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Back in the days before city councils and county commissioners began to impose their “we are here to run your lives” laws, living in North Rapid was living a life of relative freedom.

Rapid City ceased to exist at the end of the 700 block of Lemmon Avenue. Beyond that there were fields filled with grazing cattle and a long electric fence installed by the owners of the cattle. As boys we often went with our friends to test the limits of our courage by bravely touching a shaky finger to the fence.

After we climbed under the fence and continued to head north across the lush fields of grass we came upon Halley’s Airport. We would watch the Piper Cubs and other small aircraft take off and land. Some of the incoming planes were loaded with the coyote pelts. I recall that when I lived at Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservations these small planes would land sometimes on one of our roads and we would talk to the pilots while they arranged the array of animal hides they were preparing to take to Rapid City. They said they usually shot the coyotes from their planes.

Anyhow, there weren’t a lot of rules and regulations about what we could or couldn’t do in our own backyards in North Rapid. I built a hutch and covered it with chicken wire because I had just traded a tricycle for three rabbits. Back then we earned a little money by collecting beer and pop bottles in Rapid City’s alleys and selling them to the local liquor and grocery stores. One could get as much as 3 cents a bottle. I raised enough money in this fashion to buy feed for my rabbits at the feed store across from the old Roosevelt School on East North Street.

While I was buying some feed a week or two before Easter I saw a cage filled with little chicks that had been colored like Easter eggs. They were selling them for 10 cents each and I searched through my bib overalls and found 40 cents so I bought four of them. They were small enough to fit into a box which I kept in the house until I could build a pen for them in the yard.

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Earlier that week I had traded my rabbits to some other kids for a goat. The goat’s name was Susie and she was white except for the black fur on her sides and a rusty brown on her chest. I got some quart milk bottles and filled them with Susie’s milk after I discovered a couple of neighbors who loved goat’s milk. I sold a quart of milk for 25 cents.

One of the chicks I raised was a rooster I named Ziyato, which means green in Lakota, because even when he grew into a beautiful, white rooster his breast feathers were still green from the dye they put on him when he was a baby chick.

At the end of the summer I was once more sent off to the Indian Mission boarding school at Pine Ridge. When I returned home the following summer all of my chickens and my goat Susie were gone. My dad tried to milk Susie and she about kicked his head off. She was a one-person goat apparently. I asked my dad who bought her and he didn’t say anything. Later that day I went walking over to my neighbor’s house and there, nailed on a wall of one of his outbuildings, was a hide. I knew immediately by the colors that it was Susie’s hide. I sat down on the spot and cried.

This all happened in the 1940s and North Rapid has grown and changed. I probably wouldn’t be allowed to keep chickens or goats if I lived there today. But aside from the time I came home and found all of my animals gone, spending summers in North Rapid was a great way to live.

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Tim Giago is the owner of Native Sun News Today. He can be contacted by emailing najournalist1@gmail.com.

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