South Dakota

Text by Paola Corini
Photographs by Luca De Santis

They ran, and how they ran. We didn’t want to lose sight of them. For some stretches of the prairie the birch and cottonwood trees, yellow as lemons, shielded them and the horses rustled in the leaves.

The women cried out “heee!”: their most convincing tool seem to be their voice, and the men’s the whips as light and long as river reeds. Miss Rodeo 2017 had her good cotton shirt unbuttoned as far as she could and a summer hat, like in the Cowgirl oil painting by John Lagatta. Following the cowboy lifestyle was more a matter of fact than a choice.

“Do you ride bulls too?” I’d asked the eldest son of the rodeo arena’s owners at 3-Mile Creek in Pine Ridge. It was called The Beauty and The Beast and every Wednesday evening in summer it sold out.

Eight years old, crystal-clear eyes, he answered: “Not anymore, I did do once. Now I like riding horses.” A binary choice, a bit like the state’s menus, bison meat or eggs, all protein. And then again: Coca Cola or Soda, water didn’t even figure among the choices, and I’m not joking.

The Sioux children’s games were often situations from their lives recreated in miniature. So, the community’s youngest member, Oglala, just two years old, played at capturing a trunk stump with a lasso and then riding it like a bucking bronco.

Other Stories from

South Dakota