Thursday, July 12, 2012

The SoDak Files - Bison and Choke Cherry Pie Recipes


by Klecko

If you want to discover America
If you want to understand it's heart
Go to Washington D.C.

Where you'll find documents
Monuments and laws
Installed to govern the thoughts
Of your brethren

If you want to discover America
If you want to know its soul
Go to the prairies of South Dakota

Where you'll find buffalo
Hoping to be witnessed in silence
And if this is done
No further explanation will be needed

LAB RATS....ready?

3-2-1 and let's get started.

Close to 40 years ago, little Sue McGleno stood in the driveway of her house, the paneled station wagon was packed, and within 30 minutes her family was about to head out toward the Black Hills.

Being a little too amped, little Sue McGleno ran over to the near by school, hopped up on the monkey bars, and then proceeded to fall off and break her arm.

Her family never rescheduled the trip.

Over the decades, Sue McGleno has lamented her "Lost Moment", and often times she gets really pissed off when me and other family members accuse her of spending 6 digits at a therapist to deal with the high levels of grief this situation has created.

Over the years she has hinted that I should take her and the kids to the Black Hills, and maybe we could stay at a quaint campground right?

Nadda-Nadda Enchilada - Klecko doesn't do tents.

Have I mentioned that I've never slept with my family in a tent?

Anyways, I ended up renting a suite (equipped with HBO) at the Custer National Park. We stayed at the State Game Lodge.

The brochure mentioned that American Presidents had slept there, but I forget which ones.

So we drove-and drove, and drove, and drove and drove across the flat state of South Dakota and end up finding the lodge.

Custer State Park is the nations 2nd biggest national park (Yellowstone's #1) and is 72 000 acres.

In the midst of this impressive territory is a rolling prairie, every bit as big as Luxemburg or Delaware .

When a gentle breeze passes through, and the grass bends and you feel as if you are on the ocean. It's beautiful.

Like most vacation spots, there was tourist trap stuff, in this instance there was a company that plops 6 people into a Jeep and takes you on a buffalo safari. This reserve is so huge, it actually houses multiple buffalo herds.

So before ya know it, me and Sue McGleno were in this Jeep with a family of 4 from Milwaukee and a driver named Merle who was retired and originally from Texas.....

The Jeep pulls out, the safari begins, and Merle starts telling us stories and canned jokes over a make shift P.A. system.

"Over to your right is the such and such flower." he says...."They sure are pretty huh? Some old gal told me that this plant was somewhere over in Rome a couple thousand of years ago. Now if you look over there at 10 O' clock, you'll see the donkeys. Can you make out the one with the stripe on his hind quarters? I've been told that's the same donkey type as the one that the Christ rode on Palm Sunday."

Merle was a good guy.

Over the couple hours we spent with him, he told us and the Milwaukee peeps all about his wife, children and how the Methodists in Nebraska (where he spent part of his off season) needed to be kinder to church visitors, like the Methodists in Texas do.

"See that range over there?" our tour guide asked......

"That was purchased by some French people in the late 1800's, but eventually the sold their land to the government who wanted to expand the park, but under the condition that they left the grave of their baby boy intact."

Then our Jeep chugged over towards the pile of rocks that had covered the infants remains for 110 years.

That story creeped me out, but within moments Merle switched topics.....

"Ya'll know what choke cherries are?"

All of his passengers sat stupefied. 

"Really, not a one of ya huh?"

Then he went on to tell us that the choke cherry was the staple fruit of the Native Americans in the Dakota's.

"The Misses should be down here to pick some of these in a few weeks for pie. Birds, love choke cherries too, but they sure are tart. I like it best when she blends them with rhubarb."

Then finally...........we pulled into a herd of buffalo.

There was hundred's of them.

At one point America had millions of them, but after the whites slaughtered them to jerk with the Native Americans food source, they almost went extinct.

I have stood within herds of animals before, and I always have loved the feeling, but I have to tell you, these buffalo's were special.

Like many of you, I remember the scene in Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" movie when the herd stampedes through his back yard, but to be there amongst them, it was kinda....I don't know, kinda bizarre.

I really don't want to come off as "New Age" guy, but I do have to say that in those old western movies, the ones where the Cowboys and Indians discuss the Buffalo having a spirit that overwhelms.......

I'm not going to disagree.

I went to South Dakota to fulfill a dream of my wives, or if nothing else to cross an entry off of her bucket list.

Instead, I found a moment of absolute-complete peace.

That almost never happens in my life.

The Buffalo Spirit simply can't be explained, not by me anyway.

Choke Cherry Pie   

2 cups chokecherry juice 
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 - 9 inch baked pie shell

Combine the ingredients in saucepan.

Cook ingredients until thick, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.


Pour into pie shell and place in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Serve with whipped cream or if you are a Pollack....Cool Whip

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