Final Post

July 10, 2018


To all of you who have been loyal fans and followers of this website, it is with great sadness that I must inform you that Herb Ryan will no longer be maintaining this website.  Herb began Custer Free Press as a labor of love.  He believed that there was a need in Custer for an additional news source to provide current, broad and unbiased information at a time when journalism is under attack.  He took this responsibility very seriously and did his best to pursue truth wherever he found it.  Often he stayed up late at night to bring you the latest information on events as they unfolded.  His coverage included many events that were not covered in other publications and, of course, he brought them to you accompanied by his spectacular photography.  It was incredibly important to him to give you, the reader, a chance to see and feel these events for yourself.

Among the things he loved the most was documenting first responders as they battled fire or helped rescue lost hikers.  He was awed by the color and spectacle of Native American dances and ceremonies.  And, of course, the beauty of our environment here in the Black Hills was a constant source of inspiration.  He was an artist first and foremost and has left a legacy of amazing photographs which I will cherish always.  Creating the design of each post gave him great pleasure as did tailoring his photographs to give you the best views.

I urge you all to take some time to review the posts on this website.  Custer Free Press  bears witness to so many local events and the people who made them happen.  All of our friends and neighbors are represented here.  Herb selflessly gave his time to document life in our area.  Enjoy the memories.  He wanted you to have them.

Through the years, Herb truly appreciated all the feedback (both positive and negative!) he received and the relationships he developed with the resources necessary to bring you the news.  He was a person of strong opinions and passions which sometimes clashed with those of others.  But he never shied away from controversy and was always true to his ideals.

Already he is greatly missed by those who loved him.

Thank you all for your loyal support.


Peg Ryan (Herb’s Wife of 35 years)


MITCHELL, SD – The Dusty Johnson for Congress campaign is pleased to announce the results of a public poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and commissioned by The Argus Leader and KELO-TV. The survey of 625 registered Republican voters showed that 41% of South Dakotans will vote for Dusty Johnson for Congress on June 5th. This is an 18 point lead over Shantel Krebs, who trails at 23%.

Other highlights from the poll include a regional analysis of the results that show Dusty Johnson commands a plurality of support across South Dakota’s Republican universe and that he has the highest favorability rating among the three candidates.

“This is incredible news for our campaign, our supporters, and South Dakota,” said Dusty Johnson. “It’s proof that South Dakotans are fed up with the negativity and gridlock that is crippling Washington. From the beginning, my candidacy has been solutions oriented and that will never change – it’s who I am. Even as my opponents have turned to mudslinging and character attacks as a last-ditch effort when they are behind in the polls, I have stood my ground and stuck by my pledge to run only positive, solutions-oriented ads. South Dakotans should know that I will always stand up for what is right in Washington, just as I have in this race. With less than a week until the primary, I remain committed to attacking only the issues like: pushing for fiscal responsibility, working on a new Farm Bill, and bringing much needed reform to our welfare system. If you support positive campaigning and believe that we need a problem solver representing South Dakota, I would be honored to have your vote on June 5th.”

Dusty Johnson grew up in a working-class family in Central South Dakota and graduated from USD Vermillion. A former policy staff member for Governor Mike Rounds, Dusty learned early on he had a passion for public service. After serving on the Public Utilities Commission, Dusty became Governor Daugaard’s Chief of Staff and helped lead the state out of a $127 million deficit. Dusty currently works as Vice President at Vantage Point Solutions in Mitchell where he helps telecommunications companies deploy fiber and broadband into rural communities.



PIERRE, S.D. –  With summer under way, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety continues its efforts to discourage people from drinking and then driving by holding sobriety checkpoints statewide during the month of June.

There are 35 checkpoints scheduled in 24 different counties during June. The checkpoints are funded by the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety and conducted by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

June checkpoints are scheduled for the counties of:  Brookings, Butte, Charles Mix, Codington, Custer, Edmunds, Davison, Day, Hamlin, Hughes, Jackson, Lake, Lawrence, Lincoln, Meade, Mellette, Minnehaha, Moody, Pennington, Roberts, Sanborn, Stanley, Walworth and Yankton.

Both the Office of Highway Safety and the Highway Patrol are part of the Department of Public Safety.


ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – An airman first class assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing will face a general court-martial scheduled to begin on May 30, 2018.

Airman 1st Class David E. MacDonald is facing one charge in violation of Article 118, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for murder. The charge is in relation to the death of his infant son on Nov. 7, 2016. An Article 32, pretrial hearing, occurred at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Oct. 26, 2017.

The convening authority directed referral of the charge to a general court-martial, after the Article 32 hearing.

Military members under investigation or facing court-martial for any offense, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Air Force and the 28th Bomb Wing takes all criminal allegations seriously and pursues appropriate action through the military justice system.


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Preparing to decorate graves, May 1899.
Library of Congress

Richard Gardiner, Columbus State University

In the years following the bitter Civil War, a former Union general took a holiday originated by former Confederates and helped spread it across the entire country.

The holiday was Memorial Day, and this year’s commemoration on May 28 marks the 150th anniversary of its official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868. It is a holiday in which the nation honors its military dead.

Gen. John A. Logan, who headed the largest Union veterans’ fraternity at that time, the Grand Army of the Republic, is usually credited as being the originator of the holiday.

Yet when General Logan established the holiday, he acknowledged its genesis among the Union’s former enemies, saying, “It was not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South.”

I’m a scholar who has written – with co-author Daniel Bellware – a history of Memorial Day. Cities and towns across America have for more than a century claimed to be the holiday’s birthplace, but we have sifted through the myths and half-truths and uncovered the authentic story of how this holiday came into being.

Generous acts bore fruit

During 1866, the first year of this annual observance in the South, a feature of the holiday emerged that made awareness, admiration and eventually imitation of it spread quickly to the North.

During the inaugural Memorial Day observances which were conceived in Columbus, Georgia, many Southern participants – especially women – decorated graves of Confederate soldiers as well as, unexpectedly, those of their former enemies who fought for the Union.

Civil War Union Gen. John A. Logan.
Library of Congress Glass negatives

Shortly after those first Memorial Day observances all across the South, newspaper coverage in the North was highly favorable to the ex-Confederates.

“The action of the ladies on this occasion, in burying whatever animosities or ill-feeling may have been engendered in the late war towards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and commendation,” wrote one paper.

On May 9, 1866, the Cleveland Daily Leader lauded the Southern women during their first Memorial Day.

“The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and will be appreciated in the North.”

The New York Commercial Advertiser, recognizing the magnanimous deeds of the women of Columbus, Georgia, echoed the sentiment. “Let this incident, touching and beautiful as it is, impart to our Washington authorities a lesson in conciliation.”

Power of a poem

To be sure, this sentiment was not unanimous. There were many in both parts of the U.S. who had no interest in conciliation.

But as a result of one of these news reports, Francis Miles Finch, a Northern judge, academic and poet, wrote a poem titled “The Blue and the Gray.” Finch’s poem quickly became part of the American literary canon. He explained what inspired him to write it:

“It struck me that the South was holding out a friendly hand, and that it was our duty, not only as conquerors, but as men and their fellow citizens of the nation, to grasp it.”

Finch’s poem seemed to extend a full pardon to the South: “They banish our anger forever when they laurel the graves of our dead” was one of the lines.

Not just poems: Sheet music written to commemorate Memorial Day in 1870.
Library of Congress

Almost immediately, the poem circulated across America in books, magazines and newspapers. By the end of the 19th century, school children everywhere were required to memorize Finch’s poem. The ubiquitous publication of Finch’s rhyme meant that by the end of 1867, the southern Memorial Day holiday was a familiar phenomenon throughout the entire, and recently reunited, country.

General Logan was aware of the forgiving sentiments of people like Finch. When Logan’s order establishing Memorial Day was published in various newspapers in May 1868, Finch’s poem was sometimes appended to the order.

‘The blue and the grey’

It was not long before Northerners decided that they would not only adopt the Southern custom of Memorial Day, but also the Southern custom of “burying the hatchet.” A group of Union veterans explained their intentions in a letter to the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph on May 28, 1869:

“Wishing to bury forever the harsh feelings engendered by the war, Post 19 has decided not to pass by the graves of the Confederates sleeping in our lines, but divide each year between the blue and the grey the first floral offerings of a common country. We have no powerless foes. Post 19 thinks of the Southern dead only as brave men.”

Other reports of reciprocal magnanimity circulated in the North, including the gesture of a 10-year-old who made a wreath of flowers and sent it to the overseer of the holiday, Colonel Leaming, in Lafayette, Indiana, with the following note attached, published in The New Hampshire Patriot on July 15, 1868:

“Will you please put this wreath upon some rebel soldier’s grave? My dear papa is buried at Andersonville, (Georgia) and perhaps some little girl will be kind enough to put a few flowers upon his grave.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s wish that there be “malice toward none” and “charity for all” was visible in the magnanimous actions of participants on both sides, who extended an olive branch during the Memorial Day observances in those first three years.

The ConversationAlthough not known by many today, the early evolution of the Memorial Day holiday was a manifestation of Lincoln’s hope for reconciliation between North and South.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.



Administration to Increase H-2B Workers by 15,000 for Fiscal Year 2018

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to allow an additional 15,000 H-2B workers for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, which ends September 30.

“While we would have hoped this news would have come sooner from the administration, it may still help a number of our businesses in South Dakota. South Dakota’s tourism and construction seasons are already underway, and employers across the state have been left without the temporary work they need to fully operate. While we hope today’s announcement will help, the lack of adequate help has already had an adverse impact on these small business owners’ livelihoods, as well as the entire economy of our state. Moving forward, finding a long-term fix for the H-2B visa issue is vital. As jobs are created and our economy grows, we must utilize highly effective, thoroughly vetted programs such as the H-2B program if we are to ever fully reach our economic potential.”

The omnibus appropriations bill, which was signed into law in April allowed the DHS to increase the number of H-2B visas if it is determined that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2018 with domestic workers.

On February 27, 2018, USCIS determined that it had received sufficient H-2B petitions to meet the full FY 2018 statutory cap of 66,000.

Starting immediately, eligible petitioners for H-2B visas can file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Eligible petitioners must submit a supplemental attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 with their petition.

Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the final temporary rule and on the Increase in H-2B Nonimmigrant Visas for FY 2018 webpage to be published on when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

South Dakota Wants City Dwellers, Native Americans To Work For Medicaid

Just a few days after Michigan Republicans walked back their controversial plan to exempt several majority-white counties from its proposed Medicaid work requirement after a widespread backlash and accusations of racism, South Dakota unveiled its own proposal that wades into a similar legal and political fight.

The draft waiver the state released this week proposes the implementation of a Medicaid work requirement for a five-year period only in the state’s two most populous counties, Minnehaha and Pennington, home to Sioux Falls and Rapid City respectively. While the both the state and its largest cities are overwhelmingly white, more than two-thirds of the state’s black residents and nearly half of the state’s Hispanic residents live in the two counties where the work requirements would take effect.

The state’s waiver justifies singling out the two counties by arguing that they were selected “based on population and access to employment and training resources,” and says other counties may be added “based on the initial outcomes of the pilot.”

If residents in those two counties who depend on Medicaid aren’t able to prove that they’re spending at least 80 hours per month working, studying, or searching for a job, they could lose their health care coverage.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced he would be pursuing the waiver back in January, saying the new rules would “connect those who can work with jobs that give them that sense of self-worth and accomplishment.” Because South Dakota never expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, the work requirement would be imposed upon people in so-called “traditional Medicaid,” which in South Dakota means people earning up to 58 percent of the federal poverty level.

South Dakota’s waiver also steps squarely into the fight over whether Native Americans should be exempt from the new requirements. American Indian tribes and their supporters in Congress on both sides of the aisle have argued that it would be a violation of tribal sovereignty to force the work requirements on them, but the Trump administration has asserted that exempting Native Americans would be granting an illegal racial preference, and has empowered states to make the call.

South Dakota, which has the fourth-highest percentage of Native Americans in the country, writes that when they consulted with Native American groups while drafting the waiver: “Some of the tribes expressed concern or opposition to the demonstration and requested an exemption for American Indians.” Neither those concerns nor the threat of legal action, however, were not enough to persuade the state from plowing ahead.

“The counties included in the pilot do not include Indian reservations,” the waiver notes. “In addition, the State’s understanding is that CMS has determined that it cannot legally exempt American Indians.”

But Jerilyn Church, the CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (GPTCHB) in South Dakota, told state officials in a conference call in April that by not granting American Indians an exemption, they were pursuing a policy that was both harmful and illegal.

“Medicaid is an extension of the treaty obligation,” Church said, according to the meeting minutes. “Most American Indians want to work; but, on the reservation there is limited opportunity. … Data is clear that it is harder for American Indians to obtain jobs off the reservation compared to other populations.”

South Dakota Named the “Most Promising Destination” by Chinese Tourism Group


PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota was recently named the “Most Promising Destination” in the United States at a National Tourism Award Ceremony held by Tourism Media Group, an official partner of the China Travel Service Association.

“The partnership with our Chinese tourism marketing agency East-West Marketing has brought us tremendous growth in this market,” said James Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “This award demonstrates that South Dakota is a destination that Chinese travelers want to visit and experience. We are excited about the potential for growth in the number of Chinese travelers coming to South Dakota in the years and decades to come.”

For seven years, the Department of Tourism has been building relationships with traditional travel agencies and online travel agencies in the Chinese market. The department has launched tour routes to meet outbound travel demand from Chinese tourists, and engaged with Chinese media to keep them informed of the latest South Dakota offerings. Unique marketing campaigns have been launched, including a partnership with DiDi Rental Car, a ride-sharing company similar to Uber and Lyft, that targets tourists who have an interest in road trip vacations.

“In the past seven years, South Dakota has seen a steady increase of Chinese visitors to our state,” said Hagen. “China is the fastest growing group of visitors to the United States and, within a few years, more Chinese visitors will be traveling to the United States than from any other country.  It’s an important market for our state, especially since Chinese travelers stay in our country longer and spend more money than other international visitors,” continued Hagen.

Hagen notes that the Department of Tourism is continuing to monitor the Chinese market for potential investment of marketing dollars since the Chinese are typically interested in South Dakota’s monuments, memorials, and Old West and Native American cultures.

The National Tourism Award Ceremony is held by Tourism Media Group, the official media partner of the China Travel Service Association. National Tourism Magazine is a leading tourism industry magazine in China and produced by National Media Group. The magazine produces and distributes 15,000 issues each month, 80 percent of which go to travel agencies. Readers of the magazine include millions of Chinese tourism professionals.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The department is led by Secretary James Hagen.

The 15th Annual Wheel Jam will be held May 31 – June 3 at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron

HURON, S.D. – Wheel Jam hosts the Wheel Jam Truck Show, car show, motorcycle show, Make it Mine Show ‘n Shine and Pick Up Party, the Original SD BBQ Championships and two nights of stock car racing featuring the Iverson’s Late Model Challenge and the Prostrollo Motors Challenge Cup.

“Wheel Jam is three big days, three big shows and thousands of wheels,” said State Fair manager Peggy Besch. “Come check out the car, truck and motorcycle shows, as well as numerous other events. Wheel Jam offers free event admission. It’s a weekend you don’t want to miss.”

Throughout the three days, there will also be activities specifically geared toward trucks, cars or motorcycles. Activities include the truck show light show, poker run, biker games, parade, vendors, audio sound competition and classic car auction. Thomas Carnival and a kayak pond will be set up for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Wheel Jam also features live musical entertainment. On Friday, the Weston Frank Band and Jerry Scheckle and the Midnight Ramblers will be playing on the 18 Wheel Stage at the Wheel Jam Truck Show. Also taking place on Friday is the Big Jim Jam Fest featuring the Black Water Band and Shades of Air. ZZ3 and Dustin Evans and the Good Times Band will perform Saturday night on the Freedom Stage. Leland Harding III will play on Sunday morning as cars and motorcycles register.

Camping is available at Wheel Jam and is $25 per night. For more event details and a full schedule of events, check