Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fourth of July (Part 2 of 3)

After escaping the clowns I made my way North and crossed the Missouri River and entered the great city of Yankton, South Dakota. For two hours I drove around trying to get a good sense of the city. One enters Yankton by crossing a large, and quite strange looking I might add, bridge over the Missouri River. Once across I followed the signs to "historic downtown." Downtown Yankton itself was like something from a time machine. There were tons of quaint little shops and streets that looked like something out of the fifties, or at least what I imagined the fifties to look like. If I were running for President downtown Yankton would be a great place for a Americana photo op. After exploring downtown I visited Mount Marty College, the Dam (which is huge!) and the federal prison.

I am not sure if this is a bad thing or not, but the federal prison looked like fun. The prisoners were walking around, talking, playing boccie ball and crossing the street. Note: there is no typo there, they crossed the street. Apparently the prison is minimum security and prisoners walk about the grounds freely, with no real fences. I am told that the prison used to be a college that folded many years ago. Either way this place was a far cry from Sheriff Joe's tent city in the Arizona desert. It is a good thing people back home don't see this place or they would be tempted to commit a crime just to go there and "vacation" for a few years. Heck I was tempted just driving by. Think about it free time all day long, no responsibilities, you don't have to cook, go to bed early, lots of reading time and tv, no bills. Heck who wouldn't be tempted to go there. Although I wonder how exciting it is come January!

Yanktonians, as they are called, have more to be proud of than just the prison:

The famed expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark came through the area in 1804. The explorers signed a key peace treaty nearby with the Native Indians and their name now graces Lewis and Clark Lake, a man-made, 20-mile long, 1-mile-wide body of water that's the focus of the area's primary tourist attraction.

Yankton was the first capital of Dakota Territory. Jack McCall, who murdered the famous Sherrif "Wild" Bill Hickok, was tried, convicted and hanged for the crime in Yankton.

Lawrence Welk got his first big break when his orchestra became the station band of Yankton radio station WNAX.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw is a graduate of Yankton High School.

Former NFL star Lyle Alzado is Yankton College graduate and played for the team in 1968-70.
Yankton is the home of Mount Marty College.

One of the city's nicknames is ""Mother City of the Dakotas"By the way, the Yankton Chamber of Commerce site tell us that--

The name "Yankton" is derived from the name of the division of the Dakota Nation of Indians who occupied the area prior to the white settlement. The "village at the end of the line," Yankton was originally the winter camping ground for a Sioux band of Indians.

After my tour was over I went to the supermarket, Hyvee (their motto is: "where there is a smile in every aisle"- and there was!) bought some pre-made cookie dough and watermelon and headed to the Althoff homestead. The Althoff home is next to an museum/historic house built in the late 1800's. I did find some humor in the differences between the east coast and the midwest, as a house from the 1880's would warrant little attention at all. The Althoffs themselves were still en route from their family vacation in western South Dakota, so I prepared a welcome platter of goodies for them, put my feet up and awaited their arrival.

When they finally did I arrive, I quickly went out to greet them. After initial hugs and welcomes, I was swept up into the frenzied unpacking of the family van. In fact the unpacking was not really frenzied at all as Mr. Althoff, Rick, the Rickster, was like a drill sergeant coordinating a major offensive. In fact he was so organized he kinda of reminded me of the Father from Meet the Parents. I suppose if one has a large family it is important to be organized or disaster can easily rule the day. I could not help but chuckle to myself at the different way families operate. The Althoffs were completely unpacked in less than five minutes, despite having been gone for a week. If this was a Nelson family trip we would still have the car packed days after we returned, even if we had only been away over night. In fact I still have a styrofoam cooler in my car from when I drove out to Omaha six weeks ago!

Mrs. Althoff, Mary, welcomed me like a son and really made me feel at home. She got to work quickly on preparing dinner and Isaac, Annalise & Gina assisted in getting the mail, and opening the house up again after a week away.

........to be continued

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