Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Sunday in South Dakota: Deadwood Days of ’76

July 30th, 2017

Everybody loves a parade! But this gold-camp-turned-tourism-town seems to take it to another level, spawning a colorful cast of characters who assume the identities of western legends each July for the Days of ’76 celebration. The Days of ’76 began as way to honor Deadwood’s first pioneers. The prospectors, miners and madams who poured into the Black Hills in 1876 came to settle the gold-filled gulches of Dakota Territory.

Since the first celebration in 1924, the Days of ’76 has grown into a legendary event with a historic parade and award-winning midsized rodeo. It was so hot I couldn’t sit comfortably on the metal bench, but it was well worth my time. I sat surrounded by colorful locals and tourists as floats, wagons and horses trailed by. The parade was organized to tell visitors the story of Deadwood beginning with the Lakota Indians. The Lakota were followed by the trappers and miners, military, cowboys and pioneers.

This year’s Deadwood Days of ’76 PRCA Rodeo kicked off July 26 and concluded on Saturday – and every ride was a chance to top one of this iconic rodeo’s arena records. The PRCA, headquartered in Colorado Springs, is the highest-paying American rodeo organization. These boys ride hard and eat a lot of dust for the chance to win the $229,074 purse. The posters claimed this was “The Best Rodeo” and I can honestly say it was the best rodeo I’ve seen this year.

This nation was founded on individual spirit and small communities that keep their heritage alive. That’s what everyone at Deadwood ’76 Days was doing. We were celebrating the best of the American spirit together.  

Deadwood is a National Historic place (an entire city accurately restored to its historic significance on the scale as Colonial Williamsburg) where the wild west is still alive and has been since the 1800’s. www.deadwood.com

Friday Funnies

July 28th, 2017

Expressing love and gratitude to those in my family celebrating wedding anniversaries within the next couple weeks with these anniversary funnies. Always keep laughter alive in your marriage.

A husband and wife were coming up on their 56th wedding anniversary. Knowing his wife loved antiques, Dan bought a beautiful old brass oil lamp for her. When she unwrapped it, a genie appeared. He thanked them and gave each of them one wish. The wife wished for an all-expenses paid, first class, around the world cruise with her husband. Shazam! Instantly she was presented with tickets for the entire journey, plus expensive side trips, dinners, shopping, etc. The husband, however, jokingly wished he had a female companion who was 30 years younger. Shazam! Instantly he turned 93 years old.

On their 30th wedding anniversary and during the banquet celebrating it, David was asked to give his friends a brief account of the benefits of a marriage of such long duration. “Tell us David, just what is it you have learned from all those wonderful years with Angie?” David responded, “Well, I’ve learned that marriage is the best teacher of all. It teaches you loyalty, meekness, forbearance, self-restraint, forgiveness — and a great many other qualities you wouldn’t have needed if you’d stayed single.”

Jacson and Valerie are flying to Australia for a two-week vacation to celebrate their 15th anniversary. Suddenly, over the public-address system, the Captain announces, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid I have some very bad news. Our engines have ceased functioning and we will attempt an emergency landing. Luckily, I see an uncharted island below us and we should be able to land on the beach. However, the odds are that we may never be rescued and will have to live on the island for the rest of our lives!” Thanks to the skill of the flight crew, the plane landed safely on the island. An hour later Jacson turns to Valerie and asks, “Valerie, did we pay our $5,000 PBS pledge check yet?” “No, sweetheart,” she responds. Jacson, still shaken from the crash landing, then asks, “Valerie, did we pay our American Express card yet?” “Oh, no! I’m sorry. I forgot to send the check,” she says. “One last thing, Valerie. Did you remember to send checks for the Visa and MasterCard this month?” he asks. “Oh, forgive me, Jacson,” begged Valerie. “I didn’t send that one, either.” Jacson grabbed her and gave her the biggest kiss in 15 years. Valerie pulled away and asked him, “What was that for?” Jacson answered, “They’ll find us!”

Hymns With a Message: He Lives

July 26th, 2017

As a child in Ohio, He Lives was one of the most requested hymns we sang. We never tired of the reassuring message that filled us with joy. It’s a theme effectively supported by a soaring melody that I found myself humming yesterday. It still has a profound effect on my spirit.

Strangely enough, the dreadful question “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”, inspired the writing of this hymn. Honestly.

In 1932 Pastor Alfred Ackley met a Jewish man in California. He’d been exchanging theological ideas with the man over several weeks and one day the new friend asked Alfred, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Naturally the question played on Alfred’s mind as he prepared Easter Sunday’s sermon.

That morning, Ackley preached with great vigor on Christ’s Resurrection, and did the same at the evening service. Later Easter night, he was still vexed over his friend’s question. Noticing her husbands mood, his wife said, “Listen here, it’s time you did what you do best. Why don’t you write a song it and maybe you’ll feel better.”

Alfred went to his study, opened his Bible, and re-read the Resurrection account from Mark’s Gospel. A thrill went through him and he began to write as his wife expertly suggested. A few minutes later, he was at the piano putting He Lives to music. He wrote it, but I think we really have Alfred’s friend and wife to thank for this triumphant hymn.

He walks with me and talks with me … He lives within MY heart.

Sunday in South Dakota: Badlands National Park

July 23rd, 2017

The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, the Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. Friends, this is rugged desolation in its truest form. I’ve visited several times and I’m not joking when I say you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization. As far as the eye can see.

This land, once an ancient sea, has been ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water into something picturesque. Erosion of the Badlands 60 mile “Wall” reveals sedimentary layers of different colors people enjoy: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).

Besides tour buses and car loads of people, wildlife roams the park’s boundaries as well. On any given day visitors might be able to view bison, pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles and ancient fossils. https://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm https://www.visitrapidcity.com/parks-monuments/badlands-park

As far as the eye can see there is natural beauty waiting to be found; like an ancient fossil after a rainstorm. Enjoy your world.

Friday Funnies

July 21st, 2017

A lot of hail fell north of Rapid City Tuesday evening. The Black Hills are notorious for hail. This is because the freezing level is closer to the ground than in the plains of central and eastern South Dakota. We should get a break from the hail as dry skies are forecasted for the rest of the week, which leaves me laughing:

A blonde was driving across South Dakota one night when she suddenly found herself in the middle of a bad hail storm. The hailstones were the size of golf balls. Her car was dented beyond description.

The next day, she took it to a repair shop. Noticing that she was blonde, the technician decided to have some fun.

He told her to take the car home and blow real hard into the tailpipe and the dents would pop out.

When she got home, she started blowing into the tailpipe as she was instructed. At that moment, her blonde girlfriend drove by and saw her puffing on the tailpipe.

Thinking the worst, the friend was startled and said, “What are you doing?”

She said that the man at the body shop told her to blow into the tail pipe real hard and the dents would pop out.

Her girlfriend said, “Well, duhhhhhh! You need to roll up the windows first!”


Hymns With a Message: Jesus Loves Me

July 19th, 2017

Jesus Loves Me. Who doesn’t remember singing this in summer Bible School? I certainly do, but I didn’t know the history until now…

Anna and Susan Warner lived in a lovely townhouse in NYC where their father was a successful lawyer. But the “Panic of 1837” wrecked the family’s finances, forcing them to move into a ramshackle Revolutionary War-era home across from West Point.

Suddenly the girls needed to contribute to the family household income, so they began writing poems and stories for publication. Anna wrote, “Robinson Crusoe’s Farmyard,” and Susan wrote, “The Wide, Wide World.” The girls went on to launch parallel literary careers that resulted in 106 publications, eighteen of them together.

One of their most successful joint projects was a novel titled Say and Seal in which a little boy named Johnny Fox is dying. His Sunday school teacher comforted him by taking him in his arms, rocking him and making up a song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”

The novel became a best-seller; and when hymn writer William Bradbury read the words he composed a musical score to go along with them. Soon Jesus Loves Me became the best-known children’s hymn in America.

Despite their success, the Warner sisters never seemed able to recover from the staggering financial reverses of 1836. For forty years, Susan and Anna conducted Bible classes for cadets at West Point, and both were buried with full military honors. They are the only civilians buried in the military cemetery at West Point. To this day, their home is maintained by West Point as a museum.


Sunday in South Dakota: Hot Springs

July 16th, 2017

For thousands of years natural hot springs have been prized for their healing powers.

The city of Hot Springs, SD was founded as a frontier health spa to capitalize on their six major springs of warm mineral waters. Waters I couldn’t wait to soak my own weary bones in. The valley of healing waters, called “wiwila kata” by the Lakota (meaning warm waters), was prized for the warm spring-fed river. Both the Lakota and Cheyenne utilized the natural river of warm water springs that flows through present-day Hot Springs.

In 1881 the spring was traded for a horse valued at thirty-five dollars! It was then sold as Plunge Springs to Dr. Stewart who saw the natural mineral springs as a cure-all for a multitude of illnesses. Dr. Stewart purchased the biggest spring of them all, and one of the warmest at 87 degrees. Its waters flow up through the gravel bottom of Evans Plunge.  It totally re-charges the soothing water in the indoor water park seven times a day. http://www.evansplunge.com/our-story/

The spring bed was made up of smooth river rocks that felt like a foot massage.

The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD is an active paleontological dig site located near the Evan Springs Plunge. The site boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world!  Their current mammoth count is 61, with 58 Columbian and 3 woolly mammoths…all YOUNG MALES. (make your own conclusions)  This is an especially unique National Natural Landmark! http://mammothsite.com/history/

Friday Funnies

July 14th, 2017

Summer is definitely here – and so are the silly summer jokes!

Q: What did the pig say on a hot summer day? A: I’m bacon!

Q: Why do bananas use sunscreen? A: Because they peel

Q: What do sheep do on sunny days? A: Have a baa-baa-cue.

Q: What does a bee do when it is hot? A: He takes off his yellow jacket. 

Q: Why did the man love his barbecue? A: Because it was the grill of his dreams.

Q: What is the best day to go to the beach? A: SUNday.

Celebrate your summer with lots of laughter.

Hymns With a Message: God Will Take Care of You

July 12th, 2017

J.C. Penney, who came from a long line of Baptist preachers, was well on his way to establishing a successful career when the 1928 Great Depression threw our country into crisis. His business deals turned sour, and like many during that time, Penney became overwhelmed with anxiety and insomnia. He developed a painful case of shingles and was hospitalized. His emotional state deteriorated until, “I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family turned against me.”

But one morning he heard singing coming from the little hospital chapel. The words of the song said, “Be not dismayed what’re betide – God will take care of you.”

Entering the chapel, he listened to the song, to the Scripture reading, and to the prayer. “Suddenly something happened. I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight.” All worry left him as he realized how much Jesus loved him. From that day J.C. Penney was never plagued with worry, and he later recalled those moments in the chapel as the most dramatic and glorious twenty minutes of his life. He went on to become one of our country’s greatest retailers.

God’s eyes are on the sparrow – and He is watching each of us. God will take care of you.

Sunday in South Dakota: Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial

July 9th, 2017

There is more than gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Rapid City will be my home for the next three months, and above dense forests and pristine streams, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial represents a national treasure. Come with me while I explore the scenic Black Hills.

If you are visiting the southern Black Hills, Cathedral Spires is an area within Custer State Park that should definitely be on your itinerary.

Sylvan Lake is the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park. It was created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built a dam across Sunday Gulch Creek.

Such care was taken not to disturb the landscape that some sections of the road actually divide into one-lane, one-way ribbons that swoop and bound through mixed pine and deciduous forest. 

Known for its “pigtail” bridges, Norbeck’s Iron Mountain Road redefined what a road could be.


Symbolizing the ideals of US freedom and democracy, it is a tribute to four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and their invaluable contributions to the United States. Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands as a solid reminder of our national pride. It is surrounded by American history with Crazy Horse and Custer State Park where the buffalo once again run free.

As a Founding Father he oversaw the purchase of the vast Louisiana Territory from France (1803), and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) to explore the new west which doubled the size of our country at the timme. Jefferson also signed into law a bill that banned the importation of slaves into the United States.

Washington was chosen because he led early Americans to victory during the Revolutionary War. He had a vision of a great and powerful nation.

Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to demonstrate American power; and negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union. Lincoln has been consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.

Located five miles north of Custer State Park is the Crazy Horse Memorial, located in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills. The Mountain is 6,532 ft. and ranks 27th highest mountain in South Dakota. This mountain was hand picked by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear for the Crazy Horse Memorial. Work began on this magnificent sculpture in 1948 and continues today. Inspired by Mount Rushmore, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski dedicated his life to the largest sculptural undertaking in the world that his family continues today.

Unlike Mount Rushmore, The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation has a mission to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians with a museum repository and establishing the Native American Indian Educational and Cultural Center, a medical training center for American Indians. https://crazyhorsememorial.org/

Needles Highway was completed in 1922 and includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low narrow tunnels and impressive granite spires. This is the last tunnel of the day.

Whether a lifelong vacation destination of families like mine, or a longer stop in your travels, the visit to honor heros at Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse will be engraved in your memory forever.

Hymns With a Message: My Country, ‘Tis of Thee

July 6th, 2017

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LordPsalm 33:12

This popular patriotic hymn was written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. It was during Samuel’s first year at Andover Seminary that a hymn publisher sought his help. Lowell Mason had a stack of German songs and materials needing translation and young Samuel was proficient in German.

On a cold Boston February, Samuel sat in his room pouring over the materials. He was struck by the words of “Gott segne Sachsenland” (“God Bless our Saxon Land”), set to the tune we know as “America.” “I instantly felt the impulse to write a patriotic hymn of my own adapted to this tune,” Samuel later said. “Picking up a scrap of paper which lay near me, I wrote at once…”

It was first sung by the Juvenile Choir at a Sunday School Rally in Boston on July 4, 1831. In the following years Samuel grew into a powerful Baptist preacher, college professor, hymnist and missionary advocate. He traveled the world in support of evangelism and rejoiced when his own son became a missionary.

Although Samuel died in his late-eighties after many notable achievements, he has always been most revered for the patriotic hymn he wrote as a 23-year-old student.

As proud American’s let’s sing in unison a song for the brave and the free – My Country, ‘Tis of Thee…Sweet land of liberty…


Sunday in South Dakota: Corn Palace

July 2nd, 2017

With its mad mix of onion domes and minarets, this corn-plastered edifice looks like it was drop-kicked out of czarist Russia. Instead it’s the World’s Only Corn Palace is Mitchell’s premier tourist attraction. Some 500,000 tourists come from around the nation each year to see the uniquely designed corn murals. The city’s first Corn Palace was built in 1892 to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate.

Today, the Corn Palace is more than the home of the corn festival or a point of interest of tourists. It’s a practical structure used for dances, stage shows, banquets, proms, graduations arena for Mitchell High School and Dakota Wesleyan University as well as district, regional and state basketball tournaments. USA Today named the Corn Palace one of the top 10 places in America for high school basketball!

Even though the current theme is what I saw last year, the Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world”. The corn murals are stripped at the end of August and the new ones are completed by the first of October. I should be able to enjoy the new murals when I drive back to Michigan in September.

To learn more about this folk-art wonder click here: www.cornpalace.org

Another of the world’s most well-known roadside stops is also on I-90 in South Dakota. When traveling through South Dakota, my family never misses the chance to stop at Wall Drug. It’s hard to believe this started in 1931 as the only drugstore in the state. www.walldrug.com

There’s a conviction of life that begins over again with every summer breeze. Have a great summer.






Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.