot for the most part and as my husband used to say, “We just have to ‘cut corners into circles’ and make do again!”

Till Next Month,

-Paula