Thursday, August 22, 2013

If Govert, South Dakota, Doesn't Exist, Why Blog?

Meet me Sunday at the Govert Marina and we'll spend the afternoon browsing open houses in town. Real estate is booming in Govert, South Dakota, with beachfront property at a premium. This South Dakota prairie town is thriving ... just ask Google.

Govert, South Dakota, offers campgrounds, fishing charters and kayaking, jet ski rentals and golf resorts. What happens when winter rolls around, as it tends to do in Harding County every year, and the blasts of cold air send you inside? Seek the warmth of the Govert public library, movie theater, hobby shop, day spa, and ... Govert Van der Boom would most heartily appreciate this frosty weather option for Goverites ... brush up on your Dutch with the Dutch tutor located in Govert, South Dakota.

Pet store, dog park, country club, casino, express flower delivery, senior housing and elder care. Everything a Harding County rancher could ever want or need is found in Govert, South Dakota. If any doubt remains, google "Govert, South Dakota".

Doubt remains. Derek and LaDelle Brink, ranching just down the road from the Govert townsite, may be surprised to learn about this economic boom and the competition for business dollars. The traffic along their country road is as quiet as it has always been.

Make no mistake about it, Govert, South Dakota, does not exist in 2013 as a viable town. So why would I write about Govert, if the town doesn't exist? Why would I turn over rocks on the prairie in search of an ancestral hearth?

Why? Govert Van der Boom never shared what it was like to weave prairie grass into a community. Maybe he thought his six-year-old granddaughter would not care for his stories of the prairie. Emma Van der Boom never told me that a glimpse of the Slim Buttes, framed by her kitchen window, made up for the five varieties of cockle burrs clinging to the hem of her long skirt on a sweltering day in late summer 1913. My otherwise no-nonsense grandmother would have told me this with a slight smile and a hint of yearning. But I didn't ask.

I can still ask the children of the prairie, like Marie Kulisich. Marie was born upon her own ancestral hearth in 1930 two miles south of the Govert store. As a little girl, Marie wandered through the prairie grass turning over rocks in wonderment at what was underneath. Her Croatian father, Mitchell Kulisich, homesteaded in 1911, her Croatian mother, Nikla Miljas, in 1916. A heap of years and living later, Marie and I met on an Internet bulletin board. She was my first companion in the search for my own ancestral hearth. Allow me to introduce you to my friend Marie:


Marie Kulisich in her lush South Dakota garden [Photo by Kathleen VanderBoom, 2012]
I have met a bushel full of Goverites, former Goverites, and Goverite descendants since I started my search for Govert, South Dakota, and so many more people who today call Harding County home, preserving that still strong connection to the land. First-hand and second-hand memories of small prairie towns tie them together, just like that first generation of Goverites was tied to the land and to each other.

What I've learned from my search for an ancestral hearth is that my family's story is one dimensional without the story of Govert, South Dakota. And the story of Govert, South Dakota, is the story of a community ... and a community is people, a whole lot more people than the five Van der Booms who lived next door to the Govert store. Maybe I can focus due recognition on all the folks who struggled and all the folks who thrived on the prairie, all the men, women and children who called Govert ... or some other small prairie town ... home. Maybe I can create a "memory" of Govert for those who don't have their own memories of what once was. Maybe I should have called this project "Re-Constructing Govert". Is such a thing possible?

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate


[Written with gratitude to Marie Kulisich]

8 comments:

  1. Another outstanding blog posting this week, dear! You did a wonderful job explaining why you created this blog site and why you work so hard to uncover and write about the history of the town of Govert. You wish to tell "the story of Govert, South Dakota"...the story of a prairie community, its people, and its descendants. I look forward to learning more as you continue publishing your blog entries.

    Does being married to you make me a vicarious Govert descendant...a wanna-be Goverite...a Goverite in-law? That would make me part of a very special group of people. On SD trips with you I've met some of the folks you write about...Marie and LaDelle...and others of the people you've connected with and talked to in doing your research. All very warm and friendly folks. I'd be proud to be considered a "Goverite" along beside them!

    Oh, by the way, I've Googled Govert, and it does certainly result in an odd, surprising, and amusing mix of hits/links. The Google search-engine evidently thinks Govert is still alive and thriving, and is even a resort or vacation destination. Personally, my favorite Govert spot is the downtown ("yes, we deliver") pizza parlor, with its mega-size, all-meat, full-meal pizza special! Yummy, even if only imaginary!

    Anyway, it's wonderful to have you researching and writing about the "real" Govert...about its people, history, and heritage. Thanks, dear. You're doing truly amazing and enthralling work in uncovering and documenting "the story of Govert, South Dakota"!

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  2. Thanks for not yelling this down the hall, Russ ;-)! Every writer should be so lucky to have a groupie living under the same roof.

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  3. Great job, Kate! All of your knowledge and research makes this so interesting. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thank you, Shirley Jean. I hope you enjoy following stories about the town of Govert, a town that plays a prominent part in your own history.

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  4. A very enjoyable new blog entryl, Kate. What a great mix of humour and touching-the-soul family history. Wish all family history blogs and website stories were so readable. A shirt story writer may have been lost when you chose the career you did. But you don not hear me complain because if you had stayed home, writing, I would never have met you!

    Thank you, dear cousin!

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  5. Howdy Kate, In a random google search I found: I could rent JetSki's to enjoy the lakes surrounding Govert. I wondered how the vultures descended upon the unlikely metropolis of Govert. Did Govert ever have a zip code? Or is it because there is a Govert School in South Harding? Nice Workk!!!
    ArvidCeclePukeChunk

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    1. Hi Ken! Good to see you here, as you have Govert in your blood, too. The Govert post office closed its doors in 1954 and zip codes started in 1963, so (unless the files of the United States Post Office were in disarray ...) Govert never had its own zip code. Maybe someday when you google "Govert, South Dakota" this blog will appear as one of your choices.

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  6. This is all very interesting, Kate and so well written. As my newfound cousin I find you to be absolutely right about your comment that you start developing ties to the people in your family tree. It's this connection that makes me want to know more about your history and you make it so enjoyable.
    I think re-constructing Govert is possible, and I think you are on the way to doing it. It makes me remember the small community we were part of many years ago. We were prairie people too.
    Thank you and I look forward to future editions!
    Your cousin in the Great White North, Elaine.

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