Five-star Reviews for “Natives of a Dry Place”


“I couldn’t put [the book] down. Not only did it capture people and place with an almost magnetic clarity, but it was so gracefully written that I didn’t want to stop reading. . . . It was a privilege to meet so many of the Stanley folks, and your family, on such intimate terms.”—Fergus M. Bordewich, author of America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union

“Edwards has a keen eye, and through his deep connection with the Great Plains and love of the souls who made it their home, he distills wonderful vignettes of enduring character, and offers insights as to why this land seemed to mold its denizens so. Edwards doesn’t romanticize, which just makes his well researched and intimate observations of people all the more compelling.”—Robert Hazen, reviewer

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)

Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom is available for $16.95, plus shipping and tax, at or by calling (605) 773-6009.

Contact for publicity information, a review copy, or to schedule an interview or event with Richard Edwards.


“The Midwest Book Review” recommends “Red Cloud: Oglala Legend”

Impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, and deftly presented, “Red Cloud: Oglala Legend” is an informed and informative read from beginning to end. A work of impressive research-based scholarship, “Red Cloud: Oglala Legend” is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Native American History. It will also prove to be a core addition to community and academic library Native American Studies reference collections in general, and Oglala History supplemental studies lists in particular.”—Willis M. Buhle, The Midwest Book Revew

McDermott - Red Cloud (CI)

Red Cloud: Oglala Legend is available for $14.95 from your local bookstore, online, or through the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Call (605) 773-6009 or visit to order.

Working Cattle with Ed Lemmon; or, A Town Boy Explains How Not to Ride Line

Let me confess: I’m a total town boy. I’ve lived in South Dakota most of my life, but I couldn’t tell you what a combine actually does, how to tell an Angus from a Hereford, or when winter wheat is in the fields (I feel like that has to be a trick question).

It’s pretty sad, really. Agriculture is key to understanding the history and heritage of South Dakota, but I could tell you more about Populist farmers’ attitudes toward binder-twine manufacturers than about what they actually did with the twine. Seems like a basic part of my perspective is incomplete.

Sanderson - Controlled Recklessness (CI)But it’s never too late to learn. That’s why I’ve enjoyed working with Controlled Recklessness, Nathan Sanderson’s biography of stock-raising legend Ed Lemmon. Not only could Lemmon saddle-handle cattle better than anyone else; unlike most cowboys, he also climbed the ladder of success and acquired a significant interest in one of the biggest outfits of its day in West River South Dakota. Sanderson’s book covers Lemmon’s colorful life as both a cowboy and a cattleman, and it taught me, to take just one example, how a roundup actually works. In theory.

As I was driving back to Pierre from Rapid City along Highway 14 early one morning this spring, I noticed a couple of little black calves hanging out on my side of the fence. Somebody should do something about those baby cows, I thought dismissively, and drove on.

Over the next mile my conscience wore me down. What would Ed Lemmon do? it asked, and finally I heaved a sigh and turned around, drove back past the calves, and parked. I made sure I had my phone, in case I had to call an ambulance, and my wallet, in case I had to be identified. Then I set off on foot across the road to—well, I’m a town boy. I didn’t know what I was doing.

My first naïve assumption was quickly dispelled. I had pictured myself ambling along beside these two spring calves, humming a little folksy tune, possibly having to nudge them with a hiking stick (yes, somehow in my imagination I had a hiking stick) to keep them moving. Well, they were having none of that. As soon as I got within about twenty yards, they cantered off down the fence line. This happened two or three times. To add to my disillusion, the first gate that I came to was not actually a gate. I didn’t even know what a gate looked like. What if there were no gates?

Finally my luck turned. I had trudged up onto the shoulder to discourage the calves from taking after the chicken and crossing the road, and from my new height, I could see a little streambed where the fence seemed to be lower. Presently the calves reached the bank and stopped, and as I moved directly behind them, the more athletic of the two jumped the fence handily and trotted off into the pasture. Okay, so far so good.

The second calf now experienced an agony of doubt and misgiving. Should it 1) jump, 2) run up and down the fence with me for all eternity, or 3) stand there and hope I was a nice guy? Finally option number one appeared to win out, and the animal screwed up its little nerve and took the plunge—literally. It landed ungracefully in the shallow water, but got out of the stream like a champ, shook it off, and hotfooted it for the safety of mom.

My pastoral idyll over, I noticed that it was a pretty chilly morning, and that my car was parked a lot farther away than I thought. Well, Ed Lemmon would have no sympathy for my discomfort—he had broken his leg handling cattle too often for that—so I sucked it up and walked briskly back, enjoying my success. Alas, I still couldn’t claim to have rounded up any beeves; technically, I had only been riding line. In a tiny Toyota.

Look forward to Controlled Recklessness, which we’ll be releasing next month at the South Dakota Festival of Books. Ed Lemmon is an inspiring character (as you can clearly see)—one of the last greats of the open range. His legacy is written all over the map of West River South Dakota.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear a stampede over across the bluffs. I’d better go see about that.



Controlled Recklessness: Ed Lemmon and the Open Range is available for pre-order at the South Dakota Historical Society Press website,, for $29.95. It will be released in hardcover on September 25, 2015.

Contact for publicity information or to schedule an interview or event with Nathan Sanderson.

Pre-order “Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom”

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)“As a child, I thought of my town—as most children probably do—as just an ordinary place. . . . Yet I have come to think that there were exceptional things in the lives of its people and especially in the values and virtues that they believed in and aspired to.”—Richard Edwards

Before the oil industry transformed western North Dakota, the natives of Stanley went about their normal, everyday lives. Postmen, farmers, housewives, doctors, and other residents of the bustling town held certain qualities close as they cultivated the cultural fabric of the Great Plains. For generations, inhabitants of this wheat-growing region developed a combination of resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to the community, and ever-present modesty.

Contrasting these values with the trials of the modern oil-boom community, author Richard Edwards examines the old town’s virtues through the stories of those who built and sustained a community on the dry, open plains in the twentieth century. A deeply personal look at a small North Dakota town, Natives of a Dry Place focuses on a not-so-distant past and takes readers on a journey of reflection to a time before big oil. Edwards uses his experience as both a historian and an economist to delve into the overarching questions of what makes a community and how it survives during times of upheaval.

R Edwards photo a 3.27.15Richard Edwards is director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of
Nebraska–Lincoln. He has written twelve books and numerous articles and has spent a lifetime working in academia. Edwards received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and also served as chair of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on September 25, 2015. It will be available for $16.95, plus shipping and tax.

Pre-order Natives of a Dry Place at or by calling (605) 773-6009.

Contact for publicity information, a review copy, or to schedule an interview or event with Richard Edwards.

“Controlled Recklessness: Ed Lemmon and the Open Range”

Sanderson - Controlled Recklessness (CI)As a cowboy, Ed Lemmon saddle-handled more cattle than any man in history. As a cattleman, he oversaw the largest fenced pasture in the world. Equally at home in both roles, Lemmon balanced reckless risk-taking and controlled management to shape the development of the cattle industry and become a central figure on the northern plains.

Born in 1857 into a hardworking and resilient family, George Edward (“Ed”) Lemmon grew up learning how to bounce back from adversity. Despite several crippling accidents on horseback, he continued to pursue his passion. A full-time cowboy at twenty and a range manager at twenty-three, Lemmon finally achieved what few cowboys could: an ownership stake in one of the largest outfits on the plains, the Flying V. He deftly navigated the complexities of both intercultural relations and federal bureaucracy, gaining a competitive advantage and grazing his cattle on Indian land. As the open range disappeared, Lemmon helped to transform the Northern Great Plains from a network of worn, dusty cattle trails to one of cattle towns linked by railroads.

In Controlled Recklessness, author Nathan Sanderson explores the motivations that led one of the greatest cowmen on the plains to saddle up time and time again. Using Lemmon’s own vibrant accounts, historical records, and corporate and government documents, Sanderson separates myth from reality. The result is a comprehensive look at Lemmon’s colorful life and his perspective as both a cowboy and a cattleman at the end of the open-range era.


Controlled Recklessness: Ed Lemmon and the Open Range will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on September 25, 2015. It will be available for $29.95, plus shipping and tax.

Pre-order Controlled Recklessness for $25 at or by calling (605) 773-6009. In addition to a price discount, customers who pre-order will be mailed a copy of the book signed by author Nathan Sanderson. The pre-order special ends September 1, 2015 to get Controlled Recklessness.

Contact for publicity information or to schedule an interview or event with Nathan Sanderson.

State Historical Society Publishes Story of South Dakota Aviation

4502 front cover onlyFrom the barnstorming era to the Space Age, the state’s colorful aviation heritage is the focus of the latest issue of “South Dakota History,” the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

The centerpiece of the Summer 2015 issue is an article by Steven J. Bucklin, professor of history at the University of South Dakota, titled “Fly-over Country?: A Glimpse of South Dakota through Its Aviation History.”

South Dakotans had their first experience with “flying machines” at the 1911 South Dakota Stock Growers Association convention in Rapid City, where the Curtiss Exhibition Company, owned by aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss, provided thrilling entertainment. Later, in the wake of Charles A. Lindbergh’s visits to Sioux Falls and Pierre after his heroic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, entrepreneurs looked to aviation as a means to stimulate South Dakota’s economy. By the mid-1930s, federal, state and local officials saw the need to regulate and promote the new industry along with providing essential aviation infrastructure.

Bucklin consulted state government records, interviewed notable figures such as former Gov. William J. Janklow (a licensed pilot), and read extensively in historic newspapers in the course of his research. Much of the author’s source material and most of the article’s illustrations were found in the State Historical Society’s archival collection at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

01 HuronStateFair

Some of the earliest flights in South Dakota took place during the 1911 and 1912 state fairs held at Huron. This postcard commemorates the appearance of a flying machine at the 1912 fair. South Dakota State Historical Society

“We enjoyed the opportunity to provide Professor Bucklin with some of the resources he needed to write an insightful article on such a fascinating topic,” said Matthew T. Reitzel, manuscript and photo archivist for the State Historical Society-Archives.

Bucklin holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Iowa. He is the author of several books and articles on South Dakota and on United States diplomatic history.

A subscription to “South Dakota History” is a benefit of membership in the South Dakota State Historical Society. For information on membership, call (605) 773-6000. Individual issues may be purchased for $10 plus tax and shipping by calling (605) 773-6009 or by visiting the South Dakota Historical Society Press website.