August 11, 2013

Carol Larson’s Acquired State of Contrast

South Dakota is a state of contrasts.  Those of us who grew up here talk about West River and East River South Dakota.  The state is divided from north to south by the Missouri River.  The area east of the river is rich farm land, softly rolling hills, fertile valleys and flat windswept prairie with a horizon that seems to go on forever.  At the most eastern edge of the state, Big Stone Lake meets Lake Traverse at the Continental Divide.  The water from Big Stone Lake flows south to join the Mississippi River as it winds its way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Lake Traverse flows northward into Hudson Bay in Canada. West of the river, the terrain  changes dramatically. At first, the land is dotted with grazing cattle, sunflower fields and ranches.  Further west it changes into the Badlands, barren, eroded, almost desert-like terrain with stark rock formations and flat topped buttes.  This area is best viewed at dawn or dusk when the striations in the rock are at their most colorful.  Furthest west is the Black Hills with the iconic Mount Rushmore and the evolving sculpture of Crazy Horse just beginning to take shape on the mountain.

Of course, South Dakota wasn’t always as it is now.  Once, millions of years ago, it was a shallow inland sea.  Shark’s teeth and fossils of sea   Dinosaurs roamed the western reaches of the state leaving behind fossils of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex.  Throughout the state, the Mammoth were abundant.  One of the oldest mammals, the pronghorn antelope, still lives on the plains of western South Dakota.  Great lumbering glaciers carved out the valleys of eastern South Dakota leaving behind lakes and hills.  Eventually the great, vast plains emerged along with the buffalo and the Native American tribes who depended on them for survival.  As homesteaders in covered wagons spread across the state in the late 1800’s, the prairie was plowed into farms and the Native Americans were forced onto reservations.  
shells are still found in granite quarries today.

Today, most of the population lives East River.  Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state.  Rapid City, at the foot of the Black Hills, is the second largest city.  In between, the number of farms is dwindling and   Some say that the stark, flat land of South Dakota is an acquired taste.  If so, then I have acquired it for I love the wide open spaces and endless blue skies of South Dakota. 
abandoned houses and barns dot the landscape.

I write historical fiction for teens and young adults. As a physician with a lifelong interest in the history of medicine, I have enriched each book with medical themes. Whether the heroine is delivering a baby in an 1886 farmhouse with Big Stone Heart or is tending to gunshot wounds in a blacksmith's cabin in 1883in The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice, the dash of medicine adds a unique touch to all of my books. My third book, The Baby Farm, Book II of the Secret Society of Sugar and Spice, is scheduled for release in October. All of my books are available at, barnes& and

Visit my website: for information on all my work and thanks for visiting my wonderful state.
(Pictures provided by author)


  1. What an interesting post, Carol. South Dakota is on my "bucket list" of places to visit, don't know if I will ever manage but you certainly have whet my appetite.

  2. I've never visited South Dakota but it sounds like a great place for a leisurely roam to find all sorts of treasures. My son-in-law, a nature photographer, visits at least once per year, usually in the fall for bird migration photography. Once, while he was traveling along a prairie road, he came across an abandoned stove sitting in a field. The oven door was missing and someone placed a sign on it that said 'open range'. I'd say the people of South Dakota have a rather dry sense of humor!

    Thanks for taking us on a trip to SD today.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  3. Carol,

    South Dakota is one of the three states I've never visited. And from your description, I'm really regretting it. Love the idea of incorporating medical knowledge in the books. Kids today have so much they need to learn and that sounds like a marvelous way to introduce more history and let them appreciate what they have today.

  4. Great blog. I've never been to S. Dakota, but perhaps one day I'll get to that region. I actually know two people from Rapid City. I think your books sound intriguing, especially with the link to medicine as part of the history. I'll have to check them out for my granddaughter. Keep writing and lots of luck.

  5. I've never visited the Dakota but would certainly like to do so. Thank you for the interesting description.
    Your novels are intriguing as well.
    I no longer work as a school librarian but I believe some of the very best books are written for children and teens.

  6. We left at midnight and drove straight through (from Illinois) to Rapid City for our honeymoon. We camped in the Black Hills, and it was a wonderful area! Mystical as well as encouraging you to feel close to worshiping the natural beauty around you. We also drove through the Badlands, but had been camping for 3 days with no showers or running water by then. All I had to hear from a neighbor was that there were snakes and scorpions in the area...I freaked! I told my husband if he still wanted to be married to me longer than a week, he'd better get me to a motel with a hot shower! He did, and we'll celebrate 30 years next year.

    We had a wedding photo done at one of those old-timey places in Keystone, at the foot of the Black Hills. Almost 20 years later we drove out there with all 4 kids to do some camping, and we had another photo taken at the same place, with a bar setting: husband was the gunslinger, I was sitting on the bar wearing garters, oldest son was holding a bottle behind the bar, 2nd son had a gun, third son was a mountain man, and daughter was a cowgirl...what fun memories!

    We liked it out there, and we'll probably be back once all of them are done with college and we can think about traveling again.

  7. I grew up in Montana, so we were once "neighbors." My sister-in-law used to live in Brookings, so we drove through to visit her.
    Your books sounds great!

  8. I've been in South Dakota before, but it's been years. I have distant relatives in a small town near the Minnesota border, including the grave of my grandfather's grandmother.


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