Doland, South Dakota, straddles Highway 212 in Spink County. The welcome sign at the east edge of town is broken in half. On the baseball diamond not far from the sign, water has pooled between third base and home, between second base and third. Population: 306.
Bell Body Shop stands along 212 as you come into town, as does the Cenex gas station and convenience store. North of the highway on Humphrey Drive, a big grain elevator back behind a pole building: Morning Song Wild Bird Feed - Doland Plant. In the downtown block - the library; a beauty shop; the office for Farmers Union Insurance; Pastimes Cafe ("now open"); a tavern with a sign out front for the R-Place 15th Annual Harley Giveaway still hanging up; Roger's Super Valu; the Senior Citizens Center; the Doland Clinic; the Wells Fargo Bank; Marshall Insurance; the Twin Kiss Theatre, with a mural painted on the front of it; the U.S. Post Office, Doland, SD 57436. On the block to the north, the Now & Then Supper Club with every window boarded up, more then than now. To the east of Now & Then, the new Doland City Hall and Fire Department building - "Since 1882."
An old building belonging to the Doland American Legion.
There are houses in town that appear to be abandoned - one not far from downtown is overgrown with brush, the lawn gone wild.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Auditorium fronts on Humphrey Drive; the Doland School is attached to it and still in business.
A United Methodist Church. A house on Fourth Street has a flag hanging from it that says "Welcome Back to Doland." St. Joseph Catholic Church. Walker Mowers.
There is a memorial at the corner of First Street and Humphrey in downtown Doland. At the back of it stand six stones of South Dakota mahogany granite, as "a lasting legacy to celebrate the century - South Dakota, 1889-1989." There are nearly 850 names listed on five of the six stones, I'd estimate; one assumes these are the people who contributed to the effort of creating the memorial.
In front, two more standing stones of the same granite. One is dedicated to the memory of Hubert H. Humphrey, who graduated from Doland High School in 1929.
The other stone honors Dennis and Duane Koslowski, who graduated from Doland High School in 1977. Dennis was the first American to win a medal in Greco-Roman wrestling in a non-boycotted Olympics - a bronze in 1988. He won a silver medal in 1992. There are floodlights in front of the memorial. The area in front is landscaped with a spreading cedar.
Across Humphrey Drive from the memorial is a small park with tennis courts. Off behind the tennis courts, three or four cement trucks belong, one assumes, to Doland Concrete.
Part of Doland lies south of Highway 212. Redeemer Lutheran Church is at the corner of South 1st Street and Humphrey. The former home of Hubert H. Humphrey stands on the corner of South 1st and Iowa. There is also Dakota Country Refinishing in town, Cropland Genetics & Farmers Union Oil Company, and Roger's Super 6 Motel.
As you approach Frankfort, which is a quarter-mile south of Highway 212, you pass St. Ann's Cemetery - 1968.
This is what you see in Frankfort:
SD Wheatgrowers Grain Elevator.
The Habitat Bar.
Frankfort Community Fire Department.
Frankfort United Methodist Church.
The "Wright" Stop.
St. Ann's Catholic Church - "Mass - 5:00 p.m." The cornerstone: "1922."
Some abandoned houses.
Some boys riding the streets in a golf cart. They wave to me each time I see them.
A stone and bell - all that is left of "1912 Public School."
A beautiful old house on the corner of Adams and Walnut.
Yellow ribbons on a garage - "Our Dad Serves - 2/147th" and "My Husband Serves."
On my way out of town I drive through St. Ann's Cemetery. The earliest dates of birth I see on any of the stones: 1876, 1882. Many of the other stones give years of birth from 1905 to 1910.
I don't stay to linger. I think perhaps it is better than I don't get out of the car, that I don't get to know these people. Better that they be left here forgotten when the community is left here forgotten. Sometimes I think it is better than we don't know how much we have lost. I am as sad as the sky is grey.
The great wheel turns. We get crushed and forgotten. This is neither kind, nor unkind; it is a fact. We are here, we are gone. We become again the star dust from which we came. The wind blows, the South Dakota wind.
Redfield comes into view in the distance. All of a sudden the land seems very flat. Something has changed. Yet the flatness is an illusion - there are ups and downs before I reach town. Redfield, South Dakota. "Pop. 2897" the sign says.