Twenty miles northwest of Rapid City along the winding scenic Nemo Road sits a tiny unincorporated community steeped in Black Hills history. Nemo is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year from its founding as a sawmill town attached to the Homestake Mining Company.
How Nemo got its name is a matter of speculation. One theory says it is "omen" spelled backwards after signs suggested there might be gold in the area. Another says it came from Jules Verne's fictional Capt. Nemo.
The theory that Willie Saye likes best holds the name derives from the Lakota language and refers to a peaceful, tranquil spot.
Saye and her husband, Troy Saye, own the Nemo Guest Ranch, a spread of rustic cabins built around the community's original school and the guest ranch's store.
That store is as old as the community. It started as the Hearst Mercantile, owned by mining tycoon George Hearst. Nemo was a Hearst company town in the late 1800s and the store was the largest department store in South Dakota at one time.
The U.S. Census lists 546 people as living in the 57759 Nemo ZIP code. But Troy Saye says there are just 38 folks if you count from the Nemo sign on the south end of town to the Nemo sign on the north end.
A number of those folks work at the Nemo Job Corps, a career training center for disadvantaged youth from around the Midwest that dates back to the Great Society programs under Lyndon Johnson.
One of Nemo's big claims to fame came in 1970 when a 78-foot Black Hills spruce tree from the area was cut and hauled to Washington to be the national Christmas tree that year.
Another is the non-denominational Nemo Church, built in the 1920s out of logs.
Today's claims to fame are the annual Outhouse Races in February, which attract upwards of 1,000 visitors, and serving as a stopping point for thousands of bikers during the Sturgis Rally.