When Stalking Pays Off

Friday was my one-year anniversary with Ye Olde Media Company. Weird to mark the occasion without being in the office, and weirder still that I wasn’t even in my home office. Instead, I was galavanting around the Black Hills “on assignment,” researching and photographing locations for my Mystery Monday pet project as I did a few weeks ago. That trip took me to the northern hills; this time, I wanted to head south. I’ve got 10 posts to fill and want to spread the love throughout the region.

“On assignment” is in parentheses because I assigned the project to myself, but that’s just one of the things I love most about my job: the freedom and flexibility to do my own thing. Not to mention the sheer variety of the work, the opportunity to be creative, and the overall fun factor. YOMC has always encouraged me to come up with ideas and fully supported me in those endeavors. It’s such a refreshing change of pace from anyplace else I’ve ever worked. If you’re not a long-time reader, there is a very interesting story about how I ended up working here, one that involves a little bit of stalking and a lot of persistence, ha.

Spoiler alert: nobody went to jail and no bunnies were boiled.

Ten minutes before heading out the door on May 15, 2019, I wrote a brief private post (I can count on one hand…actually, one finger…the number of for-my-eyes-only posts I’ve written) in which I discussed my first-day jitters and actually wondered whether I was doing the right thing leaving behind a comfortable-but-totally-unfulfilling job to take a chance on the unknown. I told myself it was natural to be nervous and that I would surely thrive working for the most creative and innovative company in town, which of course has proven to be the case.

The lesson is simple, kids: never settle.

In my life, I never have, and every tough decision I made has gotten me to a better place. Unfulfilling marriage? I got out. Living in a city that grew too crowded and expensive? I moved. Taco Bell ditched Mexi-Fries? I switched to Taco John’s for their Potato Olés. Sure, these things are all a great big gamble, but life is short and you only get one go-around. Unless you believe in reincarnation. I kind of do, but that’s a tale for another time.

In any case, I left home a few minutes before 9:00 in the midst of a heavy downpour. The weather didn’t get much better the whole day; I encountered everything from rain, hail, and fog to a (few brief glimpses of) sunshine. My first stop was Hot Springs, a quaint town known for its Romanesque-style sandstone architecture. At one point, there were more than two dozen sandstone quarries in and around town; when the railroad came along, it was shipped throughout the Midwest.

Yes, I am a history nerd.

My next stop was Custer; to get there, I had to drive through Wind Cave National Park. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, but when I saw a herd of bison, I couldn’t resist.

There were literally bison in every direction.

But the critter who really stole my heart was this friendly little prairie dog who, no shit, came bounding over to me as soon as I stopped the car. Normally, they run in the opposite direction and duck into their underground tunnels at the first sight of a human. He was like a Wind Cave goodwill ambassador.

He’s running to greet me!

Obviously, he’s used to getting handouts from people…but it was still cool. Such a personable little guy. When I started driving away, he actually chased after my car! I’m pretty sure if I’d opened the door, he would have climbed right in. Which would have been okay with me, but Sydney would object.

Or eat him. Either way: not good.

I got to Custer, found the object I was seeking (a purple dinosaur statue, in case you’re wondering…a relic from a long-closed amusement park in town).

Then, on a whim, I decided to hike up the Skywalk to Big Rock Park, a high point that overlooks the town and the surrounding Black Hills. There’s also a giant CUSTER sign perched atop the hill, but it isn’t easily accessible and I didn’t want to take a chance by scrambling up some very slippery rocks to get a closer look. At least I know my limitations! Anyway…those views.

By now it was after 1:00 and I was starving, so I stopped in at Black Hills Burger & Bun. I’d heard rave reviews about the place but had never been before. Totally lived up to the hype; the homemade buns were fresh, soft, and billowy, and the burger was one of the best I’ve ever had. I daresay they outburgered Sugar Shack, another spot that many locals claim has the best burgers in the hills. My only regret was that Tara wasn’t there to try it with me. No worries: we’ll be back.

After eating lunch in my car, I continued north, with stops in Hill City (1880 Train) and Nemo, where there’s a really cool natural rock maze.

It was 4:30 by the time I got home, so it turned out to be a long but productive day…and a much-needed respite from the monotony of being cooped up inside for days weeks months on end.

I’m considering returning to the office a couple days a week starting after Memorial Day. There’s actually been an uptick in COVID cases in our county so we’ll see how that all shakes out, but I am feeling the pull. Soon.

Finishing up breakfast and a Bloody Mary before heading outside to work on the lawn and garden. The weather is warming up (it’s actually going to be pushing 90º on Tuesday) and we’re almost ready to start planting.

28 thoughts on “When Stalking Pays Off

  1. That’s Dino from The Flintstones! I was going to put forth a theory that he was the greeter at a long-gone Jellystone replica theme park. . .until I remembered Jellystone is tied to Yogi Bear, not Fred and Wilma. I’m getting my cartoon icons mixed up.


  2. I’ll say it again Mark, every time you post pics of your travels around the state I have such an itch to spend time there. I love the PNW, but after 60 years here I think I’ve “seen the sights” enough times. Once life seems safer among humans again I am going to figure out a way to have an extended vacation in SD 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is an interesting and diverse state. Most of South Dakota is flat prairie, but the Black Hills really make up for that. I hope you get a chance to visit someday!


  3. The prairie dog is adorable, but so is the purple dinosaur. SD looks interesting and diverse in its own way. I agree with Writer of Words: “Never settle, kids” is perfect for your life coach tagline.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark, yes, I do remember that post. And I agree with you…”never settle.” You and I are similar in that we are open to taking chances and trying new things. I’ve done that my whole life, which I think is why change doesn’t frighten me. I’d rather take a chance than always wonder, “What if?” As you said, sometimes you gotta take a gamble.

    Great photos! Yes, I too am a history nerd. That’s why documentaries are my favorite type of movies.

    I slays me how you have buffalo just roaming about. Like National Geographic! LOVE that photo of the prairie dog. What a little cutie!

    90!?!? OMG…I would die. We’re actually getting somewhat cooler temps the next couple of days ( in the 60’s ). However, last Friday it was about 84.

    Have a great week, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a big fan of documentaries myself, Ron. I actually minored in history in college. No wonder I have such a thirst for learning about the past.

      You’re right about the buffalo, lol. I can just pull over to the side of the road, roll down my window, and practically reach out and touch them! (Not recommended, of course.)

      I’m not even too upset about the hot weather, because it’s setting the stage for potentially severe thunderstorms mid-week. As a weather buff, you know how much I love those!


  5. We really debated on Wind Cave vs Jewel Cave on that trip. Jewel won out, but I’m thinking another trip is in order some day. So many cool places left to see. The Skywalk being one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They both have their charms! I think Jewel Cave might be the better cave, but Wind Cave has the sprawling park teeming with wildlife and hiking trails. You really can’t go wrong with either one.


  6. Hi Mark, Wise words! “Fun factor.” “Never settle.” I would stop, too, for a herd of bison. And a prairie dog who runs towards you? It sounds like the perfect day! The natural rock maze is fascinating. All of the photos are very interesting. A great post!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mark, Totally hard to believe it is not man-made.

        Re: name: Both are correct and on legal documents. Some of the bloggers use E/E. I answer to everything. Usually spell “Erica”. I am happy whatever you call me. I did write a post on the “why” and people’s names. I found everyone has a story. If you are in the mood to glance at it 🙂https://behindthesceneryphoto.com/2019/11/07/erica-or-erika-which-name-should-i-keep/


  7. Is it me, or does that dinosaur statue look just like Dino from the Flintstones?

    That’s some very nice scenery, by the way. Only ever been through SoDakistan once, and I don’t remember it being that pretty (except for the Badlands). The husband is heading off to Nevada via Salt Lake soon. He’ll probably be taking I-90. I’ll be sure to have him pay better attention this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a matter of fact, that is Dino from the Flintstones. The amusement park was called Flintstones Bedrock City and closed in 2015…before we lived here.

      The Badlands are just about my favorite place on earth!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Guess you’re bad(lander) to the bone now. I think I’ve spent all of one day in that area, and my tent nearly got blown off its pegs that night. Funny, the things you remember after 40 some years.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my goodness! That lil prairie dog bit got to me! What a delight!
    I very much enjoy seeing the buffalo.
    I tend to think change is good, especially when it’s my choosing. I’m happy you’re happy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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