Savage Words: I’m certainly no outdoorsman, but I’m drawn to rivers

Tom A. Savage, Contributing Writer

Tom A. Savage/BV Journal 

The Big Sioux River makes its way through Gitchie Manitou State Preserve separating Iowa from South Dakota. 


I’ve always had a thing for rivers.

Not sure why. I’m not much of an outdoorsman. Actually, I’m not at all an outdoorsman.

I’ve never gone hunting. The last time I went fishing was with my father about 10 years ago. I went more frequently as a child, but even then, I always felt bad for the damn fish.

I’ve never been camping. Ever. Unless you count the time when my father, brother and I slept in our van outside of Turn 2 at Knoxville Raceway about 45 years ago after one of the qualifying nights at the Knoxville Nationals. But, I’m fairly certain that’s not what people mean when they say “camping.”

I know I’m the weird one here. It seems everybody in South Dakota goes camping. I’ve just never done it. When I ask people what they’re doing for the weekend and they respond with, “we’re going camping,” I’m not even sure what that means.

ME: “Going camping? What are you going to do?”

THEM: “We’re camping. What do you mean what are we going to do? We’re camping, you idiot.”

ME: “But what does that mean…camping? Like, what do you do?”

THEM: “We sit around, talk, and camp.”

I never got it, and I rarely pressed the issue much past that. But again, I’m the odd one on this issue. I might be the only person I know who’s never been camping. There’s no doubt I’m missing out on something here. I’ve just never done it.

I’ve gone horseback riding only once. 


We went for a ride when I was dating my future wife, probably back in 1988 or so. The horse’s name was – and I kid you not – Sunshine. Sunshine had very little interest in having me on his back. After about a minute of riding, Sunshine bolted like a rocket ship and sent me flying over the top as he came to an immediate stop.

I got up, dusted myself off, and walked back to the barn. 

All of that being said, my fascination with rivers has always been perplexing to me. I love to watch them meander, listen to them bounce over a log or series of rocks, and watch them slowly carve out what the landscape will look like.

Mankind is powerless against what a river will do. A river works on its own timeline and meticulously decides how things will look. I respect that.

When I lived in Indianapolis and had the opportunity to work one week per month from South Dakota, I crossed the Mississippi River every four weeks. And every time I did it, it was an uneasy feeling coupled with respect for the massive river underneath me. Every time I approached the I-74 Bridge that connected Iowa to Illinois over the Mississippi, I always held my breath for a moment as I peered over the side to look at the massive river.

Now, every time I cross a bridge in the area, I slow, peek over the edge and look at the river or creek. A river changes the landscape daily. A log that was there yesterday, is likely gone today. It’s always changing.

No disrespect to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s beautiful out there. But to me, the prettiest part of South Dakota is the area between Brandon and Sioux Falls. The way the Big Sioux River and Split Rock Creek carve their way through the fertile farmland in the area is magnificent.

The recent rain we’ve received has really made the Big Sioux River and its tributaries come to life. It makes my drive back-and-forth between Sioux Falls and Brandon that much better as I slow down and soak it all in.

I may not have the outdoorsman gene, but my appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors around Brandon is something I cherish every day.



The Brandon Valley Journal


The Brandon Valley Journal
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Brandon, SD 57005
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