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South Dakota—facts and snacks
January 2, 2007

January rolls around, and I get the yen to start organizing and cleaning up.

Make a fresh start.

Figure out where things are, I tell myself.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. I read an article recently that declared January as "Get Organized Month." It's around here somewhere.

One of the interesting facts that it offered was that "getting organized" makes the top five list of New Year's resolutions. Now, how do they figure that out?

One thing I'm getting organized is my file of interesting facts about South Dakota. (Wonder why that is?) Now that I've got the file open, I'll share some of the best tidbits with you—as well as the recipes for some tasty South Dakota snacks.

Here goes!

Did you know...?

Where South Dakota is?
South Dakota right in the middle of the United States! Seems impossible, but the town of Belle Fourche is recognized as the geographical center of the United States and has had the official marker to prove it since 1959. Plus Belle Fourche is home to a sheepherder's monument named "Stone Johnnie." (More about those South Dakotan sheep in weeks to come.)

Who lives in South Dakota?
Indians? You betcha. The Dakota, Lakota and Nakotas (the three tribes making up the Sioux Nation) all call South Dakota home.

Not many others do. The whole state has only about 775,000 residents. That works out to about 10 people per square mile. Compare that to the United States average of 80 and here in Georgia where we pack 140 folks into a square mile and still have room for all those farms. No wonder South Dakotans talk about wide open spaces!

You've heard of the Badlands?
Badlands National Park has the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the nation. Plus, it has fossil beds going back to the Oligocene Epoch, a mere 30 million or so years ago.

The state is not all flat.
Harney Peak stretches up over 7,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Of course, there are the Black Hills (in Lakotan, paha sapa), those South Dakotan pine-covered hills—hills that appear black from a distance as they rise above that grassy prairie. These may well be the very hills that gave rise to the adventurers' saying, "There's gold in them thar hills!" For Homestake Mine in Lead is one of the world's largest (if not the largest) underground gold mines in the world.

Then there's Deadwood.
The rootin' tootin' mining town grew up and grew infamous after the discovery of gold in 1874. There are legends about Deadwood. It's said that a year after it was established, some 90 percent of the female residents were not very nice girls. It's also sworn to that the practice of scattering sawdust on barroom floors started in Deadwood. The careless miners let gold dust spill from their pockets onto the floor where it disappeared right into the sawdust. In the early morning hours, the enterprising saloonkeepers swept the floors and mined a little gold for themselves. Life was wild.

Wildlife abounds in the state, and not only of the human variety.
So many coyotes call it home, that in 1949 the legislature declared it the official state animal. Tough in a state where the leading agricultural product is cattle!

Coyotes are not the only critter officially recognized by the state. The state insect is the honey bee. Finally, I can talk about a favorite South Dakota snack. Of course, just about anything with honey is good, but these muffins are special. They are extra good and extra easy.

South Dakota Honey Muffins
½ cup milk
¼ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
2½ cups buttermilk baking mix

In a medium bowl, combine milk, honey and beaten egg; mix well. Add baking mix and stir until moistened. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Here's a honey cooking tip, good in South Dakota and good in Georgia. An easy way to measure honey for a recipe is to remember that one 12-ounce container of honey equals one cup. Because honey contains solids and is denser than water, a cup of honey weighs half again more than a cup of water.

There's more
While we're on South Dakotan eating—it's good to note that there is a state dessert. It's a tribute to the hearty German settlers who brought civilization and good food to the wild and wooly state.

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
3 cups sliced peeled apples (or other fruit—peaches and blueberries are both good)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Beat butter and 1½ cups of the sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing well after each addition.

Pour into greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan; top with apples or other fruit. Mix remaining ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into 16 squares to serve. Good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. In South Dakota, it may be snow ice cream!

I'm about dizzy with South Dakota facts. Here is one more. (And there will be many more in the weeks ahead!) Pierre, South Dakota. Think about it. It is the only state in the United States that does not share a single letter with its capital.

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