Day 4: August 8, 2016
Is there such a thing as a trip to the Badlands without a stop at Wall Drug? This iconic store, originally a pharmacy, has become an American legend, due to the road signs that line I-90 for miles in both directions. Additionally, they give away free bumper stickers and people erect signs in far off places announcing how many miles it is to Wall Drug. These marketing strategies have absolutely aided in their success.
Wall Drug was opened by Ted Hustead and his wife in 1931; they were looking for a small town with a Catholic church where they could establish their pharmacy business. Wall is currently in the “middle of nowhere,” and I can only imagine that it was even more remote over 85 years ago. His wife Dorothy deserves the credit for its ultimate success. Mount Rushmore had just opened, and she had the idea to offer free ice water to tourists traveling west to see it during the hot, dry summer. The idea brought lots of people in and the store took off!
Wall Drug is basically a shopping mall where you can buy all sorts of kitschy souvenirs, including a mounted “jackalope,” which is a jackrabbit with antlers. I have no idea how this thing ever took off, but I guess I need to remember that we have a long history of venerating mythical creatures, and why not – it is fun! Apparently in Douglas, WY, where the first taxidermy jackalope was created in 1932, they have an “official” jackalope hunting season, which occurs for only one day. In case you are interested in bagging your own jackalope, the season occurs each year on June 31 (a nonexistent date as June has 30 days), from midnight to 2 a.m. The hunter must have an IQ greater than 50 but not over 72. Permits are available from the Douglas, WY Chamber of Commerce. I think that would be pretty awesome to get one! But I digress…
Mom and I combined our visit to Wall Drug with dinner. I had a buffalo burger, which was good, but somehow I neglected to snap a picture… We decided to forego the ice cream for dessert, although it did look really delicious. Instead we took a bit of time to go find the rideable Jackalope out back! Because a trip to Wall Drug is not complete without sitting astride a 10 foot tall fiberglass Jackalope! The stirrups were too short for this equestrienne, but I tried to make the best of it with my long remembered equitation skills. Mom even played along and climbed up there too.
We also found a stuffed bison to pose with – she had seen better days – I imagine she’s been petted by millions over the years. And we checked out an exhibit on gold mining, where you can pan for gold for a fee, but it was closed when we were there. The mall has a Western art museum as well that would have been cool to check out if we had more time – it is free to visit.
In the end, we departed with full bellies but passed on purchasing the mounted jackalopes or other Wall Drug souvenirs, and got on the road towards home (Custer, SD, that is…). We still had a fair bit of driving and one more, very odd, stop to make…