Watertown, SD. Oct. 12
“Leo’s is happy to make a chocolate malt for you, but it will take a few minutes.” Such was the comment from a waitress at Leo’s in Redfield SD where we stopped for lunch. Small town restaurant where the waitress was concerned that we knew the impact of ordering a malt. I love it. The malt was great too.
These days continue our travel back home, mainly through back roads and small towns. It is harvest time, tractors, combines, tractor trailers clog the fields and roads. We did not make this trip to see fall color; in fact we left the Twin Cities at a time when the changing leaf color was just beginning and we will probably return as it is near completion. Along these roads, we have only seen yellow fall colors, no orange or red.
We left Pierre SD and stopped at Oahe Dam. This is a US Army Corps of Engineers facility, constructed in the late 1950s on the Missouri River. This dam and four others on the Missouri try to balance competing priorities: flood control, irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife enhancement, navigation on the lower Missouri River, and hydropower.
The hydropower plant alone can produce sufficient power for all 300,000 homes in South Dakota. The dam creates the fourth largest reservoir in the U.S. Before the dam was constructed, Pierre and Fort Pierre, just downstream from the dam location, suffered severe flooding.
Oahe Dam is constructed of dirt, with separate areas for water to flow to the hydropower turbines and for water to flow directly to the Missouri River. The visitor center has an educational display, and tells us that, like other dams, the reservoir created by the dam did submerge homes, buildings and facilities used by the people living here at the time. Included in that list was the Oahe Mission Chapel, built in 1877 to serve the Congregationalist minister to the Sioux Indians of the region. The mission church has been moved next to the visitor center. Oahe comes from the name of an old Arikara Indian village that had been located where the dam was built.
After the dam, we visited (sort of) the town of Zell, past home to relatives of my brother-in-law. The town is pretty much deserted now, although the Catholic church will be having a Hunter’s Mass this weekend since it is the opening of pheasant hunting for non-residents. Normally the church is closed. The town is now only populated by 50 persons.
The nearby town of Redfield, population 2300, was a more lively community. My brother-in-law does still have relatives here. We had lunch at Leo’s, referenced above. They expect a hopping time in town this weekend with pheasant hunting underway. After lunch, we visited the historic Chicago & Northwestern Railroad depot. A volunteer gave us a tour of the depot, with its separate waiting rooms for women/children and for men. Meals were served to travelers and locals in the in-depot dining room. Passenger service ended in the 1950s and the depot was rehabilitated in the early 2000’s. The Chicago and Northwestern rail line, like many railroads, went through numerous expansions and contractions and was finally sold to the Union Pacific in the 1990s. The track through Redfield, however, was separately sold to the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad.
After Redfield, we continued on to Watertown SD. Watertown is the home of the Terry Redlin art museum. We only had time to view a portion of the musuem Wednesday and finished it Thursday morning. Dinner Wednesday night was at Buffalo Wild Wings. What is it nowadays that menus do not display the prices for non-alcoholic beverages? Is this a new “in” thing like not providing spoons with the silverware? This is the second restaurant where we have had to ask the cost for pop, iced tea, milk, etc. Everything else has a price prominently listed. This time instead of asking the staff, I sent an email off to Buffalo Wild Wings.
The Terry Redlin art museum was a surprise to us. I must have seen his work previously but his name did not ring a bell with us. He died just this April but his museum opened in 1997. At age 15 he lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. The state of South Dakota gave him a scholarship to art school in St. Paul. He began work as a graphic artist, not dissimilar to Norman Rockwell. He worked for companies in St. Paul and then moved on to having his own art career.
In 1981, Redlin won his first competition for the state of Minnesota duck stamp. He went on to have a fantastic career in wildlife and nostalgia painting. He won numerous awards for artist of the year and lithograph of the year. For eight years, he won the US Art Magazine award for most popular US artist. During his career, he gave away millions of dollars to non-profit organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Courage Center in Golden Valley Minnesota which helps disabled individuals.
Redlin married his high school sweetheart who was from Watertown. Her family had begun a local dairy and ice cream company called Langenfeld’s. His son came up with the idea of saving Redlin’s original paintings, rather than selling them, to create the centerpieces of the museum. Redlin normally created signed prints and also had sold the originals to support his family.
The Redlin art museum is a three-story, dramatic structure just off interstate 29. Over time it has added an Event Center, park, and, of course, gift shops. One specialty area of the museum focuses on an ice cream memorabilia collection created by one of the Langenfelds. There is an introductory video presented in the amphitheater surrounded by those ice cream memorabilia.
One statement included in a framed newspaper clipping on the wall as you enter the museum was a comment by his art teacher that she wished Redlin had broadened his focus. As I went through the galleries, I can understand better her comments. His art is striking, colorful, (even though he only used three basic colors to mix his palette), and notable. But the themes of the South Dakota outdoors, wildlife, and nostalgia for rural and small town family life are everywhere.
Redlin’s early success was helped by his victory in painting “duck stamps”. These are stamps sold by the U.S.and States to finance the purchase of wetlands and wildlife habitat. These are national competitions and Redlin won the Minnesota competition two years after starting his career and placed second for the Federal Duck Stamp three years after the Minnesota victory. Ducks, geese, deer and other animals make a frequent appearance in his paintings.
Later in his career, Redlin did produce a series of paintings that moved away from his earlier work. So, his “America the Beautiful” is a group of eight paintings representing scenes over the history of America. Another series of paintings portray the growth of an individual boy from his move to the city from a farm to his death serving his country in the military. His work strikes a chord with many people and continues to be popular even after his death.
It was a pleasant day and a half. Our next, and last, post for this trip will consolidate the last 36 hours spent primarily going through Minnesota state parks on our way to St.Paul.
Ed and Chris