Memories are a funny thing.
It’s not always the best, most pleasant occurrences that stick with us; that lodge themselves deep inside our brain. Often times it’s something shocking, absurd and downright frightening that we seem to latch onto forever.
We had one of those moments on our recent cross-country trip. Even though we experienced plenty of really cool, beautiful things this is the memory that I know will be engrained in our minds as one of the “highlights.”
We were driving down the highway mid afternoon somewhere in South Dakota. No houses were in sight and very little traffic. Every little bit we would see some grazing land with a few beef cattle roaming in the distance. Out of nowhere we noticed a sign in the distance stating there was a general store at the next exit selling buffalo jerky. My husband is a big fan of dried meat so we decided to pull off and visit the shop.
The place was called Buffalo Ridge General Store. As we stepped out we noticed things weren’t exactly in pristine condition. The building was a bit dilapidated and there was no other vehicles in the parking lot. However, we forged on with our mission to get some buffalo jerky for my husband.
As we entered the store I was dumbstruck. It appeared as though we had exited the year 2013 and were catapulted into a time warp from 1978. The merchandise scattered here and there had a thick layer of dust on it. Everything was dirty including the floors and shelves. I really had to go to the bathroom but there was no way I was going to explore the facilities that were located right up front with the door half off it’s hinges and the words “Bathroom” painted on in crude handwriting.
Two men greeted us. One was fairly old and the other was middle-aged. I’m assuming they were father and son. They were very friendly and asked where we were from. When we told them Wisconsin, they wanted to talk football and we enjoyed some banter with them for a bit. On the counter in front of them sat a bin of packaged buffalo jerky. We inquired about it and they told us that they make it themselves and that it’s the best around. We purchased $20 worth. The men then motioned to another door and told us there was another room that the kiddos might enjoy.
Here is what we saw when we entered:
It appears that it is just another room filled with more merchandise that they are trying to peddle. Tucked away though in various corners of the room were life-size animated figures behind cages. When you put a quarter in the slot the rooms would light up, the figures would move and a recorded commentary or music would come on.
Here is an old saloon set-up:
There was also one with a man tanning buffalo hide:
And then we found the icing on the cake:
The gorilla guy is quite possibly one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. I also think he scarred my children for life. Notice the looks on their faces while they are watching him:
It’s safe to say that Buffalo Ridge General Store is like nothing I have ever experienced. It will be a memory I will carry with me until my dying day. It’s not just due to the bizarre, off the wall nature of the store itself either. It’s because 3 hours down the road, my husband asked me to crack open that bag of buffalo jerky I purchased so he could give it a try. As I began to search the car I realized I didn’t have it. I must have set it down to put a quarter in one of those crazy animated shows and forgot it. My husband will never let me live that one down.