South Dakota, I hope you never change

By Gray Hughes

Members of Hill City Cub Scout Pack 10 pose with the food they collected for the Little White Church’s food pantry Nov. 3. The pack collected over 200 pounds of food to donate to the food pantry after dropping off bags for Hill City residents to collect canned food in their cabinets.

I was born in a little place called Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Maryland’s geography, the Eastern Shore is the portion of the state to the east of the Chesapeake Bay bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

I moved to the Black Hills in August. I have visited South Dakota and the Black Hills before—my mom, stepdad and little sister moved to Rapid City in 2015—but I never got to experience the area that only living here can provide.

I was nervous when I moved here. I never lived outside Maryland’s Eastern Shore or the Philadelphia metropolitan area known as the Delaware Valley. I didn’t know what to expect.

Where I was born, the people aren’t exactly the nicest. The stereotype of Philadelphians is true. We are loud, passionate people who aren’t afraid to tell you what we think. Don’t believe me? Google the 700 Level at the old Veterans Stadium or sit in traffic on the Blue Route.

Where I grew up, people think they’re nice, but there are a lot of people who moved to the area from Baltimore, Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia areas—including myself. The people who are truly from the Eastern Shore are nice, but there are a lot of people from the big cities to ruin it. I pride myself on being a nice, polite person. Everyone gets a ma’am or sir, I hold the door open for people and I try to help people whenever I can.

Those of you who are lucky enough to call the Black Hills home, though, take that to the next level.

People will ask you how you are doing, and they are truly interested in the answer. People here aren’t afraid – or embarrassed – to be nice. They’ll let you in on the highway. If you see your neighbor at the store, they’ll talk to you instead of looking the other way and pretending they didn’t see you while you do the same.

You can strike up a conversation with the cashier at any time. People come and visit us at the newspaper to talk to us—and support us—rather than emailing us. Here, it’s face-to-face time rather than Facetime.

In the Black Hills, you can’t go 100 yards without some sort of charity food drive. I love it.

The amazing people of the Black Hills made a complete outsider in myself feel like he belongs somewhere. The hospitality myself and my girlfriend—who moved here when I moved here—have received has been unending, and for that we are truly, truly appreciative.

The people here, though, aren’t the only nice things about the area.

In Philadelphia, it’s a city. Yes, there are pockets of nature, but they are often overcrowded with litter strewn about.

The Eastern Shore is rural with chicken, soybean and corn farms dotting the landscape, but make no bones about it—it’s about as suburban of a rural area as one could come across. Traffic is still common in some areas, especially around Ocean City in the summer.

The Black Hills are absolutely breathtaking. The views, the peaks, the trees— they’re all beautiful. My girlfriend and I have tried our best to get out into nature whenever we can here, and we just purchased our season passes for Terry Peak so we can get out into nature during the winter.

While the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay are beautiful, the Black Hills are just as beautiful, if not more.

People of the Black Hills, all I am saying is: you are nice. Very nice. The scenery is nice.

I hope it never changes here.