I love our home in Brookings, SD. When anyone asks me where I am from, instead of saying my home of 37 years, I almost always answer that I grew up in the sweet town of De Smet where I attended twelve years of school. Emotional and physical health starts in the community in which we were raised.
Many people take a lot of pride in being from that little town and much of that is from its history. Back then, within the library and the local Masonic Lodge, there were several original oil paintings by Harvey Dunn the famous painter and illustrator. It’s neat that De Smet has a connection to such a famous artist.
However, it’s most significant notoriety comes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books because De Smet is the Little Town on the Prairie. Laura’s tales of growing up in the late 1800s in a pioneer town are famous throughout the world. Her clearly written words tell how those of European ancestry first moved and homesteaded onto American Indian land of the Minnesota and Dakota prairie. In particular, her book The Long Winter illustrates how challenging the conditions could be on the winter prairie, and how settlers (and Indians) had to be tough as nails to survive and thrive.
History is important, but the continued thriving character of present day De Smet is the result of the myriad of activities occurring in the community. For example, Old Settler’s Day is De Smet’s summer festival, usually taking place on June 10th, has parades, tractor pulling, (and a carnival that used to come to town). I remember, as an eight-year-old, thinking that June 10th was almost better than Christmas. It was a surprise and disappointment to my young self when I found out, one day, that June 10th wasn’t celebrated everywhere as it was in De Smet. I was not quite correct, however; South Dakota is abundant with similar community summer planting or harvest festivals.
Of course, most important are the lifetime friendships that develop in these communities. I remember joining with other families during holiday meals, celebrations and funerals, and even sitting around family campfires. There was sledding, camping, and canoeing with the Boy Scouts; hayrides, roller skating, dances, and rock and roll music; football, basketball games, track meets, talent contests, and many band and choir performances; and there was church.
Innumerable studies show how such social and community connections are related to enhancing the overall health of individuals. How lucky and healthy can a guy be, growing up in a little town on the prairie!