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A Patriotic Experience

Sorry for leaving you out, President Jefferson, but the picture just turned out better this way

Being the good tourists that we are, we certainly didn’t want to miss out on Mount Rushmore. Thanks to the fact that the Mountain Time Zone starts in the middle of South Dakota, we gained an hour and were still able to visit the place in the evening. At the entrance we were told that we arrived just in time for the “lighting ceremony”. Little did we know that what we thought was basically switching on some flood lights, would turn into a most bizarre manifestation of  American patriotism.

After a seemingly endless appraisal of the four presidents depicted in the monument, including, with some difficulty, of the somewhat misplaced Theodore Roosevelt (what the heck is he doing up there with Washington, Jefferson ad Lincoln anyway?), the female ranger who led through the event managed to cram into the remaining 20 minutes or so the following: the “Star-spangled Banner”, the unofficial national anthem “America the Beautiful” (the one that has the line “From sea to shining sea”), the “Pledge of Allegiance” (Fahneneid), a formal introduction of all former and present soldiers in the huge audience, all with name and troop unit, and finally the ritual lowering of the flag. Those were probably more patriotic acts than I have experienced in Germany during my whole life time. The idea of having only a fraction of this at a German national monument, say the Brandenburg Gate, is a completely impossible thought. I was relieved, though, to hear from Tish that she found this event in its intensity a little disturbing as well. Of course that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t sing along to the national anthem with fervor.


A German Singer In South Dakota

Looks like somebody got something really wrong in Dell Rapids, South Dakota. What you see above is the internet version of an article in the local newspaper “Argus Leader”, which announced Tish’s concert at the Grand Opera House (unfortunately I didn’t save a copy of the printed version). For some reason, after hearing that Tish now resides in Germany,  the local promoter had decided to combine the show with a German dinner. Naturally the interviewer from the newspaper talked to Tish about that aspect, and then the person writing the headline took it just a little bit further …

Anyway, the German dinner, cooked by chef Horst from Eisleben, East Germany, featured some very good beef rouladen and a tasty Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cake). Afterwards though, during the concert at the amazingly beautiful theater, nobody seemed to care much about Tishs’s “German side” anymore (although once again our little St. Pauli song was received enthusiastically).

Down On The Farm

Gotta tell you a little bit more about Lilly’s farm –after all it was the first one I ever got to visit in the US. As you can see in the picture, it’s a very beautiful and quiet place. While in former times Lilly and Orin used to keep cows, pigs and chicken, now that they are in their seventies, they stick to growing corn and soy beans. Which allows some now obsolete structures on the otherwise very proper premises to decay in a very picturesque way.

I had been hoping I’d get a chance to help Lilly and Orin with some farm work, but it turned out that this time of year (early July) there wasn’t anything to do – the corn just grows by itself (or it doesn’t, with the draught that had already started back then and has probably had a terrible effect since then). Anyway, that situation gave me a lot of time for taking silly pictures and taking Tracey’s kids for a ride on the four-wheeler.

Looking For Lewis And Clark

In southeastern South Dakota, not far from Lilly’s farm, we had our first encounter with signs referring to the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 (there would be more to come on our way to the northwest). Apparantly, on August 24, 1804, the two explorers with some of their men left the Missouri River in order to explore a nearby “high hill”, as they put it in their diary. Well, some people in east South Dakota may consider “Spirit Mound”, as the place is called these days, a high hill, but I’m pretty sure that Lewis & Clark regretted having used this term somewhat prematurely, when they approached Montana and then the Rocky Mountains later on into their trip.

Nevertheless Spirit Mound is quite a fascinating place and well worth the little hike to its … well … summit. Tish, the three kids and I were lucky to get there right in time for sunset.


I might as well admit it: I only wrote this post (and had Tish take the picture on top of the page) to be able to introduce you to the song “Looking for Lewis and Clark” by a US band I have always loved, the Long Ryders. When I first heard the tune in 1985, it was my first introduction to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, since in Germany you don’t learn about it in school.

While listening to the song for the first time in years, I had to realize that it’s a little more rock’n’roll than I would prefer, but it’s still catchy. And by the way: The Long Ryders, who broke up as early as 1987, might play some reunion concerts in 2013, so keep your eyes open!

We’re A Happy Family (8)

One of the stops on our trip that I had been looking forward to the most was visiting Tish’s sister Lilly and her husband Orin on their farm in Wakonda, South Dakota. Lilly is the youngest of Tish’s older siblings and one of the nicest persons on earth. Being twelve years older than Tish, she was the designated sister to take care of little Tish, whenever Cuquita (as everybody called Tish’s mom) wasn’t around. When Lilly left the family home in the mid-sixties, first to follow her older sisters to New Jersey, than to go to South Dakota to settle down with Orin on his parents’ farm, Tish was quite heartbroken. In 1970 Tish got to spend her 15th summer on the farm, which is still a very fond and lively memory to her (and the source for a bunch of great photos, like the one below).

By some lucky coincidence, Lilly’s daughter Tracey and her three children (whom you might remember from this post) were visiting the farm the same time that we were there, so we had a lot of fun hanging out with the extended Abild family (that’s Lilly’s and Orin’s last name). I’ll show you a few more pics of that and of the farm in my next post.

Tish, her sister Lilly and Lilly’s daughter Tracey in 1970 …

… and in 2012

The only persons missing were Tracey’s husband Larry and her brother Dean, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. And that’s where we met him a few weeks later:

State By State (26+27): Nebraska + South Dakota

We had to undertake a little detour on our way from Iowa City to Wakonda, South Dakota to go through Nebraska. The name of that state just sounded to good to my ears to let that chance go by. Maybe that’s because of the eponymous Springsteen album? (I gave it the first complete listening in years, and it wasn’t that great.)

South Dakota brought me, among other, more pleasant things, my most disturbing encounter with American ultra-conservatism so far. Until then I had only heard about people like that, here I got to meet them in person. Listening to religious talk radio and accidentally being present at an extremely patriotic spectacle (more about that later) added to my impression that South Dakota is one of the most right-wing states in the Union. Nevertheless we had a great time in the “Mount Rushmore State”, as you will see in my next posts.

Since we didn’t manage to take a photo of the state line sign (for the second time after Ohio, and I can’t remember why), here’s a nice and pretty typical road picture instead.

Alone Among Iowans

Things took quite a different turn during my time in Iowa City: After playing a great house concert at the incredibly beautiful appartment of our friend Mark Moen, Tish got on an airplane and flew back to Texas to play at a benefit concert for her old friend and musical companion Troy Wells. Troy played with Tish in New Mexico in the 80s (he was the one who replaced Dave Magill) and then again from time to time in recent years. Presently he is facing some serious health problems, so the concert was meant to help him pay his medical bills.

Tish and Troy, ca. 1982

In the meantime, Tish’s old friend Bob Vanderbeek was kind enough to host me in his appartment on the ninth floor of a swanky highrise in downtown Iowa City. I had been looking forward to finally meeting Bob on this trip, and I sure had a wonderful time with him and his two dogs. Iowa City is a  pleasant and interesting college town, so my three days spent there further improved my already positive view of Iowa.

With friend and part-time flatmate Bob Vanderbeek. But frankly speaking: Who cares about the guys in this picture, with Tish looking sooooo gorgeous?