This last couple of words is not meant to insult the South Dakotans, though. Very little has been actually easy about setting up these idyllic towns, and Brookings was the best of them by far having the added angle of academic and cultural highlights sometimes lacking in others. The settlers had come in to a windswept nothing – a big grassy plain with bison on it, and they had not had an easy time working with the Sioux there. Crops failed, cattle died. People suffered. If you fell foul of some illness or tragedy, it was pretty much up to you alone to pick yourself up and start again. There were no safety nets, no social services. You had to do it yourself. Even the basic chores were all done by hand. You extracted or carried your own water, you found ways of heating your home from whatever soil or shrub you could find around. You ate what you could grow, rear or hunt for.
No, what I meant by easy living is that the South Dakotans make it look easy. And they are relaxed and pleasant and friendly.
I’ve mentioned the film Fargo, a film full of violence and gore, but what always appealed to me was the calmness of many of the “local” characters who matter of fact get on with life. The film slightly overdoes the deadpan nature and their touch of naivety. Yes they talk a little slower than most Americans, and much more quiet (nothing wrong with either of those traits), but to me the characters here in the real Dakotas were funny, intelligent and with diverse interests, set in a rock solid sense of where they are and how they coped.