South Dakota: A Paradise for Land (and Horse) Lovers

Virtual Book Tour:  I am very pleased to host H. Alan Day on his Virtual Book Tour and am positive you will enjoy learning more about “Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs”.  I know he is looking forward to connecting with him and welcomes your comments or questions. Click on the Virtual Book Tour Link for even more information on his book tour.

Thank you Carol Ann, for hosting me on this virtual book tour celebration for the ‘Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs’.  I look forward to connecting with your audience and welcome their comments or questions. 

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South Dakota: A Paradise for Land (and Horse) Lovers

Even before I deplaned in Rapid City, South Dakota, I could feel the humidity. Not the heavy humidity of summer, but that light, cool humid air that speaks of Spring. When you hail from southwestern Arizona, where barely twelve inches of rain fall per year, you notice moisture.

It had been quite a little bit since I ventured to South Dakota. Although most of my professional career had been spent managing the Lazy B, our family’s 200,000-acre cattle ranch straddling Arizona and New Mexico, for five years I managed a 35,000-acre ranch, which I purchased on a whim, in the Sand Hills of South Dakota.

DSC_0091The ranch, Mustang Meadows, became the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary in the United States. 1500 wild horses resided on that sea of prairie grass. I had such an adventure working with the mustangs that I wrote a book about it. I was here in South Dakota to do some book signings, first in Pierre, the capital of the state, then in Valentine, Nebraska, and finally Rapid City. Even if you haven’t written a book, the trip is well worth taking.

DSC_0065I headed west on Interstate 90 out of Rapid, as the locals refer to the largest city in South Dakota, and quickly encountered rolling hills boasting the deep Irish green of young grass. A few trees dotted the steeper hillsides. I cracked the window to let the fragrant air fill the car.

Billboards advertising Wall Drugstore started popping up. Back in the 1930’s, the owner of the store, located in the tiny town of Wall, 50 miles west of Rapid, posted billboards along the then highway advertising free water in an effort to attract customers to his fledgling store. Now up to 20,000 visitors visit Wall Drugs in one day. I passed the first of two Wall exits. “Open 7 am to 7 pm,” it read. Did that mean the exit or the drugstore?

A little under three hours and 175 miles after leaving Rapid, I arrived in Pierre (pronounced “pier”), our country’s second smallest state capitol with a population hovering around 15,000 and perched on the banks of the upper Missouri River. My first stop was Prairie Pages Bookstore, located in the quaint downtown. After a pleasant event, the manager and her husband treated me to a dinner at RedRossa Italian Grill, well worth a visit if you’re in town.  The next morning, I took a brief driving tour of the city, appreciating its Midwestern feel. I would have liked to tour the capitol, a traditional looking, white brick building, but duty called, so I turned the rental car south toward Valentine, Nebraska.

DSC_0162Located just over the South Dakota-Nebraska state line, Valentine is nestled in the Sand Hills, a unique geological area atop the Ogallala Aquifer and spanning about 100 miles north and south and 200 miles east and west. It consists of sandy dunes covered in prairie grasses and a bevy of lakes and ponds. When the wind kicks up, it causes “blowouts” in the soil, formations that look like craters. In 1984, the area was designated a National Natural Landmark. A small neck of the Sand Hills juts into South Dakota and on that tract sat my ranch.

As I approached my old stomping ground, my anticipation started to rise. Valentine, a town of 2700 people, was the closest city to


Mustang Meadows. My destination was the Plains Trading Company Bookstore on Main Street.  Thanks to owner Duane Gudgel, I was able to hang out for several hours and visit with old friends who were considerate enough to stop by the bookstore and purchase a book. Young’s Western Wear, where I bought hats and boots, is also on Main Street. The Peppermill, where we would go for the best steak dinner, has moved to the outskirts of town. If your travels bring you to Valentine, make time for a canoe trip down the lovely Niobrara River. It’s two hours of pure pleasure.

The next day, I bid adieu to Valentine and started on my journey’s last leg – and the longest at 213 miles – back up to Rapid City for a signing at Mitzi’s Bookstore. Despite the weather taking a turn to the gray, rainy and cold, I was still happy to be zipping along this part of the country. It truly is the heartland. (Mustang Meadows was about 250 miles due north of the epicenter of the United States.) Midwestern people have their own culture and perspectives, which are greatly influenced by the land. Farming and cattle ranching are the bedrock of many of the small communities in the state. Many other jobs tangentially relate to the land.



As a fellow land lover and prior owner of a South Dakota, I appreciate their sentiments and experiences. Yet even if you’ve never been a South Dakota landowner, you too will appreciate the area for its charm and beauty and its people for their friendliness and hospitality.




H. Alan Day

f54d4aa0f4160ad8976f15.L._V380315976_SX200_Alan Day’s upbringing branded him a cowboy from the day he was born. He was part of the third generation to grow up on the 200,000-acre Lazy B cattle ranch straddling the high deserts of southern Arizona and New Mexico. The ranching and cowboy lifestyle appealed to him so greatly that after graduating from the University of Arizona, he returned to manage Lazy B for the next 40 years. During his career, he received numerous awards for his dedicated stewardship of the land.  In the 1980’s, Alan purchased a cattle ranch in Nebraska and soon after, a ranch in South Dakota. The latter became the first government-sponsored sanctuary for unadoptable wild horses. He developed and successfully used a herd modification-training program for his 2000 head of cattle and 1500 wild mustangs.51RHslEJHZL 

Alan and his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, co-authored the New York Times bestselling memoir, Lazy B, which chronicles the story of the Day family and growing up on a harsh yet beautiful southwestern ranch. Alan is a member of Western Writers of America. Now retired, he divides his time between Tucson and Pinetop, AZ.



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About Carol Ann 113 Articles
Writer, traveler, RVer sharing her travel logs and information.