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My first impressions of America were in Rapid City, South Dakota (7-10 October 2001) and the patriotism and hospitality of Dakotans set the pattern for an enjoyable three week tour (that included NM, NYC and DC). John Milton's concise 200 page history of the Coyote State filled in some gaps for me and simply whetted the appetite for a return visit. Particularly interesting was the East-West divide caused by the Missouri river and how, traditionally, the political clout in the State has been in the hands of the easterners. The conflicts between Red and White, that still persist, started with the gold rush, an event that sparked the major migration of white settlers into the territory. Colourful characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Hugh Glass, Red Cloud, George Custer and others give the flavour of pioneer times and the imagery of the past was enhanced by me being able to see some of the historic places in the Black Hills as well as some of the big sky country of the prairie-both of which the author conveys well in his text. The rural nature of much of South Dakota, with wide open spaces reminds me of my own environment (in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia) and the history of gold rushes,early inter ethnic clashes, achievement of statehood (SD was a year ahead of Western Australia), friendly people and rural conservatism is something that I can clearly recognise and which Milton explains. If you want a good concise backgrounder to SD (with a useful section on further reading) then Milton's book is a good starting point. As for South Dakotans in general I admire their patriotism (after Sep.11) with flags and signs everywhere- and in particular I thank Pastor Jim Patrick, and members of his United Methodist Church, who took time to make sure this traveller from a distant land not only enjoyed reading about the history of the State but also saw South Dakotans of the present for what they are-a gracious, generous and decent people.
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