The title of this entry is somewhat misleading. I did not go to visit the Black Hills as I have done many times before. I did not go to explore the many nooks and crannies the Hills have to offer. This trip I went to the Black Hills to visit family who live there. That being said, I can not over look this beautiful place completely. Around 1.6 billion years ago the Black Hills were formed by the uplift of a huge dome of the oldest rocks in the surrounding area. A great mass of molten rock began to rise from deep within the earth’s crust and then cooled before reaching the surface. This granite became the core of the Black Hills. Although born of volcanic forces, it is not volcanic in nature. The name “Black Hills” comes from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which mean “hills that are black.” Seen from a distance, these pine-covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear black.

This area is unbelievably beautiful with its many rivers, valleys, lakes, caves, and treasures of minerals, with gold and silver being in the forefront of mining. As for people, it is a hot bed of violence with one more powerful group taking it away from the weaker, over and over again. That story is a history in itself left for telling another time. My recent visit takes place in the northern part of The Black Hills in the town of Lead, a small mining town located just a few miles south of the better known historic old town of Deadwood. Lead developed as the company town serving the Homestake gold mine discovered in 1876 and in operation through 2001, the longest continually operated gold mine in the Western Hemisphere. Lead, pronounced, “leed” is a term used in the mining world meaning a vein or ledge of mineral leading to a load. That is where the town Lead got its name. The Homestake Gold Mine has an interesting history and amazing scientific research is going on deep in the mine today, well worth your time to visit, even as a destination. It is in Lead that my family lives at an elevation of 5280 ft.

My sister-in-law Judy and her son Aaron and his family live in Lead. Judy’s husband, my brother Ken, moved to Lead years ago and built a beautiful home there. We lost Ken to cancer around seven years ago. I spent four days with Judy and had a wonderful, relaxing time. Judy and I have a tradition when I visit her. We go to the , Lotus Up Expresso and Deli, to treat ourselves to their delicious caramel rolls. The Lotus Up looks over the Homestake Mine. One evening Judy took me out for a rubin pizza. I had never had rubin pizza before. I loved it.

The view of the Homestake Mine seen from the Lotus Up

Judy has an interesting neighborhood. A friendly deer comes by for treats. Some fund raising group in town secretly comes by and puts flamingos all over your yard and they don’t take them down until you donate to their cause. It is the strangest thing. Judy’s neighbor got, “flocked,” as they call it.

I don’t know how I feel about this, “flocking,” business. It is brazen, yet funny and cute, although the flamingos are creepy. You just get up one morning and find you have been flocked. haha

Judy’s back yard has lovely aspen trees and generally I see wild turkeys amongst them. One day Judy put out the prettiest Autumn table runner I have ever seen. Aaron and Chancie invited us over one evening for a delightful dinner of potato soup and ham and cheese sliders. I very much enjoyed having Veronica and Lander show me their rooms. Earlier on in the week Veronica had presented me with a little red flower. I had made a point to wear it to dinner and was glad I did because Veronica noticed it right away.

All to soon it was time to head home. I had a great time with the Baenens. Judy and I played lots of Cribbage. We watched the first complete Joe Picket series. One day we went shopping. We toured a big housing development going up not far from town, and we visited. Thank you Judy. You are a wonderful host. It was great spending time again with you and Aaron’s family.

Saturday morning I left the Black Hills and headed north following I-90 to Billings, MT. I drove west until Deer Lodge seeing herds of antelope along the way. I spent the night there waking up in time to attend Sunday Mass at nine o’clock. I arrived early so asked the priest to hear my confession which he was happy to do. I drove all that day reaching Coeur d’ Alene, ID in the afternoon. I stopped to visit my niece Teresa who lives there. I was able to meet their new dog Otto. It was getting late and I was tired of driving so spent the night at Ritzville, WA getting home the following day. I stopped to get my mail after driving well over three thousand miles and, can you believe it, when I jumped out of the truck I locked the keys in the truck. People from the DNR and Husum Fire Department tried to help me as did the post mistress and a few by standers, but to no avail. I wound up calling River’s Edge Towing to come open the door. Not the best way to end an otherwise delightful adventure.

Immaculate Conception Church in Deer Lodge
Teresa and Otto

My insurance covered most of the cost of getting my truck unlocked. That very night I replaced the key I usually have wired under my truck back where it should have been before I accidentally locked the door. Haha