Many years ago, when we lived in Spearfish with our children, we often traveled along Highway 34 to Pierre to visit the grandparents and great-grandparents. It was a three-hour journey with Sturgis on one end and Pierre was on the other, and nothing but prairies, ranches, farms, and wide spots in the road in between.
One of those wide spots was the halfway point of the trip. There was a small Lutheran church in the middle of nowhere sitting there. A white building with fake stained glass on the windows, it was about the size the of a large living room. It was always locked but one day, we peeked around the edges of the plastic stained glass to see the interior. The wood paneled walls were beautiful, with matching pews and altar area. A charming place for a small wedding. A wheat field spread out behind it. Across the highway was a small cemetery and prairie as far as you could see. I cannot remember the church’s name and wish I’d taken a picture of it.
Off the back corner of the church was the outhouse. That outhouse was the only “rest area” on that three-hour trip so we stopped there nearly every trip. Not only us, but the grandparents stopped there on their way to Spearfish. It became a family thing, talking about the church and the outhouse.
We used the outhouse without permission, but we helped take care of it. We left rolls of toilet paper there (most times, there was none). The door seemed to get worse and worse until one day it was gone after a big windstorm. It was laying out in the weeds. My father-in-law got another door and painted it white. On one trip to Spearfish, he hung it on the outhouse. It seemed the least we could do to repay using the facility.
We never saw anyone there, but tire tracks in the snow meant others stopped there. The steps were shoveled off, but even on Sunday mornings, no one was there. There were also tracks leading to the outhouse so I’m sure we weren’t the only ones using it. Just the only ones bringing toilet paper.
For eight years, we traveled that road. One night, we stopped at the little church and watched the northern lights dance in the sky. We met there when the kids went to spend time at the grandparents or come home. Being halfway, it was a convenient place to meet. It became a special spot for our family.
After we moved from Spearfish, we never went down Highway 34. Last spring, Hubby and I went that way for old-time sake. The church and the outhouse were gone. Now it’s just a wide spot in the road. I almost cried. I have no idea what happened to it and really hope it didn’t burn down or get vandalized so bad there was no hope of repair. I sincerely hope that church was moved somewhere where it gets more use. It was such a charming building.
That little white church on the prairie lives on in our family history. My children and I saw the northern lights for the first time there, and I’ll never forget that.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Psalm 19:1