As I hit the last gravel stretch of Highway 1806 on the way to the Sutton Ranch Wednesday, eating the dust of a fellow nick-of-timer from Lincoln County who was a bit less eager than I to punch along those gravelly curves, I questioned, as an eager reader did, the wisdom of announcing a statewide campaign out in what one may accurately deem several miles south of the boonies.
Then I saw the view from the Sutton Ranch gate:
The Sutton Ranch sits on the west bank of the Missouri River, straight across from the mouth of the Platte Creek, 30 miles upstream from the Fort Randall Dam, 75 miles downstream from the Big Bend Dam, 150 miles downstream from Pierre. First bill I want from Billie Sutton’s Governor’s office: appropriations to build locks around the four Missouri River dams in our state. Imagine the Governor boating from the ranch to the Capitol, or down to Yankton and Dakota Dunes. Steamboat Billie….
Visitors pass the working part of the ranch first, past the big barn and cattle lots, then drive another 500 feet to the big house in the clearing.
That big covered porch looks out at the valley of what my map calls the North Fork of the Whetstone Creek. Forget the Governor’s mansion: picture Governor Billie Sutton bringing legislators, fellow governors, CEOs, and other dignitaries to that porch, looking out at the grass and trees and uninterrupted sky and saying, “All right, let’s talk about what matters.”
A view like that helps one think… and think big.
It also makes one feel very small, as all of us mere mortals ought before the vastness of the prairie and a great green globe curving slowly away to the horizon.
I took no food selfies, but I can tell you the beef* sandwiches, baked beans with Sutton beef, potato salad (you were expecting greens? where do you think are, Minerva’s?), and pie served by the ranch ladies in the chow line at the big garage and eaten by the 130 guests in the sunshine beat whatever Il Duce’s servants dish at Mar-a-Lago.
A man launches his first campaign for Governor only once in his lifetime. He’s entitled to do it his way, how he wants, when he wants, where he wants. Billie Sutton announced his first bid for Governor in a place he rightly loves, the place that says who he is, what he’s about, what he sees when he looks around at South Dakota and wonders what’s on our big, big horizon. He spoke to us in a place that most of us have to drive a long way to get to, which reminds us how far Sutton and anyone else who wants to serve this state has to drive to meet and listen to people and learn what’s happening around our sprawling state.
A man is entitled to begin a momentous journey at home, with his family. So is a woman, like Billie’s wife Kelsea, who will be at Billie’s side throughout this campaign.
The Suttons staged a better campaign launch than they could have at any rented conference room (“ballroom” really exaggerates the grandeurless rectangularity of nearly every event facility in this state). Wednesday’s campaign launch at the Sutton Ranch showed just who Billie Sutton is and what kind of Governor he could be. It was most certainly worth the drive.
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Of course, several miles south of the boonies, one would expect to see some open carry…
And when we town folk come out to the country in our Volkswagen Beetles, some of the locals still look at us a bit suspiciously:
Maybe we don’t need to build locks on the River; maybe the Suttons will ditch the Governor’s Hunt and organize a week-long trail ride from the ranch to the Capitol.
*Correction 2017.06.04 09:04 CDT: I have been contacted by two sources who point out that the sandwiches served were beef, not pork as I erroneously reported. I evidently was focusing on my ears rather than my mouth at those picnic tables. I regret the error.