McKenna Cooley

Things I’ve Learned Living in Yankton, South Dakota

1. They take a lot of pride in cows and tractors. Maybe it was because I lived with a farmer’s daughter for two years and then she married a farmer. Maybe it’s because of the stockyard in town. But cows and tractors seem to be big points around here. They are everywhere and are talked about quite a bit in a small town.

2. Fires are common. People have fires on their properties for a variety of reasons but they are always controlled. You would never see that anywhere more populated.

3. Always have a snow scraper with you. It does not matter what the weatherman says. You always need to be prepared for the bipolar weather of South Dakota. It could be sunny one minute and snowing the next.

4. Locals are always right. It does not matter what the subject is, they are experts on it. They will prove their points with the knowledge of other people that they bring in to help prove their point. It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

5. It’s not that cold. Sure, it’s a little chilly when the wind gets going, but really -10 isn’t that bad. It could be worse.

6. You will have these five conversations every day: 1) weather, 2) local stories, 3) vehicles/motorcycles/tractors/four wheelers for sale, 4) local and professional sports scores, and 5) endless connections to people five towns over.

7. Their concept of a far drive. A good five hours is not far. That’s a day trip there and back with a few hours in between to do an activity, like the Mall of America. I used to think that I could not do more than three hours by myself, and even that seemed like a far drive. Now, I am completely unbothered, I’ve figured out how to keep myself entertained for that long and the drive flies by, so it really “isn’t that far of a drive.”

8. There’s no good way to say goodbye except by walking out the door. I can say I gotta go, grab all my stuff, and be standing in the doorway letting snow cover the floor. They will still find a way to continue the conversation. There’s always something more to say, which then results in at least five goodbyes before a final escape with a wave through the window.

9. You will never find friendlier people. I’ve never met such nice people outside of my family. The locals here have been so welcoming and kind, and have made my time here a real joy. I have had both triumphs and downtimes, I have felt love and support from everyone on Mount Marty’s campus, as well as the greater Yankton community. I can’t imagine spending the last four years anywhere else.


This was featured in Paddlefish 2021-22. Click here to view.