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Shots and words by M. Scott Smith

From the Less Mature Files: Adventures in South Dakota 🔗

As an undergraduate at Drexel University in the mid-90's, I served as a columnist, contributing weekly bits of satire in an effort to amuse others or at least myself. I'm dusting off some of those columns and reprinting them here, in raw, unedited form.




This column wasn't published in the school newspaper, because.. Well, because I had just graduated. It was the summer of 1996, and I had decided to delay the real world (and its benefits, such as full-time employment) by driving cross-country for a month and a half. I hit quite a few states, and during my stay in South Dakota, I penned the following column in a hotel room.

Yeah, I was bored. After all, I was in South Dakota.

(In truth, I like South Dakota. I enjoyed Badlands National Park, thought Mount Rushmore was overrated, but really got a kick out of Wind Cave National Park. I went on the "Wild Cave Tour," which consisted of crawling and climbing through various parts of the cave for most of the day. One of the coolest things I've ever done. Oh yeah, there's also lots of prairie dogs (though, not in the cave). And I find prairie dogs immensely amusing.)




One immediately knows when they drive into South Dakota, because there is a sign which says "Welcome to South Dakota."

Shortly following this sign is one which says "Speed Limit - 75."

Shortly following this sign is another one which is illegible, because by this point, your windshield is covered with the side effects of bird digestion.

As I drove along South Dakota, my windshield was continually pelted by drips and drops of bird dung.

Each time a new piece of glop ricocheted off my windshield - usually directly in my line of sight - I scanned the sky looking for the culprit. But I was never able to find any birds, or even the sky, possibly because I couldn't see out the windshield.

This led me to the conclusion that the bird dung is in fact coming from a new breed of bird that spends most of its adult life flying through the stratosphere, or possibly just below geosynchronous orbit.

This bird is scientifically known as the Doodoo Bird.

This previously unknown species of bird has a sophisticated social structure. Those birds with the highest windshield-hitting accuracy rate enjoy the upper echelons of their society and all the rewards that pertain therein, mainly getting in with all the chicks.

Although no one has actually seen the elusive Doodoo Bird, it is impossible not to see a member of the clan of Kamikaze Insects, particularly parts of their internal organs.

This clan consists of insects - beetles, cockroaches, moths, and even some deer who suffer from an identity problem - who have decided to sacrifice their lives by meeting a car radiator (or windshield, if their aim is good) head-on, in order to promote social awareness of important causes such as banning insecticides.

The tenacity at which the Kamikaze Insects employ their ruthless campaign ensures that you will be out of windshield wiper fluid before you have a chance to turn around on the interstate and flee South Dakota.

I kid you not. At one point, I counted no less than 2 insects smattered across the front of my car. If I kept counting, there probably would have been a lot more.

So, at some point, you give up trying to keep the windshield clean and just set your cruise control to 75, knowing full well that the interstate is perfectly straight and flat and that there aren't likely to be any other cars on it, since South Dakota has a population of about six at last count. You'll begin to think that paying extra money for a transparent windshield was unnecessary.

Well, unnecessary until you cross the Missouri River. You will know you have done this because you will have missed the first curve in the road, and your car will be sinking in murky water that no doubt contains traces of poisonous insecticides, making the irony unbearable.

The scenery makes a dramatic change once you cross the Missouri River, although you will be unable to appreciate this due to your filthy windshield and the twenty feet of water above you.

The land becomes hilly, devoid of trees but covered with grass and billboards advertising Wall Drug and the amazing Corn Palace, which is free to visit.

I elected not to visit the Corn Palace, namely because it is free to visit, which means that no one would ever pay to visit it.

Even if it had cost $200 to visit, I still would not have visited it, because I don't have that kind of money and harbor an intense, although unfounded, fear of corn.

- By M. Scott Smith, July, 1996. All rights reserved.

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