One thing I have really enjoyed about moving to Rapid City recently is getting to experience a new culture with truly unique people.
I had lived in Chickasha, Okla., for 38 years except for four years where I split time between Chickasha and Stillwater to get my degree at Oklahoma State University.
When I got a chance to move to Kansas to become a publisher of a small daily newspaper near Wichita, I thought things would be a lot different for me and my family. I was wrong. Kansas was basically Oklahoma's hat. The people were similar. Life experiences were similar. They got excited about college basketball instead of college football, and they had slightly different accents, but there was no real culture shift with a move 200 miles north.
Moving to Rapid City has been as different as I expected it to be. Almost everything is different here. The economy benefits from incredible tourism with Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the City of Presidents and, of course, the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
The scenery here couldn't be more different than Oklahoma and Kansas. I always knew Oklahoma and Kansas were flat. After a couple of months here, I know how flat.
Beyond the economic engines and environmental ecosystems, I have really enjoyed learning about the unique people and history of the Black Hills. Some lessons have been about major events like the battle of Wounded Knee and the American Indian Movement, or learning about the construction of Mount Rushmore and the City of Presidents statues.
In addition to the important historical happenings in the area, I am finding so many hidden gems during my research.
I have asked several longtime South Dakota residents about this, and no one knew that one of the more interesting flat-earth theories was developed right here in the Black Hills.
By the time Prof. Orlando Ferguson — he was actually a real estate developer, but he called himself professor — published his book explaining the Square and Stationary Earth in 1893, the prevailing view of the round Earth orbiting the sun had been around for centuries.
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But Ferguson had figured out why everyone else was wrong. The earth is actually a golf ball with a buried lie inside a box. The earth according to Ferguson's map is basically flat but there is a trough around a raised mound. North America, Europe and much of Asia are on the raised mound. Australia, South America and much of Africa exist in the strange trough portion. Stranger still was Ferguson's explanation of the moon and the sun. Both were held on arms that controlled their motion through the sky. Those arms must be made of some really interesting gossamer in order for them to be large enough to carry the sun around the raised mound in the center of the flat Earth without ever being seen.
Basically, Ferguson's real intent was to square up the earth's shape with scriptural references. Of course, any theology proof-texted with one or two verses without any context can be dangerous. But basing an entire theory of the shape of the planet on which you reside on a few phrases within noncontextual verses is much more dangerous.
Ferguson included an angel at each corner of his square diagram in reference to a passage in Revelations 7. He also lifted a couple of ideas from the Old Testament.
The best part of his theory is how he completely dismisses gravity by drawing a cartoon of two men desperately trying to cling to Earth as they hurtle through space at speeds Ferguson found unthinkable.
The caption reads, "These men are flying on the globe at a rate of 65,000 miles per hour around the sun, and 1,042 miles per hour around the center of the Earth (in their minds). Think of that speed!"
If you want to see an original drawing of Ferguson's square and stationary earth — including the four angels and the two men holding on for dear life — the Fall River Pioneer Museum in Hot Springs has one. The other is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
His theory is crazy, but sometimes I like a little crazy.
I can't wait to uncover more fun facts and people from the Black Hills. My time here has been anything but boring, and I don't see that changing any time soon.