Our tomatoes survived the big chill better than Kevin Costner.

It’s been cold here. So cold, we had record lows the past two nights. At one point Saturday, my wipers were beating furiously to keep snow from accumulating on my windshield. Believe it or not, snow in May isn’t all that unusual here. Most years, we at least get a dusting.

But usually at the beginning of the month. Not three weeks in.

You might recall that Tara got all her vegetable starts planted outdoors last weekend. Our last freeze had been May 3. We’d already had the A/C going a few times. Spring was in full swing, and summer appeared to be nipping at her heels. It seemed safe to get everything in the ground. Just in case, my wife decided to hedge her bets by building row covers.

It’s a damn good thing she did. Despite the temperature dipping to 28º overnight and a blanket of frost covering the ground, her starts did just fine, minus a few frozen leaves that had brushed against the sheets. There doesn’t appear to be any permanent damage.


I was suddenly picturing a summer without salads, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Two weeks ago, on the way home from my business trip, I stopped in the dusty little town of Kadoka, South Dakota. Population 664. You know how a lot of rural small towns with long histories have quaint Main Streets lined with old buildings full of rustic charm?

Kadoka, not so much.

What it does have is one helluva wide road. Which came in handy, because I made three or four u-turns on it, desperately looking for the Pearl Hotel. I’d scheduled an interview for noon, but Google Maps spit me out in front of a shady-looking biker bar. Clearly not the right destination.

“How hard can it be to find an old hotel on the one road in a tiny town?!” I muttered in frustration. I even got out of my car and walked around for awhile, hoping it might magically appear, but no such luck. Finally, I Google-imaged the place and, knowing what it looked like, drove around some more until I spotted it.

I sauntered through the front door at 12:08 p.m., officially late. My track record on this particular trip wasn’t the greatest, sheesh. This time I couldn’t even blame my tardiness on time zone confusion, as Kadoka is in the Mountain time zone.

I apologized to Paula, the woman giving me the tour, who might best be described as a spitfire. She’s pushing 80 but has the sass of a surly teenager. When I explained that Google Maps had sent me to the wrong building, she replied, “Right at the end of Main Street like I told you! It shouldn’t have been too hard!”

Oh, but it was, Paula.

For all her cantankerousness, I liked her. I’d interviewed Paula over the phone back in December for another story. During the course of that conversation, she mentioned she had been volunteering for close to two decades to help restore the Pearl Hotel, a once-elegant fixture in Kadoka dating back to 1907. I figured that would make for an interesting feature, as well.

I love historical buildings, and the downstairs portion of the Pearl has been renovated beautifully. They just don’t make walls and ceilings this fancy anymore, and that’s a shame. I love the detail.

The upstairs? Not so much.

Obviously a work in progress.

In some places, the rat droppings were so deep, it was like walking through snowdrifts. I really do apologize for that mental image. There is a lot of work still to be done, but a couple of the rooms had been made over nicely.

Two down, another eight or nine to go, I guess. I lost count because I was a little creeped out. Felt like somebody was staring over my shoulder. Turns out, it wasn’t just my imagination.

Is it just me, or does it look like this matronly woman is scolding me for showing up late to the interview?!

Creepy old women aside, there were some unique features, too. Like this old fire extinguisher:

And a rather elegant heating register.

Paula was proud of that linoleum, by the way. She kept telling me how it was “all original!” Sure, the parts that weren’t covered in an inch of rat shit were kinda colorful. But it’s going to take a lot of elbow grease to get those upstairs floors looking nice again.

Still, I appreciated the tour, and it was interesting learning about the old hotel’s history. I’m glad citizens like Paula stepped up when the town wanted to condemn the place and poured their own blood, sweat, and tears into a long-term restoration project.

Truly a labor of love, huh?

40 thoughts on “Our tomatoes survived the big chill better than Kevin Costner.

    1. That’s why I was so confused when Google sent me to the biker bar. I thought for a brief second, well, maybe this is it? But I figured there was no way anybody in their right mind would be interested in restoring that dive.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Happy for your tomatoes, and that looks like a TON of tomatoes!

    I would have asked Paula why the road was so wide. I feel your frustration trying to find the place. That would so be me. Good thinking with the Google images. I probably would’ve called Paula for help, and she would have made fun of me, I’m sure.

    You have such a fun, interesting job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you should mention calling Paula. I tried to do just that, but couldn’t find her phone number! As I’ve already stated, this trip was kind of a clusterf*$k at times. But everything worked out in the end!

      I do love my job. It satisfies my sense of adventure very nicely.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So are we looking at some sort of molded plaster work or did someone put up tin panels and paint over them? The creepy woman in the ceiling looks like plaster, especially with the huge crack, but if all those walls have been hand done….holy cow!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Home grown tomatoes are the best! I know this because if I eat too many at one sitting my arthritic old fingers complain. I miss my mother’s old garden where her gardener grew salad for her, but only I ate it. Shop bought just aren’t the same. Enjoy your summer of salads Mark!

    That old hotel looks fascinating, although I admire you for coping with the rat droppings. I especially love the heating register – what a gorgeous thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Please tell me you didn’t have to sleep in the rat crap hotel. Refurbing old buildings is definitely a labor of love … but step one should be removal of the centuries old feces. Yikes.
    As for Tara’s garden, damn. That’s a lot of cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, ha. They’re not ever planning on opening the actual hotel up again. The downstairs is for community use; they were setting up for a graduation party, and people rent it out for holiday parties, family reunions, etc. The upstairs will function purely as a museum.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Now you know why we don’t put anything in the ground till after Memorial Day!

    And Is there anything creepier than a lone lightbulb hanging down from the ceiling like that? Surprised she didn’t have any ghost stories for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Memorial Day is the safe bet. But Tara started these as seeds months ago and was eager to get them going. At least they were protected from the cold.

      You know I wanted to ask Paula about ghosts. I should have!


  6. Okay – I had to look up The Big Chill because I was thinking “I don’t remember Kevin Costner being in the Big Chill.” Har, har har -now I get it because his scenes were cut. Sheesh, I’m a little slow but I got there!

    Nice work to Tara on the tomato covers! Glad you don’t have to picture a summer without salads!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Smart to use tomato covers especially since many of us are experiencing colder springs than normal. That hotel is shaping up–what a project though! I couldn’t handle cleaning up rat droppings or even thinking about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely been a weird year weather-wise. They’re predicting upper 80s by Friday, but then, another round of well below-normal temps next week. I’m beginning to wonder if summer will ever really happen.


  8. What a hoot! I’m glad you took us along on your visit. I adore the idea that someone is happy about original linoleum. Apparently the word *asbestos* isn’t part of her personal experience– as in the cost of having it removed properly for a hefty price. Just saying

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think this month we’ve had on the A/C, the heat, and there were times when neither has been on. It’s been a weird spring. Love that cranky old lass. Those old ladies can sure give a person what for, can’t they? I used to know someone who was studying to be a gerontologist, and I was like, WHY?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m so happy that Tara had the forethought to salvage all her gardening work!

    That little town looks kind of sad; so happy The Pearl is being saved. But yeah, they have a lot of work ahead of them.
    Thanks for the mental picture of rat shit. You are special.

    Liked by 1 person

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