Where I Come From, You Do Not Drive On Lakes

This past summer I lived for three months in South Dakota while I interned with Monsanto. It was an enjoyable internship experience. I got to see a lot of beautiful scenery, learn a lot about corn and soybeans and I was thankful I was able to try living in the Dakotas for a three month period and not on a permanent basis. Their summers in the Dakotas are extremely mild compared to hot and muggy Alabama summers, but I wanted to go and see what winter was like. During Christmas break I paid a winter visit to South Dakota, and let me tell you it is an entirely different ballgame than what I am used to.

ImageTemperatures were below zero the majority of the time I was there. The wind chill was anywhere from -13 to -45, until I got off the plane in Aberdeen, I had never felt temperatures below zero. However these low temperatures are very conducive to recreational activities that I have never participated in like snowmobile riding and ice fishing.

Ice fishing was what I was most excited about getting to attempt on my trip. Zack, who preaches at the church I attended this summer agreed to take me. So he got out the fishing rods the night before we went and got them all ready to go. I was surprised at how tiny they were!

ImageThe next morning we woke up early, I put on almost all the clothes I had brought with me (literally, even my pajama pants) and we drove to Pickerel Lake about 60 miles east of Aberdeen. Pickerel is a big fishing lake, a beautiful area I frequented this summer to watch sunsets and walk. Zack brought along his wife Elizabeth and their two year old son Isaac. We pulled up to the lake and Zack instructed us to roll down our windows “just in case the car fell through the ice.”

ImageI did a double take. In Alabama our lakes hardly ever freeze over, much less do they freeze where you can walk on the ice, MUCH LESS DRIVE ON IT! But sure enough there were vehicles scattered all over the lake.

ImageWe started out across the lake in their Honda Accord. The snow was blowing which made it hard to see the tracks made by other vehicles. We made it a few hundred feet and got stuck. I didn’t have on my coveralls yet, but Zack and I jumped out to push the car out of the deep snow we had got stuck in. We drove out to where some of the other vehicles were. We got out and sure enough you could walk around, it was tough to tell you were even on ice because it was covered with snow except for a few patches here and there.

ImageZack and I drilled some holes in the ice with his hand auger.

ImageThe auger makes a nice little 6 inch hole. You have to have some way to drill a hole, the ice is so thick you cannot break it by hitting it with something. The ice was about 3 foot thick.

ImageAfter you drill a hole you can use a fish finder or even just drop your line in and see if you get a bite.

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We finally decided on a spot and set up our ice shack. Ice shacks reminded me of campers, you have some that are super fancy and some were super simple.

ImageThe one we used was a little pop-up deal that fit nicely inside a hard sided case.

ImageIt isn’t made of much, but I was surprised how warm it was inside, especially because we had a space heater since little Isaac was along. Just being out of the wind helped. The wind was so strong we had to made sure someone was in it so that it did not blow away!

ImageThe kind of fish that we were fishing for are pan fish like blue gill and crappie. You can barely feel their bite so the strategy was to watch the tip of the rod for movement. Since we had Isaac along in the shack with Elizabeth and I, it was very hard to do and we had little luck.

Imageeing able to go ice fishing was definitely a new experience, ice of that proportion was new to me. I am now by no means an experience ice fisher. If someone who is a seasoned ice fisherman was to read this, they will probably laugh at my description of the endeavor and terminology, however for an Alabama gal, I was doing good to be out there sitting on a frozen lake.  I would like to try it again sometime, can you ice fish where you live? What has been your experience?

Webster South Dakota ice fishing

South Dakota is a Different Ballgame in the Winter

This summer I spent three months in South Dakota. The weather was SO NICE. After enduring Alabama summers for 21 years to get to spend a summer where there is little humidity was such a treat. I can only think of one day where I actually thought, “whew, it is hot.” I decided a few months I wanted to go back in the winter time and see what it is like. I got a good taste of what it is like, when I landed in Aberdeen, SD last Thursday it was -13, when I left on Sunday the wind chill was -46. It cold, but a different kind of cold.

I got a lot of experience driving on ice and show while in South Dakota. I don’t know how people know where to park in parking lots at Walmart, Target etc. because you cannot see the lines. Image

 

There were huge piles of snow some the size of buildings, in every parking lot from where it had been plowed after snow showers. Image

 

I found it interesting that corn was stored out and uncovered. After asking Mr. Tom from church he said that the corn was actually best stored that way, it was frozen and would not loose its quality. Image

 

Streets if they were paved were pretty  much ice and snow. Image

 

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I was able to visit with my trainer from Monsanto. We ate at our usual cafe in Webster, this was a treat. Image

The snow was very pretty, but there was a lot of it and it was so cold, it is not going anywhere, anytime soon. ImageImageImageImageImageImage

It was interesting seeing the fields so bare and snow covered. ImageImage

 

Frozen lakes was a new concept to me. I had the opportunity to go ice fishing (there will be a separate post on that later). We drove on the lake, which was somewhat terrifying at first, but then after drilling holes in the ice that were 2 1/2 feet deep I was reassured I had little to worry about. Image

While I was out and about in Webster on Saturday the temperature hit a whopping 0 degrees. 

 

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things about South Dakota was getting to see some beautiful sunsets. I was able to sit on a hill and watch the sun go down on the plains on Saturday (from the warmth of my vehicle of course). Sunsets are always a great time for reflection and to be in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. ImageImage

 

After visiting South Dakota during the cold months I have no idea how they deal with the snow and ice for 5 months out of the year. I can see where it would get old. I am glad to have experienced the brutal winters they have and I most enjoyed getting to visit with friends from church and my trainer. Stay tuned for a post on ice fishing, let me tell you it will be something else. 

Taking Time in 2014

At the end of each year we look back and every year it seems hard to believe that another year has passed, this year has been no different. This morning after I woke up I grabbed my iPad and flipped through pictures from this year and read some of my old blog posts.

This has been an interesting year to say the least.

The biggest thing that happened in my year is that I moved to South Dakota for an internship with Monsanto for 3 months. Moving to South Dakota, somewhere where I knew very few people, learning a business I wasn’t extremely familiar with, and driving 60 miles to church and the grocery store was definitely a new experience, but a great one. I learned a lot about myself, my faith, and the Midwest and its people. My love and knowledge of agriculture and the people that grow our food was increased. Through this I was able to make some great acquaintances and got to enjoy a different part of our beautiful country.

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 In 2013 I also planted my first two crops! This was huge for me. I had always wanted to be a farmer, when my dad stopped farming back in 2006 I didn’t think it would ever happen. This year it did! I planted a crop of winter wheat which I harvested July 1 and then planted a crop of soybeans behind the wheat which I harvested November 30th. I was fortunate that I had pretty good and I didn’t end the year in the hole, which to a farmer is typically the sign of a good year. Anna Leigh Peek

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 A surprise for year was that my Auburn Tigers did well. In case you haven’t heard we are actually playing for a national championship on January 6 (which will be my second adventure of the upcoming year). After going 3-9 last year, my expectations were not very high, ANYTHING would beat last year’s performance. I got to witness two Auburn games that will be talked about from now to eternity, the Georgia and Alabama games. After the Alabama game got to rush the field, which was something I’d wanted to do during my time as a student.

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I traveled to Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee this year for ballgames. Traveling to games is always fun, I usually know people at the school so its great to reconnect and see their traditions, campuses and try their local eats.

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Midnight Yell Practice at Texas A&M was cool to experience with fellow College of Agriculture students

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Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium is the third largest college stadium in the country

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Through my invovlement in FFA and 4-H I have friends at many schools across the country and getting to visit with these friends is always such a treat. John I met through FFA and he is a Tennessee alum. Anna I met through 4-H and she is now a Texas A&M alum.

This year I was also able to see my favorite band, Mumford and Son in Atlanta. After seeing them I think I could go the rest of my life without seeing another one. Yes, they were THAT good.

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 As 2014 is all but here there are a few things I am going to work to take time for in the coming year.

1) To Say Thank You- For everything and anything. I have had so many people who have helped me this year and been an encouragement to me especially when I was in South Dakota and as I am trying to figure out what’s next after college. Between now and May I am going to need to thank a lot of people who have been instrumental in me making it through college.

2) To Exercise/Sleep- The last few months I have made a conscious effort to sleep and exercise more and what a difference it has made. Making time for it is key though. I hope to continue making time for sleep and exercise in the coming year.

3) Enjoy Nature- One of the things I enjoyed so much in South Dakota was the scenery and the natural beauty that I saw on a daily basis. I took time to enjoy it (after all there was nothing else much to do), now that I am back in my element in Auburn I haven’t taken the time to enjoy God’s creation as much as I should have.

4) Be Holy- Brother Greg Gravitt made a point during a Bible study a few weeks ago that really hit home. “Nothing in life matters. If He is with us, THAT is what matters.” So in the coming year as I work to finish school and decide where to go after graduation it will be easy to stress and potentially forget what is important. After all we are told to “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). I have no idea where I will be on December 31, 2014 which can be scary, but I’m not too worried about it. By making sure to remember what is important this year I will be taken care of:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28

Best wishes in the year ahead. Thanks for reading in 2013. I don’t know where I’ll be next year, but I will always be Anna Leigh from Alabama (ALfromAL).

Anna Leigh Peek

Where is PETA and the Humane Society?

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Homes outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Image source: iWitness Rob Griffith/The Weather Channel)

Last weekend a very early snowstorm hit the parts of Wyoming, North and South Dakota. This is hard to imagine for me because I only  left there from my internship back in August, and it is currently still VERY warm in Alabama. This snowstorm was one of the worst people in that area have ever seen. They received 12 hours of rain then four feet of snow and sustained 60 mph winds during a 48 hour period of time. Through acquaintances like Katie Pinke I was able to see pictures of the snow over the weekend.

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Katie Pinke a farmer’s wife and mom in North Dakota. She was speaking to a women’s conference in the Black Hills during the storm. On Saturday she posted this picutture saying “Still no power. The hotel has a gas stove and a flash light in the kitchen. We get hot pork sandwiches to eat but it’s getting pretty chilly now and all roads from here are closed! But I spoke to an amazing group of women. We laughed, wiped a few tears and all better together in this experience. Next up? Extra blankets and a fireplace. One big sleepover in the lobby.” Read more about Katie’s Life on the Prairie at http://thepinkepost.com/

As the snow started to melt some the news of its destruction started coming through. throughout the week my heart has ached for people in that area. 4 people lost their lives and so many cattle died. It is estimated that 75,000 head of cattle were lost in this one storm. Some producers have lost anywhere from 20-50% of their heard.

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Cattle who tried to take shelter in this area were buried underneath the snow. More pictures can be seen here: http://bigballsincowtown.com/storm2013.htm

Since this was an early storm cattle were still in the pastures at this point in the year. During the winter months since the winters are so harsh in that area of the country the cattle are moved closer so they can be kept under close watch and cannot be too far away when bad weather comes. This storm wiped out calves that would have been sold this fall as well as their mothers that would produce future calves.

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This poor cow walked until it could not walk any more and was found as the snow began to melt away earlier this week. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

Cattle are actually pretty smart. I asked numerous farmers this summer how their cattle made it in the winter. They know to keep the wind at their back and walk with it. They walk to find places of shelter which in bad storms like this could even mean going through a fence. This time even if they found a creed bed, or man made shelter in the pasture to stand against many were sinking in the mud from the 12 hours of rain and were then buried under the snow suffocating them.

This event did not even break national news sources until yesterday because of the flack they received for their lack of coverage. The government is still shut down, therefore there are no disaster assistance programs to offer these people. Fund have been set up by individuals to help people in this region out. But here is my question.

Where is PETA and the Humane Society? 

They claim that they help during national disasters. They post pictures of their “help” and will run television commercials when hurricanes are on their way or wildfires are raging. HSUS has a webpage where you can give specifically for animal disasters.

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They claim to help animals during natural disasters, why aren’t they helping?

But where are they? I can tell you they will not come.

Why?

Because their goal is not to “help” animals. The have two major goals

1) They do not like animal agriculture which means they want you to become a vegetarian

2) Take your money

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “JP” Goodwin Their goal is not to help animals, but push their vegetarian agenda. To push that agenda they need funds and that is why they run commercials showing puppy dogs and kitty cats that have been neglected and abused. They pull at your heartstrings which in turn pulls out your wallet. At the end of 2009 their revenue for the year was $148 million dollars, yet they only spent one half of 1% actually helping animals.

This has happened before: According to Humane Watch

HSUS raised $34 million in The wake of hurricane Katrina, Supposedly To help
reunite lost pets with their owners. But comparatively little of that money was
spent for that purpose. Louisiana’s Attorney General shuttered his 18-month-long investigation
into where most of these millions went, shortly after HSUS announced its plan to contribute
$600,000 toward the construction of an animal shelter on the grounds of a state prison. In 2009,
Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV reported that public disclosures of the disposition of the $34 million in
Katrina-related donations added up to less than $7 million.

humane watch

Groups like Humane Watch keep an eye on the Humane Society’s activities and works to inform the public through advertising campaigns, especially in places like DC and NYC. http://www.humanewatch.org/humanewatch-ads-hit-capitol-hill/

However the main reason they are not going to come is because they are an anti-agriculture group. Because they are against agriculture, they are not going to assist these animals and their owners. They will not help. They give millions of dollars to fight agriculture in all 50 states each year. They pay their lobbyist well and have put 17 million dollars in their own pinion plans.

This is just one example of a flaw in HSUS and PETA, they have many. Before you give your money because of a sad commercial you see, research the group. Most likely if they are advertising on national television they have too much money. Do you see your local pet shelter on television? Most likely not, they have to use every cent they have effectively, donate to them.  Most local humane shelters do great work, they are not at all affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.

Since the government is not around to help if you are interested in donating to the disaster relief  a Rancher Relief Fund has been set up by the AgChat Foundation. You can donate here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Rancher-Relief-Fund?fb_ref=2eYjT2ox1

New School Year, Domain, Look, Series

I have successfully survived my “last first day of school”. I should have got my brother Brady to take my picture this morning before I left with my backpack and lunchbox, however it was 5:45am and I don’t think he would have appreciated it very much if I would have woke him. Needless to say I am very happy to be back in Auburn, I was able to have a turkey sub from BBQ House for lunch so it has been a good day.

Anna Leigh Peek BBQ House

 I started a few days later than the rest of Auburn students because last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

AgChat 2013

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Zimmerman

Since my major is Agriculture Communications I was so excited to be going to a conference that was all about social media and agriculture. I was able to finally meet folks I have followed on Twitter and Blogs for years now. We also had a swap on Thursday night where we swapped items from our state with others. I came home with some pretty awesome swAG.

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At the conference I was able to learn from some of the best Ag-vocates out there. I was able to learn how to use some social media platforms I have not really considered like Pinterest. I even learned a few tips about Facebook (I thought I had mastered the Facebook) I have been motivated to blog more and was even motivated that I now have my own domain (www.ALfromAL.com) and have left blogger to come to Word Press. 

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We had a great panel discussion there with guest panelist which included a mom blogger, nutritionist, blogger and a chef. It was a great reminder of why we were there, even though they are very educated individuals they still lack a great understanding of food and where it comes from and also shows we still have so much work to do. I have came home energized and hoping to do more blogging on food production and just more writing in general. So a few things to look for in the coming weeks:

1. Harvest Posts- harvest is coming up so why not show it? I hope to show how food leaves the field on its way to your plate. 

cotton harvest Alabama

2. Football Posts: Auburn Traditions / Fun Facts on Mondays and Tailgate Recipes on Fridays. There will also be travel stories at least from Texas A&M hopefully some other schools. 

Auburn football jordan hare

3.  Summer Internship- a few posts looking back on my experiences with Monsanto this summer in the Dakotas 

South Dakota Sunset Internship Anna Leigh PeekIt should be a fun fall and I am going to try to enjoy it as much as I can seeing that it is my last fall in Auburn as a student. Keep up with my adventures here!

If you would like to receive blog updates you can type in your email address in the box to the right and receive them each time I publish a post. 

 

Adventures of the Traveling Minions

Thanks to McDonald’s Happy Meals I have had some travel buddies the last few weeks, a trio of minions. 
 
I hated to part with them so they journeyed with me from South Dakota back to Alabama. 
 
 
They rode with my boss and I to the airport. 
 
 
Went through security and waited on the airplane
 
They were very excited for their first plane ride. 
 
Lucky them they got a window seat.
 
Enjoyed a seat back magazine. 
 
The obeyed all posted and lighted signs (staying buckled  no smoking). 
 
Endured a layover in Minneapolis. 
 
Safely arrived in St. Louis and took the shuttle to the hotel.
 
Worked on a marketing presentation.
 
Slept Good. 
 
Very good. 
 
Ordered room service. 
 
Made sure to stay fresh. 
 
Made it back to Alabama riding in my backpack. 
 
They are adjusting well to life in Alabama. Sitting on the front porch 
 
 
and drinking sweet tea. 
 
I think they’ll like life at the Peek house. 

Dad Always Said No Hitchhikers..But I Couldn’t Resist

Friday I had to visit three farmers to get some paperwork signed and the last one I visited was Travis. He was out cutting alfalfa for hay so I met him at the field he was working in.


Alfalfa is a perennial legume that is in the pea family. It grows slowly, but after a few weeks forms a very thick ground cover. If a field is empty it can be planted to hold the ground in place to prevent erosion.



It does not grow very well in warm climate, so I had never seen any until I moved to South Dakota. It is primarily used for cattle feed and is great because of its high protein content. In the Dakotas you can cut it anywhere from 3-5 times a year, in climates in places like California it can be harvested up to 12 times. It is very thick and bushy like. When it is cut the roots and stubble remain and that is where it grows back.




I showed up and he was off the tractor with his hat in hand running around trying to pick up something. I walked out there and in his hand he had three ducks. While cutting he had came across a duck nest and we looked for the others, but were unable to find any others in the thick brush. I had a bucket in my truck so I put them in the bucket and off we went. They are probably the most harmless hitch hikers I could have picked up. They sat in their bucket in the back seat and I only heard a few peeps.




I called my boss who was a wildlife major in college and she suggested trying to put them where other ducks are and another duck might take them in. She said that ducks will often serve as surrogate mothers. So I decided to take them to a lake near my house where I had seen mother and baby ducks. First I stopped by and showed Mr. and Mrs. Hagen (the people I live with) the baby ducks.





They were so sweet and so cute, I was sad to leave them, but I am sure they are much happier by the lake with the other ducks. 

Tis the Season for Farmer’s Markets

Summer is upon us which means that it is time for local fruits and vegetables! Farmers markets across the country are open and the first fruits and vegetables are coming in. Farmers markets can range in size and products. The little town I live near of Webster,SD (pop. ~1,950). Webster has a market each Tuesday, however the 2 weeks it has been open this season there has not been many vendors only 2 or 3. Today however I was in Aberdeen, SD (pop. ~26,000) and was able to stop by their market!

In the Dakotas there are not many fresh vegetables coming in right now. There were 2 vendors selling vegetables, but there were an abundance of other people selling goods they had made.
This gentleman was selling cheese his wife had made. It was very delicious!
The few people who had vegetables for sale had lines wrapping all around the 4 corners of the tent.

Honey, which is very good and sweet up here since it is from clover.
Lye soaps
breads..
and even a guitarist was a plucking away.
Elizabeth who is married to the preacher at the church I have been attending comes each week to sell some of her items and sweets. She is one of the craftiest people I know and has such cute things.
She hand paints little people and had on display today a super hero set, Disney princess set and a custom set of her family!
She also makes and sells dinosaur towels. Her little boy Isaac (who unfortunately was sick today) loves to parade around in it at the farmers market and at home after his bath. A little boy at the market modeled today.

She makes them in all kinds of colors for boys and girls. If you are interested in purchasing any of Elizabeth’s products she can be reached at elizabethopheim@gmail.com and is hoping to set up an Etsy shop soon!
Farmer’s markets are a great place to support local farmers and buy fresh produce. This is the time of the year to enjoy those fresh fruits and vegetables.
To find your local farmer’s market in Alabama you can go here: http://www.fma.alabama.gov/FMCounty.aspx 
To find farmer’s markets in other parts of the country use USDA’s market finder:

Seeing the Sights of the Black Hills

This last weekend a friend from Auburn was supposed to fly up to the Dakotas to visit and see the sights. Due to flight problems they were not able to come, but because I was already half way across the state I still decided to go on as planned. My first stop was in Wall, SD at Wall Drug Store. A fun, and free attraction as you get close to the Black Hills. They offer free ice water…why not stop?




I left wall and headed toward Mt. Rushmore. I had been previously with my Dad and Brady and loved it so much I wanted to go back. At dusk each day they have a lighting of the monument and a program explaining its importance and a little about the presidents on the mountain. It is definitely worth your time if you can be there at that time.



This particular Friday was also Flag Day. It was a beautiful evening and there were a lot of military men and women there and they were all recognized on stage.






Saturday I visited Wind Cave National Park. It is the 6th largest cave in the world, 3rd in the United States. It was very different from other caves I have been in. Not many stalactites and stalagmites. I am sure to spelunkers it was something to see. It looked like corrugated cardboard to me. It was very interesting and the $9 tour lasted an hour and a half. Definitely worth the money. And…you get to see buffalo! They are everywhere and if you aren’t careful you might just hit one at night.








After seeing Wind Cave I journeyed over into Wyoming and visited Devil’s Tower.





I was also able to drive over into Montana. The east side there is not much to see, but it was still pretty.



It turned out to be a great weekend trip. It was a wonderful weekend to be out and about seeing the sights of our beautiful country.




Wall Drug Store: You Have to Go Once

If you have ever traveled South of Montgomery, Alabama on US 231 I am sure you have seen one of the hundreds of Sikes and Kohn signs.



You see these signs for miles and if you aren’t familiar with the store your curiosity is peaked. I remember when I was in 7th grade we were coming back from Florida and I begged my parents to stop there. It wasn’t anything extremely special, especially the prices, but I was able to say I have been there. There is a similar marketing scheme in South Dakota used by Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD.

For miles you see their signs. I even saw one this weekend in Wyoming! The signs have many slogs and are all shapes and sizes.



Wall Drug store was started in Wall, SD at the edge of the Badlands back in 1931. At that time there was nothing to the town of Wall and the drug store struggled. Ted Hustead and his wife Dorthy were worried that they would not be able to stay in business. With Mt. Rushmore due to open in a few years they decided to stick it out. One hot night when Dorthy would not sleep she came up with the idea that they should offer free water to travelers. After all with it being so hot that was the one thing that people would want. The next few days Hustead and some local high school boys made signs to put along the road. Their idea worked, people started getting off the road to stop in Wall to get free ice water. They still offer “ice water” today. It is now more of a tourist trap, but one definitely worth seeing once if you are in the area.

The New York Times has described Wall Drug as “a sprawling tourist attraction of international renown and takes in more than $10 million a year and draws some two million annual visitors to a remote town.” The store is 76,000 square feet!

They actually do have a drug store. They also have a cafe, play area, and sell souvenirs, camping supplies, fudge, pottery, books, western art, clothes, etc. You name it they have it.
They still offer “free ice water” however they do not chip ice off a block like they used to. It comes from a water fountain and you drink it out of paper cone cups. However, it is not ice cold, a major disappointment (especially for a girl from the South who loves her ice water).
Wall Drug is a place you have to stop at least once, I have now been twice. Still a nice break from traveling and it is a free attraction! There are plenty of photo opps and room for the kids to run around and burn off some bottled energy. If you are on your way to the Black Hills definitely stop.