Bird’s Eye View of a Wildfowl State – Small Town America

It was getting close to lunch time so I headed back to the car, stopping off to obtain my own little piece of pipestone from the gift shop, and I drove into town.  I had not had much breakfast and was looking forward to a brunch.  Once more I steered clear of the McDonalds, Wendy and KFC on the main road strip and headed into the centre of Pipestone itself.  The old town was barely three blocks by two, and I parked up on the side of one of the wide streets and started to explore.  Two things worked against me; one was this was Sunday so very little in the way of shops or cafes were open in the main town.  The only place serving brunch was an old style hotel.  I decided I would take a wider tour of the town centre before plumping for my restaurant so headed on out of town.  On the edges of the old town were a few of the grander institutions, a rather handsome court house, a few churches, a couple of nice old 19th century villas.  But still no areas buzzing with life.  The streets indeed were almost deserted.  The occasional car would lazily cruise past me on a street.  One or two children were playing on swings in green squares.  But this was small town America on a Sunday and it was shut.

So back into the main town I went.  The buildings downtown were substantial versions of the old wild west.  Two storey buildings at best, possibly with an awning.  But they were built of deep red quartzite from Sioux Falls or imported rock.  You could see at sometime this town had been quite prosperous; when the railroad was built through the area it became a great impetus to develop a hub that served both the quarrying and agricultural communities around.  Indeed Pipestone became an important junction for lines at one time spreading out in seven directions.  But both of those industries struggle in the modern world and now only one through railroad dissects the town.  Only scraps of modern America had reached here and some of those, like the strip of 7-11, super 8 and Esso gas station on the east side of town, were none to glamorous.

The town had preserved its centre well, but not just because it was Sunday, the second thing which worked against me was Pipestone did not look a thriving town.  Whereas Brookings had a quiet confident buzz about it, this looked like it was just holding on to what it had already achieved.

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Downtown Pipestone

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