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Pierre City Guide

by Jack Diamond
Click here for Pictures Pierre Travel Pictures
Pierre South Dakota - Capital BuildingFamous for: Capital of South Dakota; Oahe Dam; Fort Pierre, Gateway to the West; Not being pronounced correctly by outsiders.

Overview: On March 30, 1743 two French Canadian explorers, Chevalier La Verendrye and his brother Louis La Verendrye stumbled across a wide place in the Missouri river where some Indians were fishing.  The two Canucks explained to the Indians that they were from the government and were here to help.  They then buried a lead plate proclaiming the entire area as the property of France and took off for parts unknown.  Sometime in the late 1700’s a trading post was established in that area, and on April 30, 1803 the place changed hands when President Jefferson closed the sweetest real estate deal in the history of the world.  In 1830 the US Army built Fort Pierre, took one look at what they’d done and headed back East.  Much later the South Dakota State Capital of Pierre was established, and things got better.

Pierre, South Dakota claims a population of 13,939, which includes all the folks living in the grave yard, all the people that the government thinks live in Pierre, and all the folks that other folks believe live in Pierre.  The per capita income of Pierre is listed as $20,462, another number generally regarded as larger than last year’s fish story.  Pierre South Dakota SD prarie high desert The area in and around Pierre is high desert, so there are no trees.  There aren’t any buildings, either; Just miles and miles of rolling prairie with not a soul in sight.

If you like whiskey, beer, guns, hunting and fishing you’ll fit right in.  If your personal motto is, “Leave your neighbor alone.  The poor bastard has enough trouble already.” so much the better.  If not, keep driving.  You’ll save wear and tear on yourself and the entire populace of South Dakota.  But if getting full of whiskey and driving your car down main street while shooting at street lights is something you’ve always secretly wanted to try, keep reading.  You may have found paradise on earth right here in good old South Dakota.

Here’s the deal with Pierre.  First off, it isn’t pronounced like you’re saying it; Pee-Air.  It’s pronounced peer, as in group, pressure and long walk off a short… well, you understand.  The locals are sensitive about this.  Get with the program.

If you want to find out the latest news about town, you have to visit three places: Teton River Traders Gun Shop, Diamond Dave’s Tack Shop (Fort Pierre) and The Possum Lodge.  Here’s the procedure.  Sometime before noon amble on over to the gun shop and find the poor but honest gun trader of South Dakota, Commander Cody.  Nose around the shop a little and hold a few of the rifles, then ask after the latest news.  He’ll say that not much is happening, but if you get him talking you can find out the latest news about town.  Stay as long as you like, as Cody is real hospitable.  Around two or three in the afternoon, get a six pack and head over to Diamond Dave’s.  There’ll be three or four cowboys at Dave’s, all willing to talk about anything.  Offer to buy a round and ask what’s new.  After the expected “Not much”, they’ll start re-hashing the latest news.

When you’re finished at Diamond Dave’s, go and get your dinner.  Later on after dinner you can head over to the Possum Lodge and order a beer or two.  If R.W.  is around, he’ll talk to you about what’s new, as will Miss Vickie.  If neither are there just then, wait for someone to offer a political criticism of our government in action and join in with the alcoholic approval, especially if said approval involves the “God-Damn bleedin’ heart gun grabbin’ commie liberals, ruinin’ the whole country.” On no account should you try to stick up for the liberals.  If you bought a new gun from Cody, now would be a good time for show and tell.  Make sure it's not loaded.

If you can hold your beer, you’ll probably want to go out drinking and tearing around town.  Here’s something to keep in mind.  When you cross the Missouri river, the time changes.  You fall back an hour when you’re West of the Missouri.  So what you can do is go out drinking in Pierre until everything closes at 2:30 AM.  After that you can just jump in your pickup truck and high ball it across the bridge to Fort Pierre, where you can drink for another hour until 2:30 AM again.  After the bars in Fort Pierre close down, you can get into somebody’s pickup truck and high ball it back across the bridge to either get breakfast or get back to the hotel, or what ever.  Sounds like a helluva lotta fun, right?

And it would be, if not for the police in Pierre.  The cops in Pierre take a dim view of people who get good and lit before driving their pickup truck around town or across the bridge.  You may find this hard to believe, but the Pierre cops have caught on to the little game of bar hopping, time zones and bridges, and they make it their policy to wait and catch drunks crossing the bridge.  If you’re sober, the cops should leave you alone, right? Wrong, bozo.  Pierre cops love to hassle civilians crossing the bridge, and they tend to fish for drunks by stopping people for “exceeding the speed limit”, having one tail light out (which is mysteriously no longer out if you check) or any other minor infraction either of you can think of. 

Stay in Pierre for any length of time, you’re going to want to leave… and go gambling at the Indian Reservation, locally known as “the Rez”.  The Native Americans have established low stakes gambling on their reservation, and the casino (there is only one) is pretty nice.  Do not:

1.  Get loaded, cut up and act like an ass hat.  These people invented the bum’s rush and you’ll finish your little holiday in the sneezer, sans any money or valuables you might have been carrying. 

2.  Forget to take your pistol with you.  Better yet, keep a good rifle in the trunk as well.  If you’re one of these idiots who needs to ask if the rifle should be loaded, skip the whole trip and stay safe.

3.  Stay out there after dark.  The Indians will shoot at you.  No, I’m not kidding.

Pierre South Dakota SD barn house architecture Pierre is a great place to stop and see before moving right along to Mount Rushmore and, eventually, Los Angeles, California.  The best part about Pierre are the people who live there, all of whom are friendly and willing to help out someone who’s in a bad way.  If you break down on the highway, someone will stop and see if you’re OK.  When you pass people as you drive, they’ll wave at you.  Likewise, they’ll say “Howdy” as you pass on the street and most will stop and talk a while.  If you see someone carrying his (or her) rifle, don’t make a fuss.  This is normal.  You can’t get lost in Pierre, because all you have to do is keep driving around and you’ll eventually get where ever it is you want to go.  Discounting the Rez and drunks, the crime rate in Pierre is practically zero.

Have fun, and don’t drive on the sidewalk.

Quotes: “We love our dogs more than we love our wives.  Hell, I can get a new wife anytime, but a real good huntin’ dog is hard to find.” Any Hunter, Pierre, SD.  “Are you going to leave the key under the mat, or just leave the door unlocked?” Cable Guy.  “OK, just shut the lights off when you leave.” Official at the Pierre airport when the last person left after the eleven o’clock flight told him she was waiting for her husband.

Books About: Looking for History on Highway 14 by John E.  Miller; South Dakota Leaders: From Pierre Chouteau, Jr., to Oscar Howe by Herbert T.  Hoover and Larry J.  Zimmerman; Pierre and Fort Pierre, South Dakota (Images of America Series) by Jan Cerney; Silting of stock ponds in land utilization project area SD-LU-2 Pierre, South Dakota (Special report) by L.  C Gottschalk

Architecture: Basic.

Attractions in Pierre: South Dakota State Capitol

Attractions close to Pierre: Fort Pierre; Oahe Dam; Cowboy Museum (if it’s open).

Food: You’ll notice that these reviews are all good.  The reason for that is because when a bad restaurant opens up, word gets around right away and no-one goes there to eat.  That causes the place to go belly up and stand empty for a while until someone else steps up and takes a swing.  An example of this kind of thing is the old Shamrock, which closed up some time ago.  The Shamrock had lousy Mexican food and a cook that couldn’t keep the orders straight.  The service was crap and the bartender liked to get lit, hit on the waitresses and try to start fights with the patrons.  The owner preferred to eat at Mad Mary’s down the street.  The place lasted six months, which was five months longer than it should have.

D & E Café; 115 W Dakota.  Want the cheapest breakfast in town this morning? The food is OK, the service is OK, the price is great.  This is where the locals eat on a work day morning, unless they eat at home.

Chikadily's Restaurant; 808 W Sioux Ave.  If you’ve been out drinking all night and now you want breakfast, this is the only place in town.  Literally.  But before you go, stop and think for a minute.  All the belligerent drunks who haven’t been arrested, haven’t passed out in the bed of someone’s pickup and haven’t gone home are here at Chikadily’s, and they still want to start a fight.  Last time I walked in here I was greeted with a distinctly unfriendly “Fuck you.” from a drunken drugstore Cowboy.  The food is good, the service is a little shaky and the prices are not the best in town.  At three in the morning, they’re the only prices in town.

Mad Mary’s Steakhouse & Saloon; 110 E Dakota Avenue.  Nice place to take the wife or girlfriend for dinner in town.  Keep your boots off the table.

Chateau Lounge; 110 N Deadwood St.; Fort Pierre.  This is kind of pricey for Pierre, and it’s in Fort Pierre, but try it anyway.  You can get variants on steak, and if you’ve had any luck fishing they’ll fix the fish for you.  The kitchen is good, the service is friendly and they know how to pour a drink.

Cattleman's Club Lodge; 29608 SD Highway 34; East of Pierre.  This is the famous Cattleman’s Steak House.  Unless you’re a rancher and grow your own steak, this is the best steak dinner you’ll find inside a three day drive.  The place has a sawdust floor and a private dining room upstairs.  This is where everyone eats when they want a great steak.  The prices are real reasonable and the beer is cold.

Bars: Possum Lodge, 1501 E Sioux Ave.  Beer and wine only.  If you want to just kick back and have a few beers, watch the TV or listen to the juke box with a bunch of limited bullshit good old boys, then this is the place for you.  No ass hats or bleeding heart liberals allowed, and neither the owner nor the local crowd care if you get loaded.  Just don’t make a fuss.  Owned and run by Vickie.

Longbranch, 351 S Pierre St.  Two large dance floors, one upstairs and the other downstairs.  Generally has some kind of live entertainment.  You can eat here too, and the food is pretty good.  Good drink prices.  You don’t get many ass hat drunks and fights at the Longbranch, and it’s an easy walk to another bar or your hotel.

Jake’s Good Times Place, 620 S Cleveland Ave.  Hee-Haw Hell meets Karaoke.  Drunks with a bad attitude are ejected, and patrons are expected to help with the ejection as needed.  If you’re a happy drunk this is one of the bars you need to hit.

Hop Scotch Club, Deadwood Street in Fort Pierre.  The only strip club in Pierre.  Both girls work on the weekend.

Music: Now, what would you guess? Well, you’re half right.  In addition to Country Western Calamities (no apologies offered to Country Western fans) you can find Rock & Roll in most bars.  If you start playing any Rap, it’s presumed you’re trying to start a fight.

Gay Scene: Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Show times: Not posted.  Everyone knows when the movie starts.

Prostitutes: None.  However, you might try one of the dancers at the Hop Scotch.

Getting Medicated: Don’t even think about it.  You can get twenty to life for possession of one seed in Pierre, SD, and that’s if you’re lucky.  That being the case, if you’re really feeling desperate and you are stuck in Pierre, you might try a few of the boys at the Hop Scotch or the Silver Spur, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Little Known Gem: Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, SD.  Murdo is about an hour West of Pierre, and the Museum should be number one on your short list.  Allow an hour or two for the museum and count it time very well spent.

Secret That Everybody Knows: One of the State Legislators went down to the Hop Scotch one night, got oiled and passed out.  The girls auctioned off his clothes and took a few photos of him in his shorts.  He’s still in office.

Secret That Few Know: None.  Everyone knows everything about everything in Pierre.  It’s like that in a small town.

Getting There and Away: US Interstate 90, East or West, and settle in for a long drive.  When you hit Interstate 83, stop at the truck stop and have some of their home made soup.  Everything on the menu is cooked from scratch.  Head North, and eventually you’ll come to Fort Pierre.

You’ll see Fort Pierre as you come over the rise, and if you get a cold feeling in the pit of your stomach and start asking yourself questions like, “What the hell am I doing here?”, don’t worry.  Just keep driving through Fort Pierre, cross the river and take a look at Pierre.

Public Transport: There are sidewalks most places. 

Taxi! Phone: River Cities Public Transit, (605) 945-2360.  This is not your normal taxi service, which doesn’t exist in Pierre.  A much better idea is to offer a hard luck story and gas money to anyone with a pickup truck.

If You Get Busted: If you do something really stupid and get caught, call either Old Tom Maher (Tom Senior) or Brett Koenecke of May Adam Gerdes & Thompson.  Old Tom has the tenacity of a bulldog with his favorite rawhide chew toy, and he likes to buck the system.  Tom makes it to the bell more often than not.

Things to Avoid: The Indian Reservation at night.  The Lower Brule reservation anytime, day or night.  Getting busted for drugs.

Local Twitches: Animal rights activists are not warmly received.  Ditto for liberals and anti-gun, panty wetting bull dyke fearing wussies concerned about other people’s feelings.  Remember to pronounce the name of the city correctly.

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