Thursday night was a rough one. Inside a tent at Pactola campground, South Dakota, neither Miles nor I slept much. He tossed, turned, pounded the ground with his fist in pain, and then accepted my invitation to crawl in to my arms where he continued to toss and turn though the ground pounding stopped. Earlier in the day a molar abscessed and as the day’s hours waned, the tooth’s pain augmented. It was not pretty.
The pain was not pretty and neither was the scenario. Headed into the 4th of July weekend, we knew it was a fix-the-tooth-Friday-or-wait-until-we-got-home-on-Wednesday situation. Our knowledge of dentists in the area was limited (zero, actually) but our knowledge of the goodness of LDS people was unlimited (basically infinite) so we headed to Rapid City with high hopes.
About five minutes outside of Rapid City we got cell service. Grace searched lds.org for bishops in the area and randomly called one of the five names that showed up. At 9:00 a.m. on a Friday morning Bishop Policky was at home. Lance explained the situation and asked him if he knew of any dentists in the area that would see a non-patient. (Many dentists service only current patients and many dentists do not work on Friday.) Bishop said there was a dentist in his ward whom he would call and then promised to get back with us. By this time we had entered Rapid City (population 70,000+) and were slowly driving through it as we awaited the return call.
Within minutes Bishop Policky was on the phone again with Lance. Dr. Taylor would see Miles, he would be in his office until noon, and the address was 2620 Jackson Blvd. Gratefully we asked Google to find the location for us. She (the voice sounds feminine…) searched for a moment, found her bearings, and the first thing she said was “Your destination is on the left.” In our random wanderings we had meandered right to the dentist’s office. There it was. On the left. Miles’ tender tooth met God’s tender mercy in Rapid City and it was all good.
The dentist tender mercy was perhaps the trip’s most significant tender mercy but it was not the trip’s only one. On our 2016 South Dakota trip, taken June 29-July 5 with the Drago family, tender mercies ran rampant. Following is a partial list:
- If you are ever in Evanston, WY anytime close to breakfast, stopping at Jody’s Diner is a must. The food is divine.
- Michelle and I were hiking to Harney’s Peak (the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees in Europe) when we came to a branch in the trail. The marker said “Harney Peak Look Out”. We did not want to look at the peak, we wanted to climb it and so we continued on the main path. Two steps later a man appeared and asked us for directions to Harney Peak. As a direct result of his question, we learned that the branch to Harney Peak Look Out was indeed the trail we wanted. We were spared who know how much extra hiking and granted a spectacular view from the look out at the top of Harney’s Peak.
- At the ISEF International Science Fair, in the hotel lobby, I randomly connected with a man from South Dakota who recommended we eat at Alpine Inn in Hill City. “You get a filet mignon steak, quarter wedge of lettuce, potato and garlic toast for only $14 and it is fabulous,” I was told. He was right.
- Grace, Brandon, and I wanted to do the Wilding Cave Tour at Jewel Caves. Participants must pass through an 8 ½ x 24 inch crawl space to be eligible to go on the tour. Brandon did it easily, Grace did it without even touching the top, and I made it through—barely—only after exhaling. When we went to sign up for the tour, there were only two spots left. I know it was a tender mercy that there were spots for Grace and Brandon—they had a true life-is-the-stories-you-can-tell experience. I suspect it may have been a tender mercy that there was not a spot for me. My knees may not have been strong enough for the climbing required.
- Miles, Lance, and Joe tapped into a perch perfect spot in the Pactola reservoir. They were pulling perch from the water as fast as they could bait their hooks. It really did not matter that some of the perch were small enough to fit in a gold fish bowl. They had a great time.
- We almost did not go to Badlands National Park. “Who wants to look over a waste land?” I thought. But the need to go to Rapid City (for a tooth extraction and for caving clothes, boots, and knee and elbow pads) put us on the road to the Badlands and rain (pouring down almost all day) put us off the hiking trails in the Black Hills. Touring the Badlands became our best option. What a tender mercy! They were stunning. STUNNING! Kind-of like a combination of Goblin Valley, a smaller Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon with it’s own array of vivid colors, the Badlands were absolutely spectacular, even in the rain. We ignored the “Beware of rattle snakes” and “Take lots of water” warnings and watched first hand as Mother Nature shaped the hills, soil streaming down them in rivulets of muddy water.
- At the Ten Sleep 4th of July rodeo (Ten Sleep, WY, population 260) we found seats under the pavilion, a tender mercy that shielded us from the micro storm that sent canopies reeling in the wind and that soaked the rodeo royalty and from the sun that mercilessly blazed in the micro storm’s wake.
- Brandon and Grace were not charged by the mother moose that they encountered grazing with her baby on the shores of West Ten Sleep Lake. (Moose injure more people than grizzlies and black bears combined.)
- The marble sized hail that pounded Rapid City while we were attending church did not visit our tents in Pactola Campground, 17 miles away.
- There were no mosquitoes at Pactola.
- At Mt. Rushmore I (finally) figured out that Teddy Roosevelt and FDR are two different people. I also experienced a rush of patriotism at the evening’s Lighting Ceremony. What a wonderful tender mercy it is to live in this great country!
It is an incredible blessing to be an American. It is also an incredible blessing to be able to travel and share great experiences with our great family and great friends. Great, great, GREAT!
Have a great week!