1. You drove yourself to middle school — legally.
At the ripe age of 14, you slipped your secondhand Buick between the fine yellow lines of the school parking lot. Its voluminous behind sagged over the edge of the lines — in your eyes, you drove nothing short of a Cadillac. You were confident that 14-year-old children were capable of maneuvering the fast lane. Now you break into a cold sweat at the first sight of a teenybopper in oncoming traffic.
2. I-90 and I-29 are the veins that sustain you and your cardinal directions are north (Dakota), east (river), west (river) and everything else is south.
South Dakota is like one town with very long streets, and you rarely get lost.
3. Boarding on the slopes of Terry Peak is the only thing that gets you through the winter.
Plus living in the fictitious world of Friends re-runs. By February, your desperate for fresh air and dreaming about the summer months spent floating on the Missouri River.
4. You value the honor system.
You love that unattended melon trucks, tomato stands and sweet corn carts sprinkle the streets of South Dakota towns in the summer months. Each time you tuck a few dollar bills into a rusty, metal box, you walk away with a bag full of fresh produce and a restored faith in humanity.
5. Pheasant Opener is as special as Christmas morning.
On a cool fall morning on the second weekend in October, you’re eating breakfast with your giddy comrades when the unsuspecting roosters begin to cackle. The dogs erupt into a chorus of enthusiastic barks and you rush to lace up your boots. It’s the day you’ve been waiting for — the opening day of pheasant hunting. You race to get your limit because when pheasants fly in South Dakota like the mosquitoes fly in Minnesota, it’s only a matter of time before you’re invaded by out-of-state hunters.
6. You know how to decode a South Dakota license plate number.
To an outsider, the numbers on a South Dakota license plate mean very little. To you, it’s like branded cattle. The first digit represents the county in which you live; therefore, you can easily identify members of your herd. When you see a familiar license plate number pass you on I-90, you always speed ahead to see if you recognize the driver.
7. You’ve had the sudden urge to chudo-chop a city slicker.
You aren’t proud of it, but it has crossed your mind at least once. Maybe you were at a bar out of state and began chatting with a stranger. While exchanging pleasantries, you mentioned you were from South Dakota. He brought his cucumber martini to a halt at his lips and looked at you like you just grew a unicorn horn. He is genuinely perplexed and asks, “Well…what are you doing here?” — as if you’ve just escaped from the barnyard. This is usually the moment your hand begins to twitch…
8. Your urge to drive fast doesn’t change with the seasons.
It’s a bitter cold morning and sunlight scatters across your frosty windshield. Your foot steamrolls the pedal, and you turn the wheel with confidence. The tires remain straight, and your car glides into a mountainous snowdrift. You accept your fate of being late and spend the next hour pushing, pulling, and shoveling out your car with a generous stranger. While you understand the dangers of hasty winter driving, if you didn’t push the limits every now and again you would be on house arrest from November to March.
9. You eat BLTs and sweet corn the entire month of August.
You get a neurotic compulsion to consume as many BLTs and ears of sweet corn as possible before the season is over. You know that garden tomatoes and fresh corn have a limited season of perfection, and the combination is a divine slice of summer. Pile high the thick bacon, crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes. Butter your succulent corn. Wash it down with a red beer. Repeat.
10. You know the tricks of traveling in the Black Hills.
You understand the drive is long enough already without adding a stop at the Corn Palace. You avoid the death trap at Wall Drug since the Conoco off the interstate sells the same delicious donuts and free ice water. You don’t take your family vacation in August during the Sturgis Rally. You opt to forgo Crazy Horse because — lets be honest — it hasn’t changed in 15 years. Instead, you choose to have a picnic in the badlands or hike the peaceful pines along Sylvan Lake. But chances are you will still fall prey to the gift shop at Bear Country USA or stop for a gator show at Reptile Gardens. You can’t deny your desire to play tourist some days.
11. For you the prairie isn’t bland and boring, it’s a perfect kind of simple.
You don’t need to be stimulated by bright lights and bustling city streets. You treasure watching the sun tiptoe above hay bails and hearing geese fly overhead. You feel at home when you see clouds like cotton spill across the blue horizon and dance low along the tips of golden grains. Many days you overlook this charm, but you have developed a special appreciation for the unique aesthetics of the prairie.
12. You share an immediate bond with fellow South Dakotans.
And you meet them everywhere — at rest stops in Wisconsin and on flights to Florida. You love encountering people who esteem their South Dakota roots as highly as you do. You ask them if they know your best friend’s sister—and the best part is they sometimes do. You ask if they’ve stopped for those delicious Indian tacos in Spearfish Canyon and where they ice fish in the winter. It’s a big state with a small population, and only true South Dakotans realize just how special of a place it is.
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