Tag Archives: Hill City

22nd Annual Picnic & Polo Match Delivers Rapid City its second defeat in two years

Spectators, many who had turned out in their finest hats for a day of polo, had to hold onto them.  There was a storm a brewin’!  As expected, Hill City’s Rushmore Polo & Social Club stepped onto the field determined to hold onto the Paul E. Lippman Memorial Polo Cup for a second year in a row.  Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club had visions of taking the trophy back and so began the annual match on a pristine Saturday afternoon, August 25, 2012 at Newton Fork Ranch.  Before play commenced though, it was announced that this year’s event would be played in memory of Ed Winger who passed away last November.  Mr. Winger, a long-time Hill City resident along with his wife Jan, never missed a game.

When Jim Lammers threw the initial ball in, the play was fierce as the teams were evenly matched.  This year was no exception as the first chukker ended with local favorite Tim Gregson, captain of the Hill City team and Rapid City’s Kurt Ketelsen each scoring a goal.  Ketelsen, a third-generation polo player and Ellsworth area rancher, is a perennial crowd pleaser.  It should be noted that flag persons Rose Lammers and Jim DeNeui were relieved to have shared equal duties thus far.

The second chukker bore continued fruit as Tim, assisted by nephew Boe Gregson, a former NCAA indoor polo player, once again drove home a goal that was answered in short order by opposing member, and former buffalo rancher, Duane Lammers.  When timekeeper Mary Sitts sounded the halftime horn, the score was tied 2-2 and, it was rumored, Tim’s competitive frustration reached new heights.

With the first two chukkers completed, the players moved off field to water and rest their ponies while the spectators, with champagne glasses in hand, were invited to participate in the annual tradition of “stomping divots.”   There was much socializing in what has become an end-of-summer-season reunion of sorts.  Friends greeted each other and everyone toasted the remarkably mild weather.

The conviviality was soon followed by the debut of the “Arleen Lippman Hat Award.”   Mrs. Lippman, former owner of “A&H Grocery” on Main Street was well known for her fondness for hats.  Having owned more than 100, she was rarely sighted without one.  Spectators were encouraged to flex their creativity and about 20 contestants stepped forward to vie for Saturday’s trophy.  As Bob Stanfiel held a polo mallet aloft behind each competitor, the crowd voiced its approval.  It was soon narrowed down to three finalists: Mary Sitts of Rapid City with a western themed hat; Hill City’s own Moni Matush in a stunning black chapeau; and visiting ranch guest Lynn McGrath who had fashioned a hat featuring a log cabin scene out of twigs, flowers, foliage, and a Newton Fork Ranch brochure.  In a very close decision, crowd favorite McGrath of Chicago, IL secured the win.

When the game resumed, Rushmore Polo & Social Club came out fighting.  Angela Gregson quickly sent a shot on goal that severed the tie, making it 3-2.  Despite some terrific defensive maneuvering by Susie Lammers, a Sioux Falls resident playing for Rapid City, Team Gregson was on the offense.  Tim followed up Angela’s advance with another goal ending the third chukker 4-2 in favor of Hill City.

Kurt Ketelsen and Duane Lammers tried to regain their momentum with some impressive strong nearside and offside backhand shots up field but were unable to withstand the Hill City onslaught.  The Gregsons prevailed when the 4th chukker ended scoreless, handing Rushmore Polo & Social Club its second straight victory.

Afterwards, fans gathered to enjoy a picnic with lots of delicious food provided by guests, Moni Matush of the Alpine Inn, Wally Matush, and Newton Fork Ranch.  The celebrants enjoyed the rest of the gorgeous afternoon, recapping the game, visiting with friends, and relishing the burgers and hot dogs seasoned and served up by the culinary talents of Grill Chefs Bob Stanfiel and Rich Sitts.  And, to everyone’s delight, Chris Voyles plugged in her acoustic guitar and provided the celebrants with an impromptu concert.

The polo trophy is on permanent display in the bar area located in the historic Alpine Inn, on Main Street in Hill City.

Polo fans and tailgate impresarios Chuck Fritzel (left) and James Dean (right) hoist their martinis in a toast to the annual event.

Jan Winger is embraced by Mary Sitts, third place winner of the “Arleen Lippman Hat Contest” on the left and Hill City resident Sonja Karl on the right.

Carol and Wes Shafer are long-time polo fans and even longer Hill City residents. Wes has been in the area since the 1930s.

Seen here truly tailgating are, from left to right: Wally Matush of Hill City fame, Barb Gartner of Rapid City, Joan Schnell, down from her cattle ranch in Lemmon, ND, and Liz DeNeui, once a Hill City resident and now visiting from Port Hueneme, CA.

Hill City team captain Tim Gregson (#3 white) connects with an offside shot on goal as Rapid’s Duane Lammers (#3 red) attempts a defensive move. Tim’s teammate Angela Gregson (#1 white) moves to intercept while Kurt Ketelsen (#1 red) is in pursuit.

Rapid City players Duane Lammers (left) and Kurt Ketelsen (right) scramble after the ball as Hill City takes possession for a long drive down field.

Susie Lammers, having grown up on a cattle ranch west of Sioux Falls, demonstrates a natural athletic ability playing competitive polo for the first time.

Hill City native Jim DeNeui strikes an imposing stance as a goal line flagman.

Chicago, IL resident Lynn McGrath models her log cabin creation that took first place in the hat contest.

Meg Warder, Gail and Jon Crane are joined by Kristin Donnan Standard in the annual halftime tradition of champagne and “divot stomping.”

Bob Stanfiel holds a polo mallet above Mary Sitts’ head encouraging the audience to “voice their votes” while Moni Matush awaits her turn.

Rushmore Polo & Social Club player Boe Gregson (#2 white) prepares to connect with the ball as Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club member Duane Lammers (#3 red) attempts to hook Boe’s mallet in a defensive move.

Susie Lammers (#2 red) of Black Hills Polo Club blocks opposing team member Angela Gregson (#1 white) who, in turn, looks for back-up.

Rushmore player Angela Gregson (#1 white) takes possession of the ball as family members Boe and Tim provide support. Kurt Ketelsen (#1 red), Duane Lammers (#3 red), and Susie Lammers (out of photo range) rush to the defense.

Team captain Tim Gregson accepts the Paul E. Lippman Polo Cup on behalf of the Rushmore Polo & Social Club. This was their second straight win.

Tim Gregson cozies up to longtime friend and polo enthusiast Joan Schnell.

Hollywood in the Hills: Meg Warder whose 1880 Train has appeared in numerous movies and television shows is pictured enjoying the après game festivities with Duane Lammers (center) who provided buffalo for the “Dances With Wolves” movie, and Sean Covel (right) producer of the widely acclaimed film “Napoleon Dynamite.”

As the after party carries on into the evening, Bob Stanfiel with his chef duties behind him, retires under a stunning broad brim hat.

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Grandma Hid Her Fur Coat in the Outhouse

As all true travelers know, sometimes a journey begins in an armchair; often, the distance is merely a trip back in time.  If you have visited Newton Fork Ranch, you may already be familiar with our matriarch, Arleen Lippman.  Her memory has held fast among the old timers in Hill City.  Whether perched on top of a Harley, having High Tea at the Ritz in London, hopping a train to Paris, tending the till at A&H Grocery, or being a front-of-the-pews church-goer, Arleen, in addition to her pioneer spirit, was a colorful character.ImageImageImage

Rarely seen without a hat, donning different ones from her 100+ collection, she was a hardworking businesswoman and an indefatigable booster of Hill City.  She did have her strong opinions though; case-in-point, she harbored a carefully crafted disregard for the stop sign at the corner of Main Street and Deerfield Road.  Feeling that it should never have been installed, this diminutive woman would peer through the steering wheel of “Old Blue” and habitually roll right through it, as locals will attest.

Arleen, along with her husband Harold, moved to Newton Fork Ranch in the early 40s and operated a small business on Main Street, appropriately named A&H Grocery.  Harold was the butcher and Arleen tended the till.  Open from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week, the store was an integral part of the community.  It was well-known that when times were tough, she allowed customers to “run a tab.”  Every night before closing, this tireless woman would sprinkle sawdust on the old wood floors and then sweep the remains into a used coffee can.  That’s what people had to do when even the sidewalks on Main Street were made of wood.Image

Their home, which was a small ranch house that can be seen as one enters Newton Fork Ranch, was built in 1914 before electricity or modern conveniences came to the Hills.  Those who knew Arleen also knew that she steadfastly refused to replace the cistern pump, the outhouse (where she was rumored to have hidden a fur coat from Harold), or the old wood burning cook stove which all remain to this day in the recently restored home.  She said for the first 34 years there she “pumped every ounce of water and carried out every ounce of water and heated every ounce of water” without feeling any hardship.

After Harold passed away in 1966, Arleen continued to run A&H Grocery until the 1980s.  She was a force of nature, loving social activities and belonging to just about every organization and club including the Hill City Fife and Drum Corp.  She also served as South Dakota State Regent for the Harney Peak Chapter of the DAR.  In addition, being one of the early members of the Chamber of Commerce, she was instrumental in bringing the 1880 Train to town.  It was she who wrote a letter to William B. Heckman, suggesting Hill City as a site for his tourist train idea.Image

In 1996, this grande dame, this larger-than life 4’10” spirit of the Hills passed away at age 91 and, as many will confirm, she is gone in spirit but not in memory.

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Home, Home On The Ranch!

Being a devoted traveler makes for a meticulous host.  And this is the time of year that we put away the suitcase and set out the welcome mat.  As spring eases into summer, the landscaping projects at Newton Fork Ranch advance at a measured pace. But, the advancement is measured by weather as storms pass through just often enough to keep things emerald green.

One of the first projects, before, during, and after the continual mowing of the meadow and surrounding green spaces is the upkeep of Aspen Grove.  The grove, which used to encompass Grandma’s vegetable garden, was reclaimed two years ago.  It had fallen into disuse and was overgrown with tall grass, bushes, and thickets of quaking aspen.  Even the horses that were turned out in that area couldn’t keep up with the grass.  So many hours were spent weeding (with the exception of Dame’s Rocket which was too pretty to rip out), pruning, and thinning to create a horse pasture for guests traveling with equine family members.  It’s an ideal location, especially for guests who rent the Forest Haven cabin that overlooks the pasture.

Every spring ushers in a formidable task to keep that area under control.  While working in there last week, we noticed a lot of activity from the animal kingdom.  There’s a Hairy Woodpecker who has taken up residency in one of the aspen trees.  And we were much relieved to see that he changed his living area.  Last year we had to patch the ranch sign at the entrance where he tried to settle in!  He (and we know it’s a “he” by the red patch on the back of his head) doesn’t seem to mind human company either and will land on trees a few feet away.   Snapping a photo though is a challenge since he is constantly in motion.

A robin that was guarding a nest nearby also periodically stalked us.  To add to this, in the early morning, deer are using Aspen Grove for a gathering place as well.

So now Aspen Grove is all tidied-up and ready for occupancy.  Be it horse, flora, or fauna!

Before Aspen Grove was weeded and thinned, we relied on the horses for landscaping help.

It took several horses to work on keeping the tall grass down. Note how tall it had become in that thicket of background trees.

Of course, the grass is always greener…

Look at the difference in Aspen Grove after the trees are thinned and the grass is cut down. The area looks so much larger now.

And, with the addition of two heavy-duty 12’ x 12’ paneled corrals, we are ready for equine guests!

No more leaning over fences looking for greener pastures!

Here’s a close-up view of our resident Hairy Woodpecker’s home. It’s a duplex.

It took quick reflexes to capture this shot and note how his feathers match the tree. It’s ingenious!

Of course, the deer miss the tall grass.

On a sun-dappled afternoon, a view of the Forest Haven cabin from Aspen Grove.

Dame’s Rocket is a weed but the beautiful colors make it very hard to cut down.

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Get Thee to a W(h)inery!

Having reluctantly just joined the social media sphere, we are intimately familiar with whining. We know people are connecting with each other through the Internet at unheard of rates these days. And truthfully, our hesitation to dialog socially was becoming unevenly balanced with the heady prospect of being able to share our passion for travel, Newton Fork Ranch, and the surrounding Black Hills.  So, we finally “bit the bullet” and recently created a Facebook page.  Then, quicker than one could possibly “Like,” it was suggested that we start a blog.  Oh my gosh, what’s next?  Surely, people understand that only birds are supposed to “tweet” in the Hills!

All right, admittedly there’s a fair amount of whining going on here.  But please understand, at Newton Fork Ranch, we have always encouraged people to put down the cell phones, leave the televisions at home, and come to the ranch to rest, relax, reflect, and re-energize.  As one of our guests so pithily penned in a guest book a few years ago: “It’s day three and my kids have finally quit staring at the blank wall waiting for a television to appear!”

But our whining about social media got us thinking.  What is there, for a committed whiner to do, in the beautiful and pristine Black Hills?  You know, when there is a lack of distraction combined with time and energy to spare?  Can you see it coming?  Get thee to a w(h)inery!

All punning aside, this former gold mining town of Hill City has given up the bootleg liquor (more on that in another post) and has taken up fruit juice with a kick!  Here’s the local scoop: the first to open in the area was Prairie Berry Winery. The Vojta family has been making grape, fruit, and honey wines since 1876 starting with, yep, berries on the prairie.  Their winery, complete with a bistro, is housed in an artful structure that could have been plucked from Napa Valley.  One of the most popular selections is “Red Ass Rhubarb.” They have awards too numerous to count; the most recent is best of class in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Prairie Berry’s move to Hill City in 2004 was followed by Stone Faces Winery in 2009.  Their award-winning wine is produced by Valiant Vineyards in Vermillion.  Established by Eldon Nygaard and his wife and family, it is known as the “Oldest winery in South Dakota.”  Stone Faces is their second Valiant Vineyards winery. Their “Sturgis” blends and “Full Throttle” are area favorites.

The most recent addition to the ever-growing Hill City wine corridor is Naked Winery… good thing it’s a mild winter, eh?  Their aim seems to be to combine love and romance.  And the names of the wines, with double entendres such as, oh never mind, you’ll have to go find out for yourself, add to their brand uniqueness.  We certainly have a meeting of the minds on their mission statement: “We believe every couple should turn off their TVs, open up a bottle.”

So here’s to spending a lovely evening at Newton Fork Ranch cuddled up in front of the fire, lifting a glass of local wine, and toasting your decision to turn off and tune in… to the true conversation!

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