AS IT TURNED OUT I needed good luck. The letters came to us at school, intercepted by our teacher, who noticed mine came from South Dakota. “I thought you meant Hot Springs, Arkansas, which isn’t real big,” she said. “But at least I’ve heard of it. I haven’t heard of this little place in South Dakota.”
I started sweating because I knew what would happen within two minutes if I didn’t think fast. I’d be handed the address of the Baltimore chamber of commerce and told to write for information.
“I think my Hot Springs is major because people from all over the country know about it and visit,” I blurted. “It has the biggest indoor swimming pool in the world where water comes out of the ground already heated.”
I could tell by my teacher’s eyes I had her interest.
“If you look at cars parked outside the pool,” I continued, “you’ll see license plates from every state you can think of.”
She “allowed” my town as major on the condition I mention all those visitors from all those states in my theme. I did. When we shared papers aloud a couple weeks later, Hot Springs was a hit. Everyone thought Tootsie made the coolest letterhead and my classmates were impressed by the cave that blows wind, and the town where water bubbles out of the ground warm enough for a comfortable shower.
I learned I could smooth-talk my way out of misinterpretations of school assignments, a valuable skill later in high school and college. I also discovered that in terms of character, history and unique natural features, small towns could be as major as New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore.
Copyright © 2013, South Dakota Magazine