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Hoten Holler!

The Perfect South Dakota Weekend

 1 October 2017 – Partly Cloudy and 57°

Dave and I got to witness something on Friday that I doubt you can see anywhere else in the world.  A real-live buffalo roundup! We got up pretty early and drove through Wind Cave National Park as the sun came up.  We were quite pleased that there was not very much traffic, but as we crossed into Custer State Park, we turned a corner and all we could see were miles and miles of tail lights!

We were expecting a crowd, as Custer State Park’s annual Buffalo Round-Up hosts up to 20,000 people each year.  Our town, Custer, has a population of 1,860, so that is quite an influx of traffic! Still, everyone was in a fantastic mood and people were polite, allowing others to merge and not throwing any big-city road rage fits.  We finally arrived to our parking destination and hiked probably a quarter mile to the north viewing area.  There were quite a few people in the north viewing area and we were directly facing the south viewing area where the crowd was equally as large.  The gate to the buffalo corrals was directly between the two viewing spots.

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View of the crowd at the southern viewing spot.  Buffalo corrals are out of the picture on the right.

 

So we waited, anticipating buffalo between 9:30 and 10 AM.  At around 10:15 someone in the crowd spotted a herd of something on a faraway hilltop.  But it wasn’t buffalo, it was the wild burros that live in the park and they appeared to be looking down at the large crowds saying, “What’s all this about?” 

“What a bunch of jack-asses!”  Dave joked, and I responded that was probably what the burros were thinking.

Suddenly the southern viewing area began cheering and from the north we could see the beginning of the giant herd (1000 head in all) cresting a hill and running down to the valley directly in front of us.  Horseback cowboys and several trucks pushed them down the hill and toward the corral gates.

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Here they come!

 

It was awesome.  The sound of the buffalo running, the crack of the whips from the cowboys, and the cheering crowd made for a very exciting morning.

Rapid City Journal Video of the Roundup

After the roundup, guests are given the opportunity to go down to the corrals and watch the buffalo be “worked.”  They are given their inoculations, and they separate the oldies and the sickies for auction.  The herd is managed to be sustainable within the park and that means once a year they  cull it for the healthiest population. 

We opted out of this part because we just wanted to get away from all the people!  It took us about 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot due to traffic and we were routed north through the city of Custer to get home.  On the way we passed the State Game Lodge, which used to be the “Summer Whitehouse” for Calvin Coolidge.  They were hosting an enormous Arts Fair themed for the round up.  It looked pretty cool, but again, we had reached our crowd quota for the day so we drove on home.

Saturday, we decided we had goofed off enough on Friday and we better get back to work.  We tackled a stand of trees in the northern-most pasture.  Dave limbed all the trees and I started dragging slash and stacking firewood.  Then Cowboy Dave and Linda showed up as reinforcements and made the work go much faster. Of course we were being cheered on by Hercules and Arrow.

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Hercules and Arrow

 

Chainsaw Dave took out the limbs, Linda and I drug the slash into piles, and Cowboy Dave picked up those piles using the grapple attachment on his tractor.  He moved the little piles into two big piles and we will burn them once we have snow on the ground and get the required burn permit.

Chainsaw Dave wanted to get some of the higher-up limbs on several trees so we did the old redneck trick of putting him on the tractor forks and hoisting him up with the chainsaw in tow.  Probably not the smartest move, but we went slow and it all turned out well.

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Redneck chainsaw moves!

 

After we cleared the area, we thought it looked pretty nice.  We were grateful to our helpful neighbors and went down to their ranch, the High Lonesome, and brought some Keystone Light.  Typical paybacks for farm labor in these parts.

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Cleared trees and piles of wood drying out for next year

 

So today, Sunday, Dave and I were playing tourist again.  We went to the annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch.  The weather was quite iffy this morning, and there were dark and menacing clouds rolling in from the west.  We decided we were going to go for it anyway and drove up to the parking lot for the monument and prepared to hike the 6.2 mile round trip up to the face and back.  About 30 minutes into our hike, the sun came out and we enjoyed a beautiful fall day.

We made it to the top, no problems, although we will both probably be a little sore tomorrow. The top of the monument is about 6500’ and the last part of the hike was pretty steep!

The trip down was much faster.  We poked around in the museum for just a little while and then headed back to the Holler.  It is “hotdog Sunday” after all and we were ready to eat after all that hiking and fresh air.

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The finish line….time to eat!

All of the activities this weekend put a nice little punctuation mark at the end of summer and tourist season around these parts.  Typically, we can expect a little snow in the beginning of October and I see it in the ten-day forecast.  That means our outdoor projects will be completed as weather permits. 

We both commented today how much we like the change of seasons.  This year, we are really grateful to not be looking down the barrel at winter from the inside of the camper.  Instead, we are enjoying the cooling evening temps with a warm fire going in the wood stove.

Happy October, everybody!IMG_3036

Last Weekend of the Summer

17 September 2017 – Sunny and currently 32°F at 7AM – High of 67 forecast today

What the heck happened to the summer?  As all good times, it went way too fast. Here we are looking at autumn and prepping for snow. So long, summer! We have come a long way since last year, and an especially long way from two years ago.

This year I have a lot less apprehension about winter. Last year in the camper was pretty tough but this year we have a warm house, a wood stove and a wood shed full of wood.  I feel like we are much better prepared, and actually even a little excited for the change of seasons.

We have been busy, not only getting firewood, but winterizing the garden.  Overall, the garden did pretty well for us, yielding a ton of tomatoes, jalapenos, and cucumbers.  The corn and the potatoes were total busts.  Mother Nature must be telling us to cut out the carbs.  Anyway, here are some of the ways we have been trying to put up tomatoes.

Yesterday, we knew it was going to be near freezing so we pulled out all the remaining plants.  There were tons of green tomatoes but they all got tossed over the fence for the cows.  It only took a short amount of time before Mar-Z, a huge hippopotamus looking cow, came looking for food and ate all of the tomatoes she could find.

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Mar-Z found the Mater Plants
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Picking off the tomatoes

We have been composting food scraps and chicken waste and will dump that in the garden over the winter, hoping that the soil will do even better next year.

Dave has been working on a coat rack/shelf for the mudroom.

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Installing wood dowels to connect the boards

 

I have been avoiding the bees, trying not to disturb them as they are getting ready for winter.  I will open the hive one more time and treat them for Varroa Mites.  In November, I will probably wrap their hive in tarpaper and put on a hive top feeder with sugar water just to help them if they need more food. 

The chickens seem pretty happy with the cooler temperatures.  All of the Islanders are laying eggs and we get three nearly every day.  One of those poor girls is laying gigantic ostrich size eggs that usually have two yolks.  This one was so big I couldn’t even close the egg carton! 

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Big egg in the middle next to two regular sized eggs

 

Fresh eggs are the best.  I don’t know if we could ever go back to store-bought eggs.  Meanwhile, the Freeloading Faveroles still haven’t produced a single egg. 

Tractor Dave and I are slowly tackling our list of things to complete before winter.  We are enjoying the cooler temps, the blue skies, the yellow aspens, and the wild turkeys that wander through the yard.  It is quiet and peaceful here and life is good on the Holler. 

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Typical September Day

 

 

How Much Wood…….

8 September 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 70s

Here we are in September again.  It is unbelievable how fast time is flying out here on the Holler. We are waking up to cooler temperatures every morning, but the days are quite simply spectacular.  Highs are in the mid-70s and the air is dry.  Perfect working conditions for getting ready for winter and that means firewood.

Tractor Dave, (maybe now it should be Chainsaw Dave) and I have been working at stocking our fancy new woodshed with fuel for the winter.  Back in the spring, you may recall that we had cut a bug tree down that became hung up on the nearby trees.  We worked and worked but we could not get that sucker to fall! When Dave’s brother in law was here they went over with Babe the tractor and pulled that big log down.  They bucked it up and on Monday, Dave and I went back with the truck, trailer, the mule, the log-splitter, and went to work.

We got an entire trailer full of wood, probably a cord and a half!  That might keep us warm for a while.

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First of three trailers full of wood

 

Then on Tuesday, we found another bug tree.  Chainsaw Dave took it down.

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Timber!

 

Then we went to work again.  More splitting, hauling, stacking etc.  Some of the wood was quite twisty and knotted and did not split well.  In those cases, we took an axe to it and I even got to swing the axe a few times. 

RANDOM SIDENOTE: I do not understand the concept of an “axe murderer.”  Swinging an axe is hard work, and hitting your target takes a fair amount of concentration.  I cannot fathom why a murderer would pick “axe” as the weapon of choice.  Imagine how tired you would be chasing your would-be victim through the woods carrying a heavy axe, and then trying to swing it at someone who could fight back.  I would probably get it stuck in a nearby tree or the ground or bounce it off a rock and hit myself in the foot.  If I am ever on the short list of suspects for murder by axe, I can predict absolutely that I did not do it.  Another random sidenote inspired by too much time in the sun splitting and stacking wood.

And again, on Thursday, we went out and got another bug tree.  Chainsaw Dave has become quite efficient at falling the trees where he wants and bucking them up with his awesome chainsaw. When we finished unloading the trailer, we high-fived each other for getting enough wood (we hope) to heat our house all winter.

We loaded the wood box with some of the remaining wood that was still in the garage from last year, and we loaded kindling in the special kindling section of the woodbox.

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Full Woodbox …..ready for cooler weather!

 

We used Babe to put the woodbox on the porch and now we are ready for the cold weather!

The forecast has 70’s and 80’s for the next ten days and we are fine with that too. We have zero complaints here in South Dakota, especially as we watch Irma wind up down there in the Caribbean.  God Bless all of our friends and family in Florida and on the East Coast, and in Texas.  We are praying for you and hope you all make it through the hurricane season unscathed.

A Working Vacation

5 September 2017 – Sunny and 39° at 6AM – Highs in the upper 60s

Our friend and Dave’s former co-worker, Andy, came to visit all the way from Pensacola for the last part of August.  We had a few other visitors at the time of his arrival, and while we set about exploring the Black Hills, Tractor Dave and Pilot Andy went to work.

They finished the fence on the southern pasture that had been put on hold due to Tractor Dave’s appendix blowing out.  They did a great job figuring out how to get the fence to go around the cul-de-sac.

Then, they set about building a woodshed so we can move our firewood out of the garage and have a place to keep it dry this winter. These guys were not messing around, and even had to do something we vowed we would never do again: rent the jackhammer.  The ground was so rocky in places it took a ton of work to get the posts set.

Seriously, what a nice wood shed!  This is a YUGE improvement from last winter where we were storing wood under tarps and forced to dig it out from underneath the snowbanks.  Plus, as the neighbor said, it is nicer than some places where people live.  I love our fancy wood shed.  Thanks, Andy and Dave!

We convinced Andy to take a few days off and did some touring of the area. We watched the eclipse, and on another day, we went to Mount Rushmore to see the Big Heads, of course.

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Obligatory Mount Rushmore Picture

 

We also spent a day in Rapid City and touring the multiple wineries of the hills.  Our favorite, surprisingly, was Stone Faces Winery, which offered a frozen peach wine slushie.

We went to Hill City one day and ate German food at the Alpine Inn on the patio. You can’t eat German food without drinking German beer.

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Cheers at the Alpine Inn in Hill City.

 

Andy also got to participate in some typical ranch work.  He helped with the cattle drive from Cowboy Dave’s to the Holler. He also added the job title of “Chicken Wrangler” to his resume.

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Cow cocktail hour at the Holler.
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Not croquet, but chicken wrangling.  Important to get the girls in their coop before going touring!

 

We went down the Red Canyon to the Hat Creek Bar and Grille in Edgemont, SD….mandatory tourism for anyone that visits the Holler.

Then it was back to work.  Dave and Andy set out to make a giant firewood box so we could fill it every 8-10 days at the woodshed, attach it to the tractor bucket, and deposit on the porch under cover.  This also is YUGE so we don’t have to walk outside in the snow to get wood for the stove in the winter. 

We had a great time with an old friend and were amazed by how much work was accomplished in a short period of time.  Beyond that, Andy felt like he needed to give us a house-warming gift which was an awesome A-Salt Rifle to kill flies. See the link below for a YouTube demo.

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Tractor Dave Preparing to Kill Flies on the Porch

 

A-Salt Rifle for Flies

Sadly, Pilot Andy had to head back to Florida.  As has been the trend for our guests this summer, after visiting the Holler they return to a hurricane.  We hope you will stay safe.  Thanks for all the work, Andy!  We hope you come back real soon, Stumbles Off Porches.  I’m sure we can find some more projects for you! Also the Hill misses you.

 

A Long Way From North Carolina

18 August 2017 – Sunny and Highs in the mid-80s

Dave’s sister and her husband came to visit us all the way from Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  We were super excited to show them the beautiful Black Hills and all the fun stuff we have to see and do.  We took it easy the day they arrived, but the next day we took them through Wind Cave, Custer State Park, Iron Mountain Road, Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake and the Needles Highway…..ALL IN ONE DAY!  That’s right….come to South Dakota and we will take you on the Roman Death March and the Trail of Tears.

  We didn’t completely run them into the ground (we hope) and took it easy the next few days just working on some projects here on the holler and taking mule rides through the National Forest and meeting up with neighbors and friends. We put them to work setting up our new lawn ornaments.

On Wednesday, we took another fun road trip up to the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Dave and I had not been there yet and we were really pleasantly surprised by the size of the tower and the strange magnificence of this strange piece of geology standing up in the middle of eastern Wyoming. Cue the Close Encounters music.

We detoured through the town of Deadwood for a taste of the old West on the way home.

We spent the remaining days of their visit with a little less hectic schedule, but we did take them down the Red Canyon and the old Deadwood-Cheyenne Stagecoach Trail to the Hat-Creek Grill in Edgemont, SD. They found an old cabin they might want to “flip”.  Ha ha.

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A real “Flipper” piece of real estate in the Red Canyon.  Probably 140 year old homestead.

 

Dave’s sister and I also spent a morning canning about 10 pounds of cucumbers from the garden. 

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Bread and Butter Pickles….and there are more cucumbers out there already!!!

 

Sadly, they had to get back on the plane and head back home to North Carolina, but we hope they had fun visiting and hope they will come back again real soon!

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The lookout from the National Forest just on the west side of our property.

 

Chicken Reality TV in HD

5 August 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 70s

Last year while we were in the camper, we were without cable TV or a satellite dish.  After giving up television for several months, it seemed quite pointless to start paying for TV shows again.  Consequently, we have been binging on Amazon and Netflix series for nighttime entertainment.  The early evenings, however, belong to back porch, the sunsets, and the chickens.

Dave and I will often go down to sit by the garden in the early evening.  Another really cool thing about the Black Hills is we don’t have any mosquitos.  (Well, maybe I have seen one mosquito in a year, but it clearly took a wrong turn heading for Minnesota.) It makes sitting outside in the summer evenings really pleasant.  We usually let the chickens out of their run to free range and scratch around in the yard.  They are really funny to watch.

Our chickens were bought in two distinct groups.  One group was “The Islanders” which are big white beautiful leghorn chickens, dubbed Ginger, MaryAnn, and Lovey.  The leghorns are the supermodels of the chicken world; tall, long legged and elegant. They strut around like they own the place.

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Ginger – Evil Chicken

 

 Then came “Charlie’s Angels” which are the stubby little fat faverole chickens, dubbed Sabrina, Smithy, and Farrah Fawcett.  You may recall Sabrina became a hawk’s dinner, but the remaining faveroles have found their own places within the chicken society here on Hoten Holler.  They are the stubby, short and they waddle around like overweight Walmart customers in the cookie aisle.

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Smithy the Faverole

 

The queen chicken is definitely Ginger – a leghorn.  She has worked her way to the top of the pecking order of all the other chickens and has been laying an egg daily. 

We believe Ginger is organizing a coup (no pun intended) to overthrow us and become not only the queen of the chickens, but the queen of Stagecoach Springs.  She will run up to us as soon as we open the coop and get right between our feet.  If there is any delay in dropping a grape, raisin, or other chicken-worthy treat, she will peck our feet or the back of our knees.  I threatened to make a chicken-football out of her for pecking at me.  I shuffled my feet at her in a kicking motion thinking she would get spooked and fly off, but instead she bowed up to me swinging her head and neck in a circle.  She was clucking at me, “Oh No You Di-int!!!” She’s an evil chicken, but I still love her.

At the other end of the pecking order is Farrah Fawcett.  We should have named her President Martin Van Buren.

She is always getting pecked at and run around by the other girls.  She is the complete opposite of Ginger and if you even blink at her she squawks and shuffles away as fast as she can on her stumpy little legs.  She is a sweet chicken and I love her.

The other girls provide equal entertainment.  I found a giant tomato worm in the garden and I threw it to the girls to eat.

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A tomato worm for your nightmares….eek!

MaryAnn grabbed it and ran all over the yard and the other chickens chased her to see what she may have found.  She finally stopped to peck and eat that worm and they all descended on it.  It was like watching a violent and gory episode of Game of Thrones.  Poor tomato worm!

Anyway, that is how we spend our free time without cable TV….Chicken Reality Television in HD is definitely more fun to watch than the news.

 

 

 

 

Meadows in the Black Hills

25 August 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 70s

My cousin Keith and his wife Cindy came to visit last week, all the way from Boerne, Texas.  By now, all you Hoten Holler Follerers know the standard tourist itinerary:  Custer State Park, Iron Mountain Road, Mount Rushmore and down the Needles Highway.

On Monday, we participated in the cattle round-up and moved Cowboy Dave’s cows from his pasture onto ours.  Keith and Cindy road along and made fast friends with Hercules.

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Everybody loves Hercules….note the cow sneaking up behind Keith

 

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Ahhh…..cows back on the Holler again!

 

Then we watched the eclipse from our back porch.

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A bunch of nerds at the eclipse party.

 

While we were in the 97% zone, we were not completely in the Path of Totality so it just got sort of dim outside.  We did get to view the eclipse with some eclipse glasses and it was pretty cool.  Also, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees during the event and that was pretty cool, too!

Later that day, we went on a horseback ride just down the road at Sage Meadows Ranch.  Keith rode Amarillo, Cindy rode Ocho, and I got to ride on Frito.

It was idyllic; a beautiful non-humid day for an old west horsey ride through the southern Black Hills.  We ended up on a hill overlooking the Red Canyon where we could see 100-year old ruts in the ground from the old Deadwood to Cheyenne Stagecoach Route. The guide was super nice and informative and we didn’t have to ride nose to tail, we just got to cruise along with our horses and enjoy the day.

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Sage Meadow Ranch riding guide and cowgirl extraordinaire….Holly!

 

On Tuesday, we went up to Hill City and poked through the western art galleries.  This was especially fun for me because Keith is an artist himself, and he is really knowledgeable about painting.  We saw some incredible works and enjoyed another beautiful day of weather.  That evening we ate at the Hitch Rail Bar and Grill in Pringle.  It was a really nice way to wind up their visit before they had to head back to Texas the next morning.

We really had a good time and hope they did too, and then we sent them back to Texas to enjoy the hurricane!  Hope you guys stayed dry and we’ll see ya real soon!

A Northerly Wind

3 August 2017 – Sunny and 44° at 6AM – highs in the mid 60’s
Hey all you Florida people out there….how is the summer treating you?IMG_4003
Bwahahahahaha…..In case you didn’t remember, this winter while you were enjoying the warm temps of the sunshine state, we were freezing in a camper. Well, I really hope it isn’t too hot and miserable down there, after all it is only August and there is a lot of summer left. Hee hee….just getting my digs in while I still can. But it is REALLY nice here, perfect weather for working outside and while it is in the 40’s this AM, it doesn’t feel that cold because of the low humidity. Dave and I had coffee on the porch in our PJs. The cool weather is a nice break as we had a couple of hot weeks in July. The bees were so warm they had to come out on the porch and crab about the weather just to cool off.

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Bees cooling off on their porch on a hot July day

Thanks to the warm temps, the tomatoes are starting to ripen. We enjoyed a classic BLT with the L and the T from the garden. Everything else was from Lynn’s Dakotamart.

 

We even have raspberries starting to turn now.

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Berries!!

The corn is nearly chest-high. It has pink hair. Punk rock corn.

 

We have been busy putting up a second cutting of hay, working on some landscaping projects around here, and doing our level best to stay out of trouble. The month of August will be full of visitors here at the Holler. Dave’s sister and her husband will be here for a week, followed shortly by a visit from my cousins and a good friend of Dave’s for the eclipse. We aren’t in the “Path of Totality” but we are pretty close.

 

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We are located in the SW corner of South Dakota, just North of the Nebraska panhandle, not too far North of the Path of Totality

We hope it won’t be cloudy for the eclipse party, but even if it is, the Keystones will be cold and the company will be good. Hope all is well out there in the real world, and not too terribly hot and humid, especially in Florida. Ha ha ha!

 

Ideal Camping Spot for the Great American Road Trip

29 July 2017 – Cloudy and raining, highs in the mid 80’s
This week we had some old friends of Pilot Dave’s visit on their way home from camping in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. By old friends, I don’t mean they were old, just that Dave has been friends with them for a long time. They go way back to the early 80’s, which their kids all thought was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Anyway, there were two couples with two kids each in two campers. The families were really fun and they were all very nice. And they brought one sweet little dog.

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Tiki – Champion of the Multistate Camping Trip

 
They parked next to the driveway which was the most level place we could put them. They had been camping in the National Parks and we think this was a welcome reprieve for them from the crowded campgrounds. They did have some noisy neighbors, though (Cowboy Dave’s cattle!) but were able to get some peace and quiet. We were also grateful they brought rain with them each night, which we desperately needed.IMG_2613IMG_2601IMG_2598
The first night when they arrived, we gave them the tour of the property in the mule and by foot. They spent the next day enjoying the Black Hills and seeing Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, and the beautiful secret jewel that is Custer State Park. After their adventures, they returned to the Holler and we grilled burgers and dogs. The boys enjoyed some time shooting guns off the back porch, and one of the young girls showed them all up with her Dead-eye abilities and plinked a barrel 150 yds away with only the 2nd shot she had ever fired….EVER.
Their visit was short and sweet and we were happy to have the company. It always makes us happy to see dear friends, but especially to see families taking their kids to see the Great American West. There truly is no match to the beauty of the country out here. Photos, TV, or even virtual reality will never do justice to this beautiful place or the amazing parks that are not that far from the Holler.

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Buffalo in Custer State Park

 

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