Lawrence County SD CITIES: Central City, Cheyenne Crossing, Deadwood, Lead, Nemo, Saint Onge, Spearfish, Whitewood
LODGING: Deadwood, Lead, Nemo Guest Ranch, Spearfish

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by Ruthie Zdunski at

   My mother (b: 1910) tells this story of being a small girl in Deadwood, SD around 1915. 

     Every year, a watermelon farmer would open up his fields at the end of the season so that anyone and everyone could have all the watermelons they could carry.

     My mother, then about age 5, and her elder brother, probably 6 or 7 years of age, started out with their little wagon to bring home as many watermelons as they could carry.

     After picking all the watermelons they could possibly stack on their wagon, they set out for home, but dusk was approaching. The wagon was heavy and it was all the two of them could do to pull it together.    

     As it got darker and darker, the coyotes began to howl and the two kids were frightened. At each howl, one or the other or both of them would give the wagon a jerk to tug it faster and, with each jerk of the wagon, a watermelon would fall off. At first, they tried to pick up the watermelons that hadn't broken, but after awhile, all they wanted to go was to get home safe and sound. 

    By the time they managed to get home, they had only two melons left in the wagon and instead of having kudos heaped on them, they were sent to bed without dinner and especially without any watermelon. 


Jean and Elwood Fairweather in Deadwood, SD circa 1904.

There is a post script to this story.  -- Many years later, my family (then living in Pennsylvania) decided to visit Deadwood, SD. Lo and behold, "Watermelon" Smith was still there in the 1960s. And you know what? He gave us a watermelon!


~ submitted by: Ruthie Zdunski

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