DENR Reminds Irrigators to Avoid Overspray

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reminds irrigators to check their center pivots to ensure they are operating properly and are adjusted to spray only upon land authorized for irrigation by their water permit.

“It is important that irrigators do everything they can to avoid overspraying onto nearby roads or neighboring properties,” said DENR Secretary Steve Pirner. “Irrigation overspray can damage roadways, lead to unsafe driving conditions and impact neighbors.”

A water right holder is not allowed to waste water or operate an irrigation system in violation of state water law, which includes spraying water on land not covered by the water permit. Irrigation systems and especially end guns must be constantly monitored to make sure they are not applying water where it is not allowed. Irrigators who fail to prevent overspray can be subject to fines or required to appear before the Water Management Board for possible suspension of their right to irrigate.

South Dakota has nearly 5,300 active irrigation permits authorizing irrigation of up to 879,000 acres.

State Treasurer Returns $15.7 Million in Unclaimed Property

Pierre, SD – State Treasurer Rich Sattgast returned nearly $16 million in unclaimed funds this fiscal year. That figure is up $5.6 million from 2014 when the state returned $10.1 million in unclaimed property.

Unclaimed property refers to accounts in financial institutions, businesses and government agencies that have had no activity for three years or longer. The State of South Dakota acts as the custodian of lost property until it can be returned to the rightful owners.

“This last year we received over 4,000 claims from South Dakotans,” said State Treasure Rich Sattgast. “That’s money getting into the hands of our citizens which ultimately makes its way into our economy and that’s good for our state.”

Unclaimed Property is currently holding $69.1 million in unclaimed funds, but that amount is ever changing.

“Abandoned and forgotten property is turned over to the state throughout the year, so it’s important to check the unclaimed property database regularly,” Sattgast said. “Our office participates in numerous events across the state. Come visit us at one of the many fairs we’re attending this summer and we’ll help you check for unclaimed property in your name as well as assist you in filling out a claim form.”

To check for unclaimed property, visit or call the unclaimed property hotline at 1-866-357-2547 to talk to an Unclaimed Property representative.

S.D. Road Adventures

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We have a feature story in our current South Dakota Magazine (July/August) on traveling Old Highway 16. At first I wanted to title it “Hwy 16: The Perfect S.D. Road Trip” but my fellow editors talked me out of that. It sounds like the perfect road trip to me, but probably isn’t for those who don’t want to go off-roading for a few miles here or there. Our photographer nearly collided with a longhorn cow in Haakon County.

Luckily, we have several other summer travel recommendations for those who like their roads more civilized. Here are some basic recommendations for road-tripping 16, and a few other highlights from our summer travel issue.

Highway 16 covers a 400-mile stretch between our east and west borders, connecting Sioux Falls with Rapid City and several smaller communities along the way. It was part of a 1,600-mile passage between Detroit and Yellowstone National Park that was linked nearly a century ago. A group formed in 1919 to promote the journey in South Dakota, which intersected at times with Highways 14 and 20.

Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways To Spot Suspicious Calls

The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation, lawsuit or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” said Karen Connelly, IRS spokeswoman. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue will occur via mail. Don’t get involved in a tax scam or be bullied by a con artist.”
The IRS reminds people how to spot an “IRS” caller as a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do.

The IRS will never:
1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. 5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Catherine M. Mayes of Winner, South Dakota, Chosen to Lead District of Elks – USA

As members of the Elks-USA from across the nation
gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 5–9, Catherine M. Mayes, of Winner, was installed as district deputy to the Elks National President for the lodges in the West District of the South Dakota Elks Association.

Mayes was installed at the Order’s 151th Elks National Convention currently under way in Indianapolis, Indiana, where over 9,000 members and guests were present. She will serve a one-year term.

Tripp County Native Duffy Honored in Iowa

jack duffyBy The Mail-Sun, Sheldon Iowa
SHELDON, Iowa — Former Tripp County resident Jack Duffy was surrounded by old friends and admirers during a return to the northwest Iowa town where he worked for more than three decades.

The longtime director of education at East Elementary School in Sheldon, Iowa, came “home” for the dedication of the Jack B. Duffy Reading Room in his honor on July 3. Dozens of people attended the event and seized the chance to say thanks to a man who devoted three decades to the school.

Blue Ribbon Task-Force on Teachers and Students

look at you billie sutton

By Sen. Billie Sutton

The Blue Ribbon Task-Force on Teachers and Students that was created by Governor Daugaard, of which I am a member, kicked off its first official meeting on July 7th.

There are 26 total task force members from all across South Dakota, half is made up of legislators and half is made up of members of the general public.  The other 13 members are legislators and Governor’s office staff. As you can see, the task force is made up of a very diverse and qualified group of caring South Dakotans. We are lucky to have local Superintendent Erik Person from Burke on the task force. He will be a valuable asset representing the small schools in our district. This group definitely has its work cut out for it as we move forward in solving South Dakota’s teacher shortage crisis. I am excited for the opportunity to address unanswered questions and find solutions to make sure we keep and attract the best and brightest teachers to our state and cement the success of future generations.

The overarching goal of the task-force is to answer this question:
What possibilities are there to meaningfully fund education for our kids and our communities? 

In order to answer this question we will have to take into account the 151 separate school districts and 128,294 students educated in our schools. Every school district has unique needs and challenges, which makes accomplishing meaningful reforms a complicated task. It’s a worthwhile and rewarding task, though and I believe education should be the most important focus of both the legislature and the general public as 1/3 of our state’s general fund budget goes towards funding K-12 education.

Early on in this process the Governor laid out three goals for education that I wholeheartedly agree with. As South Dakotans, we should all want:
A quality system of schools focused on student achievement;
A workforce of great teachers; and
An efficient, equitable funding system that supports those goals.

Remembering a Great American Cowboy

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A map of cattle trails and a life-size statue of James A. “Tennessee” Vaughn astride a horse dominate the Founders Room at the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish.

Cattlemen like Vaughn were significant in developing the open range and cattle operations in South Dakota and Wyoming.

The High Plains Western Heritage Center  celebrated the Great Western Cattle Trail Event and the National Day of the American Cowboy on July 3 -5 with a Western art show, saddle displays and American cowboy displays. The Western Heritage Center is participating in the Great Western Cattle Trail Project, part of a nine-state effort by the Great Western Cattle Trail Association to identify the general route of that trail. The Great Western Cattle Trail ran from Texas to Dakota, Montana and Wyoming territories. Concrete markers on the High Plains Western Heritage Center’s grounds identify the trail’s route and an extensive floor display at the museum tells the trail’s story.

In the years after the Civil War, from the 1870s to the early 1890s, Texas cattle outfits drove their herds north to summer pasture to finish them for eastern markets. According to historian and author Paul Higbee of Spearfish, the land in Texas was overgrazed and the High Plains area offered outstanding grass.

Economics were also a factor, he said. The cattle were used to satisfy federal contracts on the reservations.

As a trail boss, Vaughn was credited with bringing more longhorns up the trail than any other trail boss. One of Vaughn’s responsibilities would be to advance the herd to determine grass and water sources and report back to the drovers to set up night camp.  A trail boss was responsible for the safety of the cattle and had to be skilled in working with both cowboys and the owners of the cattle outfits.

The usual trail drive formation was made up of 11 positions of riders.  Some cowboys were in charge of the herd of horses from which cowboys selected their mounts. There was also a cook.

It took an average of 90 days to travel from Texas to the forks of the Grand River in South Dakota’s Perkins County.

While most cattle herds on the trail numbered 2,500, Vaughn sometimes trailed twice as many.

Vaughn was born on July 22, 1851, in Lebanon, Tenn. He went to Texas in 1866, at age 15, and was hired as a cowboy by the Ellison Brothers outfit at Lockhart, Texas.

Vaughn made the first of his nine trail drives in about 1873, driving cattle for the Driskill Cattle Company from Texas to Wyoming. He would be with the Driskill outfit for 18 years before working for A.J. “Tony” Day, general manager of the Turkey Track. Both the Driskill and the Turkey Track were large cattle outfits that had operations in western South Dakota. Vaughn later drove horses to Canada.

Vaughn married Ella Bacon Dorsett in Idaho on Christmas Day, 1887. The newlyweds moved to the Spearfish area, living with Ella’s adoptive parents, David and Amanda Dorsett. In 1904, the Vaughns moved into a house in Spearfish. They raised seven children.

His obituary stated that “Mr. Vaughn had the reputation of being able to take a herd of cattle over the long trail and have them arrive in better condition than any other trailboss on the range.”

An Old Timers’ Annual Picnic was started in 1925 as a way for cowboys to get together. Ed Lemmon wrote that Vaughn attended the Old Timers’ Picnic at Bixby, near the present-day town of Bison, in 1932 and called him an “outstanding figure.” Lemmon was an early-day cattleman after whom the town of Lemmon is named.

Vaughn was active in the Oddfellow Lodge, the Spearfish Social Club and the Congregational Church in Spearfish. He died at his home in Spearfish on Jan. 8, 1934.

“The present generation can scarcely conceive the life that these heroes of the plains lived and loved,” wrote Vaughn’s son, Ernest, in a 1976 article that appeared in Black Hills area newspapers. “Though ever flirting with danger, they blazed the trail, they opened the way and led the men ever on toward better things.”


Coppertown Clown Photo 3

Sit yourself down, and prepare to be entertained! Bert Davis, the Coppertown Clown is coming to the Burke Stampede Rodeo on July 17th, 18th and 19th at the Burke Arena in Burke, SD!  He’s armed with a wacky sense of humor and a wonderfully trained group of dogs and performing in front of a large rodeo crowd is ‘old hat’ for this veteran entertainer, rodeo clown, barrelman and specialty act.  His stage is a rodeo arena and his cast of players bark and howl; his quick wit, award winning comedy routines and ability to interact with a crowd offers up the promise of tear rolling laughter for his audiences.

Bert Davis, often dubbed the “Clown with all the Dogs” reached the third round in the TV show: America’s Got Talent (2010); they were the only animal act to make it to Las Vegas.  Known as the “Muttley Crew” this act features 10 rescue dogs, adopted by Bert and his wife, Frannie, all of whom are superbly trained tricksters.  His great dogs were recognized by National Geographic in 2002 in a television documentary titled: “Dogs with Jobs”, and Bert has appeared in numerous PBR telecasts and the CMT documentary: “Stomped and Gored”, plus a variety of other television features.

While Davis is a courageous and hilarious performer; it is his numerous dogs that truly endear him to the spectators. Those sidekicks, with their high energy antics make Bert, the Coppertown Clown, one of the best and most-traveled animal specialty acts in the industry.  They have gained international notoriety by performing in five provinces of Canada, 41 different States and in Australia.

Not much can throw a funnyman who has faced rampageous bulls on a daily basis for the past 38 years.  What keeps this extremely courageous and hilariously talented performer going those thousands of miles, year in and year out?  Well, it comes from the heart&ldots;  Garth Brooks sings “It’s the roar of the Sunday crowd” in Rodeo.  But for Bert Davis, the Coppertown Clown, it is the roar of any crowd.

Follow Bert Davis and Davis’ Muttley Crew on Facebook.  Website:

Referendum Petition Approved

Pierre, SD – Referendum petitions for Senate Bill 177, “An Act to establish a youth minimum wage.” have been validated and filed with the SD Secretary of State’s office. The referral process required that Senate Bill 177 needed 13,871 signatures in order to be referred to the vote of the citizens of South Dakota in the November 2016 general election.

According to state statute 2-1-16 the Secretary of State’s office is required to perform a 5% random sampling of the signatures submitted. The random sampling process was overseen and reviewed by Secretary of State staff to check the signatures for completeness and to ensure the signatures were registered voters in the county they stated on the petition.  Following the sampling, it was determined that 17,077 signatures were valid.

This referendum petition will be Referred Law 20.