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?