Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Home is still the place I grew up

Wick's World


I have lived in many places, but like many people, home is still the place where I grew up. For me, that town is Chamberlain, South Dakota. After being mostly absent for the past half-century, I find myself going home more frequently in my later years.

I first began returning to Chamberlain a few years ago because of an invitation by a friend from my old Cub Scout troop. He persuaded me to join him and several other old buddies from the past at his pheasant-laden farm. Like many South Dakotans, he accommodates pheasant hunters willing to pay exorbitant fees for the privilege of watching colorful feathers explode in a blue South Dakota sky. After the Georgians, Texans and Californians have returned to their balmy winter homes, we hardy Midwesterners don our boots and parkas. We lace our bodies in road-work orange and head out to the prime pheasant hunting grounds that our friends save for us homeboys.

If this attraction isn’t lucrative enough to get me back home each year, there are always weddings, graduations and more recently in life, funerals. This week I had the prospect of returning to a funeral no one was ready for. It was one of those occasions where a person not yet of departing age receives a dreadful diagnosis from the doctor. The one more year of life they had hoped for suddenly turns into a few short weeks.

The night before the funeral and following the wake and evening viewing, there was still a lot of daylight left spreading out over the river and open prairie. Rather than returning to my motel room, I decided to take a spin around the old home town. This time was different than my drives in the past. I was drawn to the back alleys and side streets — the roads not normally taken. I drove up the self-described street we called Toboggan Hill. As I neared the top, I pulled over and got out of the car. Lo and behold, there was still a very small path going down the side of the hill that led to American Creek. I often took that trail from my home located a half block from the bowling alley to get down to the river.

While growing up in Chamberlain, I had always been drawn to the river. That was inevitable. For the first five years of my life, we lived in the house that was the closest one in town to the Missouri River. This was before the Big Bend Dam became a reality. Tonight was a good time to search for the location of my first home.

I drove from Toboggan Hill over to Clemmer Street and took a right turn toward the river. I parked on the south side of Barger Park and got out of my car. I rewound my internal clock 65 years to the time when I was a 5-year old. Was it possible to retrace the greatly changed landscape and find the place where I was taken home from the hospital as a newborn?

This wasn’t the first time I had tried. This was, however, the first time I actually walked off the area. I was equipped with the knowledge that after the Army Corps of Engineers purchased our house in lieu of the widening of the Missouri River, our family always said, “We moved straight up the hill on Clemmer Street.”

We all knew, however, this statement was not quite correct. Our small road that led down the hill to the river and the large railroad yard that existed up until the early 1950s was not quite directly in line with Clemmer Street.

I walked into Barger Park for a few yards and somehow distinctly knew when to walk toward the river. The huge pink rocks used as rip-rap were easily descended. I reached the bottom to find myself standing on a small patch of sand. From there, I got a view of the entire landscape. Somehow, I knew this was the site where I would return when my time was up.

I spoke at the location of the old home place, “I’ll see you again in 30 years.”


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