What do a drug store in the middle of nowhere, the Badlands and The Netherlands have in common?
It took me traveling to all three to see the common thread. You’ll have to muddle through this blog for the answer!
This month I have, weirdly enough, had the opportunity to journey from The Netherlands of Europe to the Badlands of South Dakota. The topography of the two areas couldn’t be more different, but both owe their landscapes, in large part, to water.
Netherlands literally means “lower countries” which is more than apt since only about half of The Netherlands is three feet above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are artificial with about 17 percent being reclaimed from the sea since the late 16th century.
The Badlands are as dry as the Netherlands are wet, but it’s the power of erosion wrought by wind and water that formed the Badlands.
The Badlands were called “mako sica” or “land bad” by the Lakota people. French-Canadian fur trappers in the early 1900’s dubbed it “les mauvais terres pour traverse” or “bad lands to travel through.” It’s easy to understand why. Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and rugged terrain make it a hostile environment.
Today, from the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicles, we can focus on the geologic definition as we tour the Badlands National Park. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded (by wind and water) in a dry climate. The result are some breathtaking vistas.
Water also played a role in creating a manmade tourist attraction in the area as well. While in the Badlands National Park, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to visit Wall Drug in Wall, SD.
For literally hundreds of miles across the prairies of South Dakota, I saw the billboards advertising Wall Drug. After what seemed like the one hundredth billboard, I googled the store, proving once again that advertising works.
I learned that it all started in 1931 with a free glass of ice water. Dorothy and Ted Hustead bought the drug store in the tiny town of Wall and were on the verge of going bust until Dorothy had a great idea. She suggested her husband make lots of little signs offering free ice water and place them at intervals on the side of the highway. Advertising works and pretty soon the Husteads had a thriving business that has grown ever since.
Today, Wall Drug is a 76,000-square-foot menagerie of Americana.
So whether it’s The Netherlands, the Badlands or Wall Drug, water is the tie that binds.
And this lucky human, who is 60 percent water, saw all three this September.