Spotlight: Sandi Kellogg (skellogg)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on April 18, 2011

"Oh give me a home where the Buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play." If you think that's only a song, then you need to meet Sandi. She's got one. It's in the Badlands, where Butch and Sundance reigned. She'll keep you glued to your seat in this interview.

 Recently I contacted Sandi, after she left a comment on Merigold's Spotlight interview, to ask her about the Badlands and living on a ranch in South Dakota. I mentioned that I'd be very interested in hearing all about it, and presenting her story in a Spotlight interview of her own. Her response was, “LOL! I 'bout rolled off my chair when I read this. I figure I'm about the most boring person on here! But the Black Hills, the ranching community and families homesteading in our part of the country are pretty interesting. So give me a couple of days, and I'll put some thoughts down and send them to you! Then you will see how boring I am!”


Boring?? Hardly! The following is what Sandi sent me. YOU decide if she's boring! I'll try not to interrupt much, because Sandi had a lot to say, and she doesn't really need any help from me!


Sandi: I really don’t think there is much too interesting about me personally, but where I live is fascinating and a great place to live and grow up! I am sure that I must have had the best childhood ever, and a wonderful family! To this day, we are all still very close.

I can give you a little background of my life. I am the second of four kids, two girls, two boys, in that order. All were born in South Dakota except for me, born in Virginia, right outside of Washington DC. Dad was a civil engineer in the Army Corp of Engineers and stationed there. So my first Easter egg hunt was on the White House lawn, but I’m sure my sister stole all my eggs anyway. We moved back to South Dakota as soon as we could, as Dad did not like the Army and the city life. Both sides of my family were in South Dakota, so it was and still is home.


Dad was by far one of the smartest people I have ever known. He grew up on the ranch his family homesteaded in the 1800’s, in the plains of SD, just west of the Missouri River. His family kept the ranch until Grandmother could no longer handle it herself and finally sold it in the early 1980’s.


Mom was a kindergarten teacher. In South Dakota, we lived in the “city” most of the time. So being raised in the city, and with Mom’s side finding society events important, we all grew up learning that side of things. We knew how to host the fanciest dinner parties, knowing which fork to use when, hobnobbing with the imp2011-04-14/nap/ce9b47ortant people, etc

Yet we also spent as much time as possible on the ranch helping out, or at least we thought we were helping!


We really did have the best of both worlds. Mom’s family made sure we knew about city life and society things, and Dad’s family made sure we knew about country life. I learned ballet, golf, piano, sports, etc. And how to drive a tractor, butcher chickens, feed the livestock, put up hay, can veggies, and all the rest. I am totally balanced and unbalanced both! I know a little about everything, it seems, and still am not sure if I know a lot about anything, and still don’t know what, if anything, I want to be when I “grow up” (though I am doubtful I will ever grow up anyway).


I was very fortunate in that my great-grandparents were still on the ranch as well, and I was 19 when my great-grandmother died, so I grew up having a very close relationships my great-grandparents.


The ranch was really part of a town named Hayes. Of course, we knew everyone in town. I think the population was 16 at its biggest, not counting the dogs and cats. Grandpa owned and operated the Hayes garage (repair shop) and gas station, while Grandma ran the ranch. The town consisted of four houses along with the Hayes Hall on one side of the highway, and on the other side of the highway was the school, the house the teacher lived in, the county garage, another house or two, the church, the store and post office.


The store and post office were the same building. Everyone had to come to town to get their mail, as there wasn’t any home delivery then. The post office closed several years ago, but the school house is still there, grades K-8. Then the kids have to move to town (about 35 miles away) for high school. We got to go to school there numerous times when staying at the ranch. One room school houses are a wonderful experience, and I think everyone should go to one to see what they are really like! Some of the kids rode horses to school, and if the weather turned bad, there were many times Granny fed and housed them all, horses and wagons included, until they could get home again, sometimes days later.


The store carried the basic necessities, like bread, milk, eggs, paper products, cereal, and such. Grandpa’s garage and gas station carried the pop, candy, beer, and anything and ev2011-04-14/nap/f55a40erything to fix whatever vehicle or equipment needed repairing.


Dad, being a country boy at heart, loved living in the hills even though we lived in town. So when weekends rolled around, he would have the car packed in minutes after arriving home from work, and off to the woods we would all go, camping. Hunting and fishing were a part of growing up for us. We learned gun safety and how to use firearms at an early age. We all still hunt and fish, and have taught our children to also.


After one year of college, I moved to Texas where I lived and worked with my Dad’s sister. I met a man and married him two years later. He had two boys from a previous marriage. Being the practical person I thought I was, I told him I wouldn’t marry him unless I knew I could handle raising two young boys still in diapers. The kids weren’t the problem though, and within just a few months of getting married, I knew it was a mistake. The bum was cheating on me. But of course, by that time I loved the kids too much to beat it out of there, so I had my daughter and stayed with him. She is by far the best thing out of that relationship, and having her was, and is, definitely worth all those miserable years. I did insist that we move back to the hills, because it was important for me to raise my family with a close extended family nearby. I raised all three kids until they were almost out of school before I divorced him.


In 2000, I married my favorite hunting and fishing partner! He is the most wonderful man, and he tolerates me better than anyone else would, I am sure. He is a third generation logger, being born and raised right here in the Black Hills. His family has been here for years, and his maternal great-grandfather was here in the late 1800’s as well. He is actually pictured in one of the pictures of Wounded Knee, burying Indians that were killed during the battle. So, there's a lot of history in both our families.


My husband knows the hills like the back of his hand, having grown up playing and working in the woods all his life. His parents actually built their house themselves, which is a wonderful log home in the Hills. For years, they did not have plumbing inside the house, so the kids grew up knowing what an outhouse was. We still use the outhouse at big family gatherings there, although they now have an inside bathroom. They still do not have their own well, but a cistern, so my mother-in-law hauls water every week or so.


My Mom’s folks had a little cabin in the hills where we also spent a lot of time growing up. It is actually an old deserted mining town named Novak. I am sure Grandpa bought it just so he could be the Mayor and Chief of Police. He actually hosted his many army buddies from WW1 every year for deer hunting and whatever else. Most of those years, Deadwood was a big excursion and adventure for them, as the “red light” district was still operational and very popular. I really don’t know if any of them actually shot any deer or not, as us kids weren’t allow2011-04-14/nap/0ee4aced at the cabin during those times, although my Dad was a cook and guide for them, lol!


A couple of years before Grandpa died, he sold the cabin, and we all still miss it terribly. 

It was always an adventure spending time there. Waking up in the middle of the night and needing to use the bathroom always scared the tar out of me when I was young.

I couldn’t count the number of times I waited almost too long until the coyotes quit howling, to go outside to the outhouse. I was sure they would have eaten me! The woods with its wild critters can be very scary for a little girl at night, and the outhouse was a very long way from the cabin!


Back in 1968, Dad and Mom bought a place outside of Spearfish. Just a small place, but Dad needed to be out of the "city."  He found an o2011-04-14/nap/1fc8b4ld trout farm and bought it. We now owned a fish hatchery in the country, and got to summer there! As soon as school was out for the year, we headed to the trout farm. Dad loved it! Claimed he could now run more head of livestock per acre than anyone else!


Our area economy is still mostly ranching, logging, mining and tourism, with both our families still involved in ranching. It really is a great place to live! We go out every year and cut our own Christmas trees, have some of the best hunting and fishing and camping in the world, and have simple honest values and live pretty simple lives. Family and friends are the most important things! We are pretty common, laid back, conservative God-fearing people. Not much for keeping up with the Joneses!


The way ranches are in this part of the country is probably not like everywhere else. I suppose that the average size is around 2000 acres, but there are a lot of places that are in excess of 10,000 or so. When you get into the Badlands and Plains areas, it will often take 35 acres to raise one cow and calf, so it takes a lot of land to feed several hundred cows!


Ranchers don't consider themselves to be farmers, but almost all of them raise alfalfa and some oats and seed corn for sileage to feed their livestock. But we don't call it farming, just putting up hay. And most places lease some ground from the state, or federal government for grazing too. We rotate all our pastures, mov2011-04-14/nap/2ff346ing the livestock from one pasture to a different one to maximize the best grass. Most of us keep  the livestock in close to buildings for calving and such, and try to keep them where we can get hay and feed to them easily during the winter. Most of us still use horses for moving the cows from one pasture to the next, even if it's 10 miles  away, just because it's easier and cheaper than hiring trucks to move them.



And in the spring time, after all the cows have calved and have a little growth on them, we all get together and brand them all. It's pretty common for all the area ranchers to plan branding from one ranch to the next, with everyone helping everyone else. We usually vaccinate and castrate and such at the same time. Some places use horses for this, and we rope the calves, drag them to the fire where the irons are kept hot, and we flank them and hold them by hand. Others have squeeze shoots, and run them in one at a time and do it that way. As you can imagine, it can still get pretty western.


But it's a great way to raise a family, in my opinion! Hard for kids to get into serious trouble when they are miles from town, and they all grow up knowing they have work to do and are expected to help with everything. And we either love it, or hate it, and those that hate it, move to the city and work, hoping they never have to come back! There are a lot of old family ranches, and if someone loses the place, for whatever reason, it breaks our hearts. It truly is a lifestyle where we do whatever we can to help folks, without ever giving it a second thought. No money ever changes hands, and it would never occur to us to offer, as someday we will need their help too. A lot of good old fashioned values. That's just the way it is.



(Nancy: By this point, I was2011-04-14/nap/338794 having a great time reading Sandi's memories but I  thought I should ask her a few questions, just to make it look like an interview! So I asked her to tell me about her hobbies, her work, her kids, her pets......and about a bike rally that she had hinted at.)


Sandi: My hobbies. I still camp, hunt and fish, and garden.

My work. I have done about everything at one time or another, but am in the insurance business for the last six to eight years, dealing primarily with seniors, medicare supplements, life, health, small business, etc. BORING! Due to my upbringing, I guess you can say I am a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I can do almost anything, don’t like doing some of it, and not great at any of it!


My daughter has now blessed us with the best grandsons! We have twin boys that will be three in a couple of weeks, and a grandson that will be two this Fall. We are lucky that they only live about 30 miles away, in the same town as the rest of our families, so we get to spoil and corrupt them often. Of course, it is our job to teach them to hunt, fish, camp and all about the woods and ranching and gardening, while my son-in-law's family will teach them about golf, mountain biking, snowboarding, and that type of stuff. And they are blessed to be able to grow up knowing their grandparents and great-grandparents as well as all of their aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, and ……

Wow, do we sound like a bunch of inbred redneck hillbillies or what?? Too funny!


Oh, forgot to mention my boys. One lives in Rapid City, and one lives in MO, but neither one have kept in touch much, unless they really want or need someth2011-04-14/nap/76df3aing. I guess they just figure that since I divorced their Dad they don't need to stay in touch, so never hear from them. But, they don't communicate with their sister or Dad much either. I'm still hoping that it's something they "outgrow" as they have no idea how they will regret that in the future.


Pets. We are the proud slaves of one 3-legged cat.  (DH named her. I wanted to name her TriPod, but he said no, that would give her a "complex", so he named her Dufus??!!)  And two Pembroke Corgis.  All three happily own us. They are all rotten to the core and happy to be that way, and they have DH and I trained well.


When we were younger, we had wonderful pets! Always dogs and cats, and usually a few bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, parakeets, the usual. But some of the more unusual ones were the chimp,2011-04-14/nap/f76ccf the South American anteater (now where my Dad came up with this I will never know), racoons, skunks, mountain lion cub, and I'm sure some I haven't remembered. The baby mountain lion had to stay at the ranch in Hayes. Raising mountain lions is not what I would recommend! But, that does remind me of a funny story ......


We have a good friend who ranches in South Dakota and raises buffalo. Well several years ago, Grizz decided to get some mountain lions to raise also, was going to make tons of money raising babies, so bought him a male and a female. Sam, the female, was a nice cat, and liked people, was pretty easy to work with, but Jake, the male, not so much. Now mind you, these were fully grown, so not something you want in your house. So they were in large pens, outside, and Jake wasn't the healthiest looking. Grizz's sis is a vet, and got him some medicine to give him for 2011-04-14/nap/6b9e3awhatever she thought it had, probably worms. Now she did not examine him, as she just didn't want to go into the pen with a rather mean fully grown mountain lion. But Grizz had this medicine, stopped at the bar I was managing, and asked DH if he will help him "doctor" Jake. DH said just mix the stuff in with his food, no problem. (Keep in mind that being involved with large and small animals, we all do a lot of our own doctoring. Much easier learning how to put in stitches, give injections, and such, on our own rather than hauling animals to the vets office miles away.) Well, seems the stuff she ordered for the cat was an injection! So Grizz says "I'll hold him, you give him the shot!" Needless to say, that did NOT happen . As it turned out, months later, that cat bit Grizz in the butt requiring numerous stitches! And of course, he had to come to the bar and show us all his stitches too!


And we had Sam, the old donkey, and after Sam died, SoDak, his replacement donkey, and numerous horses, lambs, chickens, geese, peafowl, guineas, a pet turkey now and then, and pretty much any kind of animal you could think of. I might mention, when we were young, all the "dime stores" sold little turtles, so we had those too. The problem with those little turtles was, there were 4 of us kids, and we couldn't tell them apart, so couldn't tell which one belonged to who. Caused many a squabble with us kids, until my older Sis & I got the bright idea of marking them all with a different color so we could tell them apart. So, we took out the fingernail polish, and promptly painted their shells all a different color. Little did we know, that turtles can't be painted. Apparently, they need their shells to be able to "breathe" and with fingernail polish on them, they can't; so we killed them all2011-04-14/nap/d5693e. We were devastated! Dad explained to us why they died, which just made us feel worse, but he did get us replacements.

About the only things we didn't get for pets were snakes, and that's just because Mom is deathly afraid of them!


Now, about the motorcycle rally. Sturgis, South Dakota, is a little town just down the road from Spearfish about 20 miles, and it hosts the rally. Turns Sturgis every August from a town of about 5000 people to a "town" of about 750,000 bikers from all over the world! Most of them are just the best bunch of people you could ever want to meet. Quite the educational experience. This year will be the 71st year, and the celebration is scheduled for August 8-14, but really lasts almost 3 weeks, as some come early or stay late, or both. Most come to enjoy riding in the beautiful hills, but there are all kinds of "entertainment" opportunities available.


I really miss working the bar during the rally! I met the most wonderful people, and have the best friends from all over the world because of it! Just like here on Cubits, only with these friends, I was able to meet them in person first! I still see most of them every year during the rally, and it's like a great big family reunion, only better! And if you love to people watch, there isn't a better place to be! You really will see anything and everything, and then some, if you want.


Working in the bar business was really great and the best job I ever had, especially when you count all the great people that I met over the years and all the wonderful friends I have now because of it! I wouldn't know where to start on bar stories, as there are just too many! Actually saw Sam Elliot one year during the rally, and Kevin Costner's parents lived right across the street from the bar owner. They are super people! Tons of great entertainers every year, and custom bike people, and bike gangs, every day people like us! If you need more things to put on y2011-04-14/nap/2ed2ccour list of "Things I Must Do Before I Die" this should be at the top!


So, what do you want to know about the Black Hills and/or South Dakota and when are you coming to visit? We actually still live in the Black Hills, just on the Wyoming side now, in a little town called Sundance, about 30 miles from Devil's Tower, where Close Encounters was filmed, so I can show you that too! And about 80 miles from Mount Rushmore. Sundance has it's own little bit of history too, as it is credited for giving the Sundance Kid his nickname! We are at the foot of Sundance Mountain, at an elevation of about 4700'. Sundance is actually the county seat, and is the largest town in the county, but we still do not have any traffic lights anywhere in town, or in the entire county. Cold winters, and lots of snow with short growing seasons, so gardening is always challenging, although can get very hot in the summer. I have actually seen it snow here on the 4th of July, so have seen snow every month of the year, although not every year, thank heavens!


I guess the reason I figure my life's not all that exciting is because pretty much everyone who has grown up here for generations, has the exact same story and upbringing, nothing unusual or out of the ordinary for here. Really, I hope someone enjoys it, as I still think that it's pretty common, and just kind of the way we all are. And I still think that you need to come out and visit! I always have an extra bedroom! You'll love it!


Nancy: I would LOVE to visit, and bring my camera! Maybe one day, when I don't have so many responsibilities at home (and if I'm not too old by then!), maybe I will call you and tell you to get a room ready for me because I'm on my way. I think you and your husband would be so much fun to hang out with. Maybe one day….


That's it for this week. Say hello to Sandi and leave some comments for her. You can view her photos larger if you click on them, and read their descriptions if you hover over them. Sharon will bring another Cubits member into our Spotlight next week, so we'll see you then.

Related articles:
Badlands, biography, Black Hills, interview, Old West, Ranch, Spotlight, Sturgis

About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
GREAT article and so interesting! Boopaints May 10, 2011 10:46 AM 6
...where the deer and the antelope play...♪ ♬ Sharon Apr 25, 2011 7:56 AM 64
Not boring at all! Trish Apr 22, 2011 8:35 AM 3
Not boring Ridesredmule Apr 21, 2011 8:33 AM 10
Absolutely delightful! Aguane Apr 21, 2011 7:45 AM 5
not a surprise Maridell Apr 19, 2011 6:52 PM 7

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