15 Things You Might Not Know About South Dakota

istock
istock

1. Since 1991, Clark, South Dakota has hosted an annual celebration of the potato. Regular festivities in the late August tradition include recipe competitions, potato decorating contests, potato car races, and (the main attraction) mashed potato wrestling matches.

2. Beneath the grounds of Custer County, South Dakota, lies the second largest cave system in the United States, and third largest in the world. The Jewel Cave was discovered in 1900 and earned status as a national monument in 1908, though the lion’s share of its exploration didn’t take place until the beginning of the 1960s. The crystal-rich caverns span 1,273 acres and consist of over 166 miles of charted passageways.

3. South Dakota might well be the hosting capital of America. Hailing from the Mount Rushmore State are small screen fixtures Bob Barker (host of The Price Is Right from 1972 - 2007), Mary Hart (host of Entertainment Tonight from 1982 - 2011), Pat O’Brien (sportscaster for CBS Sports from 1981 - 1997, and host of Access Hollywood from 1997 - 2004), and Tom Brokaw (anchor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 - 2004).

4. Back in 1931, a memorial honoring Crazy Horse, famed chief of the Oglala Lakota Native American tribe, was planned for South Dakota’s Black Hills mountain range … and the project is still nowhere near complete. The perpetually “in progress” endeavor was first conceived by Oglala Lakota chief and statesman Henry Standing Bear, who spent more than two decades convincing Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to undertake the project. Ziolkowski worked on the sculpture from 1947 through ’82, when he died on site of pancreatitis. Although there is no foreseeable end date for Crazy Horse’s memorial, it promises the superlative of world’s largest sculpture with a planned height of 564 feet. The tallest sculpture standing today is the Spring Temple Buddha, which reaches 420 feet.

5. Way out in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota (where only 766 people reside), you’ll find one colossal shopping center: Wall Drug Store—known to the locals as “Wall Drug”—has been called the largest drug store in the world, though it is hardly just that. Operating under the Wall name (and within the Wall walls) are gift shops, clothing stores, and restaurants … not to mention active animatronics and a free-of-charge ice water well out back.

6. The Holy Terror, a now defunct gold mine in Keystone, didn’t get its name due to particularly hazardous terrain. Lore has it that when William B. Franklin discovered the mine in 1891, it was suggested that he uphold the common practice of naming it after his wife. Though versions of the story vary, the general theme carries that Franklin—a notorious drinker—would often find himself dragged home from the saloons by his angry wife Jen, dubbing her for his friends’ amusement a “holy terror.” As such, when the time came to brand his find with her namesake, Franklin chose this charming little moniker.

7. The world’s only Corn Palace lives in Mitchell, South Dakota, where it serves as a concert venue, sports arena, and general community center. Living up to its name, the exterior of the 68-foot-tall building is covered almost entirely with works of art made from corn and other grains. Every year, the building is stripped and replaced with a fresh batch of corn-based pieces.

8. The largest and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the world might never have been discovered if not for some well-timed car troubles just outside of Hill City, South Dakota. Following a summer spent excavating the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, a team of scientists suffered a flat tire on their drive out from the dig site. All but one headed into town to get help, the outlier being paleontologist Sue Hendrickson, who instead took to nearby unexplored hills for a quick peek. There, she found the first pieces of what would ultimately become the only discovered T-Rex skeleton to breach 80 percent completion. The fossil, which lives today in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, is named Sue in Hendrickson’s honor.

9. Here’s one for trivia night: South Dakota is the only state whose name does not share a single letter with that of its capital: Pierre.

10. And there’s a good chance you’ve been pronouncing that wrong. Though we’re inclined to pronounce “Pierre” in the French tradition (“Pee-YARE”), the South Dakota capital actually prefers the simpler “Peer.”

11. South Dakota is one of 13 states that sit in two different time zones. This proves particularly troublesome for the small town of Fort Pierre (a Mountain Time city), which sends many a resident to work in its much larger neighbor, Pierre (a Central Time city).

12. The largest known concentration of an extremely rare mineral formation called boxwork can be found in South Dakota’s Wind Cave. As a result of erosion, the cave’s calcite walls adopt patterns resembling honeycombs or spider webs. Wind Cave claims about 82 miles worth of boxwork, accounting for 95 percent of the world’s known formations.

13. If you drive down South Dakota’s I-229 Bridge at nighttime toward Sioux Falls’ 26th Street, you might catch glimpse of a particularly unsettling scene: a pair of “ghost joggers” that allegedly run the road every evening. No official explanations have ever been placed on record.

14. On the morning of January 22, 1943, Spearfish, South Dakota, experienced the fastest temperature change in recorded history. In just two minutes, local temperatures jumped 49º on the Fahrenheit scale from the glacial -4º to 45º, practically sweater weather by comparison. (Measured on the Celsius scale, that’s -20º to 7º, a 27º spike.)

15. As far as South Dakota is concerned, April has showers, May has flowers, and July has colossal chunks of ice raining down from the heavens. On July 23, 2010, the largest hailstone in U.S. history hit the town of Vivian, weighing in at 9 pounds 15 ounces and measuring 8 inches in diameter. The ice ball in question retains the record for the aforementioned calculations, but Aurora, Nebraska’s 2003 frozen pellet, still boasts the record for circumference (18.75 inches to Vivian’s 18.625).

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now

Jawku/Actigun
Jawku/Actigun

Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

Actigun massage gun.
Actigun

Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

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2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

Jawku massaging gun.
Jawku

This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

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3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

Re-Athlete massage gun.
Re-Athlete

Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

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4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

Massage gun from Stackcommerce.
Stackcommerce

With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

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5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

Backmate massage gun.
Backmate

Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

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6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

ZTech massage gun.
ZTech

This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

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7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

Aduro massage gun.
Aduro

Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.


17 Surprising Facts About Frida Kahlo

Guillermo Kahlo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Guillermo Kahlo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The life and work of Frida Kahlo—one of Mexico's greatest painters—were both defined by pain and perseverance. Getting to know how Kahlo lived provides greater insight into her masterful paintings, which are rich with detail and personal iconography.

1. Frida Kahlo was born in the same house she died.

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in a building nicknamed “La Casa Azul” for its vivid blue exterior. There, she was raised by her mother, Matilde, and encouraged by her photographer father, Guillermo. Years later, she and her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, made it their home as well. And on July 13, 1954, Kahlo died there at age 47.

2. Frida Kahlo's beloved home is now a museum.

Casa Azul is also known as The Frida Kahlo Museum. As a tribute to Kahlo, Rivera donated the house in 1958 as well as all of the artwork, created by both him and Kahlo, that it contained. Much of the interior has been preserved just the way Kahlo had it in the 1950s, making the space a popular tourist attraction that allows visitors a look at her work, life, and personal artifacts, including the urn that holds her ashes.

3. A third of Frida Kahlo's paintings were self-portraits.

Kahlo folded in symbols from her Mexican culture and allusions to her personal life in order to create a series of 55 surreal and uniquely revealing self-portraits. Of these, she famously declared, "I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best."

4. A surreal accident had a big impact on Frida Kahlo's life.

On September 17, 1925, an 18-year-old Kahlo boarded a bus with her boyfriend Alex Gómez Arias, only to be forever marred when it crossed a train's path. Recalling the tragedy, Arias described the bus as "burst(ing) into a thousand pieces," with a handrail ripping through Kahlo's torso.

He later recounted, "Something strange had happened. Frida was totally nude. The collision had unfastened her clothes. Someone in the bus, probably a house painter, had been carrying a packet of powdered gold. This package broke, and the gold fell all over the bleeding body of Frida. When people saw her, they cried, ‘La bailarina, la bailarina!’ With the gold on her red, bloody body, they thought she was a dancer."

5. Frida Kahlo’s path to painting began with that collision.

The accident broke Kahlo's spinal column, collarbone, ribs, and pelvis, fractured her right leg in 11 places, and dislocated her shoulder. Those severe injuries left her racked with pain for the rest of her life, and frequently bedbound. But during these times, Kahlo picked up her father's paintbrush. Her mother helped arrange a special easel that would allow her to work from bed. Of her life's hardships, Kahlo once proclaimed, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

6. Frida Kahlo once dreamed of being a doctor.

As a child, Kahlo contracted polio, which withered her right leg and sparked an interest in the healing power of medicine. Unfortunately, the injuries from the train accident forced the teenager to abandon her plans to study medicine.

7. Frida Kahlo’s poor health shaped her art.

In the course of her life, Kahlo would undergo 30 surgeries, including the eventual amputation of her foot due to a case of gangrene. She explored her frustrations with her body's frailty in paintings like The Broken Column, which centers on her shattered spine, and Without Hope, which dramatically depicted a period where her doctor prescribed force-feeding. On the back of the latter, she wrote, "Not the least hope remains to me ... Everything moves in time with what the belly contains."

8. Frida Kahlo didn’t view herself as a surrealist.

She rejected the label, saying, "They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

9. Frida Kahlo’s tumultuous marriage sparked more pain and paintings.

Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera and a pet dog, Mexico City, 1940s
Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera and a pet dog, Mexico City, 1940s
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Kahlo met Rivera, she was a student and he was already a father of four and on his way to his second divorce. Despite a 20-year age difference, the pair quickly fell for each other, spurring Rivera to leave his second wife and wed Kahlo in 1929.

From there, they were each other's greatest fans and supporters when it came to their art. But their 10-year marriage was wrought with fits of temper and infidelities on both sides. They divorced in 1939, only to remarry a year later. Paintings like Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, The Two Fridas, and The Love Embrace of the Universe boldly illustrated their relationship from Kahlo's perspective.

10. Frida Kahlo grieved privately and publicly for the children she never had.

Modern doctors believe that the bus accident had irreparably damaged Kahlo's uterus, which made pregnancies impossible to carry to term. In 1932, she painted Henry Ford Hospital, a provocative self-portrait that marks one of several devastating miscarriages she suffered.

The piece would be displayed to the world in a 1938 gallery show. But Kahlo kept private personal letters to her friend, Doctor Leo Eloesser, in which she wrote, "I had so looked forward to having a little Dieguito that I cried a lot, but it's over, there is nothing else that can be done except to bear it.'" This letter, along with others from their decades-long exchange, were released in 2007, having been hidden for almost 50 years by a patron worried about their contents.

11. Frida Kahlo once arrived to an art show in an ambulance.

In 1953, toward the end of her short life, the painter was overjoyed about her first solo exhibition in Mexico. But a hospital stay threatened her attendance. Against doctors' orders, Kahlo made an incredible entrance, pulling up in an ambulance as if in a limousine.

12. Frida Kahlo is rumored to have had several famous lovers.

When she wasn't recovering from surgery or confined to a recuperation bed, Kahlo was full of life, relishing the chance to dance, socialize, and flirt. While American sculptor Isamu Noguchi was in Mexico City for the creation of his History as Seen from Mexico in 1936, he and Kahlo began a passionate affair that evolved into a life-long friendship.

Three years later, while visiting Paris, the bisexual painter struck up a romance with the city's "Black Pearl" entertainer Josephine Baker. And many have speculated that the artist and activist also bedded Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, while he and his wife Natalia stayed in Kahlo's family home after they were granted asylum in Mexico in 1936.

13. Frida Kahlo was fiercely proud of her heritage.

Though she'd lived in New York, San Francisco, and Paris, Kahlo was always drawn back to her hometown, Mexico City. She favored traditional Mexican garb, the long colorful skirts she was known for, and the Huipile blouses of Mexico’s matriarchal Tehuantepec society. Perhaps most telling, she told the press she was born in 1910, cutting three years off her age so she could claim the same birth year as the Mexican Revolution.

14. Frida Kahlo had several exotic pets.

Casa Azul boasts a lovely garden where Kahlo had her own animal kingdom. Along with a few Mexican hairless Xoloitzcuintli (a dog breed that dates back to the ancient Aztecs), Kahlo owned a pair of spider monkeys named Fulang Chang and Caimito de Guayabal, which can be spotted in Self Portrait with Monkeys. She also cared for an Amazon parrot called Bonito, who would perform tricks if promised a pat of butter as a reward, a fawn named Granizo, and an eagle nicknamed Gertrudis Caca Blanca (a.k.a. Gertrude White Shit).

15. Frida Kahlo has emerged as a feminist icon.

Though in her time some dismissed this passionate painter as little more than "the wife of Master Mural Painter (Diego Rivera)," Kahlo's imaginative art drew acclaim from the likes of Pablo Picasso and film star Edward G. Robinson. After her death, the rise of feminism in the 1970s sparked a renewed interest in her work. Kahlo's reputation eclipsed Rivera's, and she grew to become one of the world's most famous painters.

Feminist theorists embrace Kahlo's deeply personal portraits for their insight into the female experience. Likewise, her refusal to be defined by others' definitions and the self-love shown in her proud capturing of her natural unibrow and mustache speak to modern feminist concerns over gender roles and body-positivity.

16. Frida Kahlo’s personal style has become a vibrant part of her legacy.

Frida's art and its influence were not simply spawned from the paint she put to canvas. Her distinctive personal style has proved influential in the world of fashion, inspiring designers like Raffaella Curiel, Maya Hansen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Dolce & Gabbana. (In 2019, Vans even launched a collection of shoes featuring her work.)

17. Frida Kahlo's work is record-breaking.

On May 11, 2016, at the first auction to put a major Frida work up for sale in six years, her 1939 painting Dos desnudos en el bosque (La tierra misma) sold for over $8 million—the highest auction price then paid for any work by a Latin American artist.

This story was updated in 2020.