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The Road To Nowhere

Sitting Bull Memorial

A 10-minute trip from Mobridge, back across the Missouri to the Grand River Casino and Resort, then south on Hwy-1806, will bring you to the Sitting Bull Memorial. This is the final resting place of the great Sioux leader, after his body was disinterred in 1953 from Fort Yates in a surreptitious and still-controversial move. Whatever injustice or disrespect exhuming his body may have incurred, this magnificent view, high on a palisade hilltop looking southeast over the river, is at least worthier than the previous site. The six-foot granite bust that serves as Sitting Bull’s tombstone was carved by the late Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor who began the quixotic Crazy Horse Memorial carving near Mt. Rushmore.

Along US-83

Twenty-odd miles east and slightly south of Mobridge, US-83 passes through diminutive Selby (pop. 642), a sleepy middle-American hamlet with grain farming and water towers, populated with children riding bikes home at dusk, families enjoying ice cream cones at Mr. Bob’s Drive-Inn, and teenagers rumbling down Main Street in their muscle cars.

Between Selby and the state capital at Pierre, there’s nothing of dramatic importance. Highway hypnosis is kept at bay by a roadside marker 5 miles south of Selby, standing on the site of the vanished town of Bangor; farther south, then 13 miles east of US-83, the large Cathedral of the Prairie looms over the hamlet of Hoven (pop. 406).

And then, finally, a town—or at least some grain elevators and a turquoise water tower. Agar (pop. 76), “Home of the 1977 State B Track Champions,” is a classic single-sidewalk leg-stretch where the Pepsi machine seems as large as the filling station it rests against. The same goes for little Onida (pop. 658), with a handsome onion-domed courthouse, a water tower emblazoned with a sunflower, and a cute city park complete with swimming pool and horseshoe courts. You’d hardly guess that this was once a thriving homesteader boomtown, full of transplanted New Yorkers who named it after Oneida, with no apparent reason for the change in spelling.

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