The Road To Nowhere

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.