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Philip to Ft. Pierre wagon train concludes

by Lonis R. Wendt

The final chapter of the Historic Bad River Trail Scotty Philip Memorial Ride from Philip to Fort Pierre ended at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, July 23, when Pony Express Co-chairman Bob Iverson handed over a mailbag full of letters to Fort Pierre Postmaster Jim Lahman at the entrance to the still sandbagged Fort Pierre Post Office.

The letters were carried from Fort Pierre to Philip by Pony Express riders, picking up mail along the way, and were then returned to Fort Pierre via a replica of an original Deadwood stagecoach.

An evening supper, program, auction and dance open to the public and participants followed.

The trail riders and support people survived record-setting heat with no serious personal injuries or illness. Minimal problems with the 200 plus animals were quickly dispatched by veterinarians along for the ride. Some of the planned river crossings had to be averted due to high water and steeply eroded banks, but the beauty of the lush, green Bad River valley was an awesome and glorious sight to behold.

Ranchers and landowners were graciously on hand to meet and share the momentous occasion at their respective ranches, despite the hot, humid weather. Philip presented its community with a newly sculpted bust of Scotty Philip, a fact-laden speech by grandniece Sheila Philip, exciting horseraces, games, food, poets, bluegrass interlude and a dance.

The town of Midland had its own celebration, including games, hot baths, saloon, roping, roundtable storytellers, poets and local rancher Mark Nelson portraying a lifelike Scotty Philip.

On the famous Turner buffalo ranch, a herd of nearly 3,000 buffalo were observed strung out across a wide range of grassy buttes and prairie, presenting a spectacular view, mindful of the description Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote in 1804. The visible buffalo are descendants of the Scotty Philip/Fred Dupree buffalo herd. Turner Ranch manager Tom LaFave brought a baby buffalo for all to have a close-up view if desired.

One evening of thunder and sharp lightning reminded us of how handling cattle out on the open prairie was experienced by the real old-time cowboys sleeping out under the stars. A loud, piercing train whistle during the early morning hours brought excitement to the camp and caused a few horses to bail out of their pens.

Evening programs brought local history to life, memories, lore and the "way it was" presentations, which were recorded for future generations. Special music was presented by Clarice Roghair, Harney Hohrman and his Prairie Dust band, and The Gospel Gentlemen.

It was another memorable week of reliving cowboy life and creating West River South Dakota history. The sponsoring Verendrye Museum Association was assisted by over 70 members and volunteers.