One benefit of this campground’s location — miles from the closest settlement, I mean — is that once the sun is down and the sky is dark, it’s freakin’ dark. There’s virtually no light to intrude on the big night sky.
It’s a stargazer’s dream.
Late last night, Deb and I laid back in our camp chairs and marveled at the universe arrayed over our heads. The Milky Way was clearly visible. Mars twinkled red. The constellations were distinct. The Perseid meteor shower, at its peak last night, treated us to shooting stars.
We experienced another moment beyond compare.
It must’ve been ten years ago that Deb stumbled across the real-estate listing. It advertised a town for sale — a collection of run-down buildings, including a bar, a café and a truck-repair shop, on six acres in the middle of The Great Plains.
The town was Swett, South Dakota. The asking price was $400,000.
She and I talked whimsically about buying it and moving there. I’d be the mayor and Deb would be the town marshal (so she could requisition a milsurp MRAP). A sales rep who called on our shop got on-board, and we had a role for her, too.
We were never truly serious about it, but the subject became fun to talk about over the years. Still, we wondered what it’d be like to see Swett in person.
Today, we did.
Scout and Dipstick joined us for the hundred-mile drive, most of the time crashed out in Mercy’s back seat. We followed State Route 73 from the Interstate — smooth pavement and long, sweeping curves carved through rolling grassland, field crops and pasture. We even saw antelope grazing on wheat stubble.
Cresting a rise south of Kadoka, suddenly the landscape changed — a stretch of badlands (the topographic feature, not the national park) spread out before us. It was other-worldly, striking, beautiful.
We swung west on US Route 18 and slow-rolled through the town of Martin (home of the Martin Livestock Auction & Café). Several miles later, Swett came into view. We eased into the overgrown parking area and shut off Mercy’s engine.
Swett is a collection of decrepit, dilapidated, abandoned structures — a true ghost town. “No Tresspassing” signs are posted everywhere. Last we heard, the price had been reduced to $250,000.
We’re still not buying it.
We strolled around, took a bunch of pictures, fired up Mercy and turned back the way we came. Passing through the badlands a second time we struck a slower pace, pulling off the road at one point to absorb the scene.
Our trip to Swett checked a box on our bucket list. Never in a million years did we think we’d ever actually go there, but we did.
I’m pretty sure no one else would do such a thing. Isn’t that just like us?
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.