When a 7-year-old lost the thing he treasures most in the world, Delta employees went above and beyond – even searching in the trash – to get it back to him.
ABC News in Fargo, North Dakota, broke the story of Cole Holzer and his treasured T-shirt. The shirt wasn’t just an expensive gift or a favorite thing for the young boy to wear, but actually an article of clothing his father had been wearing when he tragically passed away following a freak accident while he was putting up Christmas lights.
As Tonya Holzer, the boy’s mother, explained: three years ago her son was inconsolable at the hospital after his father’s death, and said he wouldn’t leave until he had the Nike T-shirt in hand. So Tonya went in and retrieved the shirt, and it’s been Cole’s security blanket ever since. That is, until it was forgotten during the rush to leave the plane on a flight to California.
In the car, Cole realized the shirt was gone and became hysterical. Not knowing where to start, Tonya called Delta’s 1-800 number. By the end of the conversation, both the mother and the customer service agent were crying. From ground crew to ticket agents, Delta employees began searching for the worn T-shirt, which they called “the daddy shirt.”
Eventually, the Holzer family got a call from Delta assuring them what once was lost was now found. “Efforts made to reunite this very special shirt with Cole and his family is another fantastic example of Delta people going above and beyond for our customers,” a Delta representative told the news outlet.
If Rebecca Bierman gets an urge for a Big Mac, she has at least four options to satisfy the craving.
“I can go to Pierre or Sturgis, here in South Dakota,” says Bierman, a farmer and rancher who lives in Glad Valley, South Dakota. “Or I can go to Dickinson or Bismarck in North Dakota.”
The McDonald’s in Pierre is 142 miles from her home, the Sturgis branch is 147 miles away, and the golden arches in Dickinson and Bismarck are 146 and 159 miles away respectively. According to Stephen Von Worley, an artist and scientist from California, the area between Glad Valley and Meadow, South Dakota, is the “McFarthest” place in the country, that is, the part of America that is farthest away from a McDonald’s location. But there are places to eat in the area and one establishment even has strippers and coyote hunting contests.
According to Bierman, who grows wheat and oats along with her husband, Gene, there are only two houses with a grand total of three people in Glad Valley. There are no restaurants or businesses. She lives a mile and a half outside of town, if you can call Glad Valley that, and her husband is the town’s volunteer fire department.
“We’re very, very rural,” she says.
Bierman likes Big Macs but not enough to drive hours away to get them. Her husband wouldn’t eat at a Mickey D’s even if there was one across the street. When they want to go out to eat, there are two restaurants that are each about 20 miles away. There’s Sparky’s, a place that serves “regular American food” and is famous for its caramel nut apple pie in Isabel, a hamlet that, according to South Dakota magazine, has two farm implement dealers, a grain elevator, a medical clinic, a grocery, a hardware store and a few other businesses.
And there’s Smoky’s Bar & Grill, the only restaurant in tiny Meadow. A little further afield in Dupree, there’s a family restaurant called the Ranch House Café and an hour away, in a place called Eagle Butte, there’s a Dairy Queen, a Taco John and a gas station with a deli inside. She isn’t exactly spoiled for choice, but she isn’t complaining.
“We eat at home a lot,” she says.
When you live in a town as small as Glad Valley, you learn not to burn bridges and Bierman was guarded when asked which place she prefers.
“I could never tell you which place I like better,” she says. “That would get me in trouble around here.”
If McDonald’s decided to open a location in the area, would it be popular?
“I’m sure people would go there,” says Cindy Longbrake, the county auditor for South Dakota’s Ziebach County, which includes Glad Valley, plus the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. “I don’t make a special trip to go to McDonald’s but if they opened up around here, I’d probably go sometimes.”
Maybe so, but McDonald’s doesn’t have fully nude strippers or coyote hunting contests, as Smoky’s does.
“We’re an unincorporated town, so the girls can go fully nude. They don’t even have to wear pasties on their breasts,” says Lisa Wagner, the owner of Smoky’s.
Wagner said that the place has been open on and off since the 1950’s when a guy nicknamed Smoky ran the place.
“When Smoky owned this place, if you were old enough to reach the bar, you were old enough to get a drink,” she says.
These days, Smoky’s is known for their charbroiled burgers and steaks, and their Sunday buffet, which includes three choices of meat, a full salad bar and coffee or lemonade for $11, or $9.50 for seniors. Every so often, Wagner has strippers come in to dance and offer table and lap dances. She lives next door to the bar and says the town has six houses and a total of five residents and five dogs.
“We’re down to five people because Bernie just recently left the nursing home, Renee passed away from cancer and her husband lives out at the lake now,” she says. “And we have one empty house, the woman died years ago but they’ve haven’t tried to sell it.”
Wagner is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 19 years. She doesn’t mind living in a rural area but says that her daughter, who is “kind of a vegetarian” missed Taco Bell and other fast food places when they moved to the community about a decade ago. For the moment, business is decent and Wagner isn’t worried about McDonald’s coming in to steal her customers.
“People call ahead with their orders, so we’re kind of fast food,” she says. “And besides, our burgers are much better than theirs anyways.”
[Photo credits: Frago on Flickr; Sparky’s, Smoky’s]
I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.
If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.
America’s heartland is home to plentiful crops, rolling hills and orange sunsets. You can find a Dairy Queen next to a cherry tree and park yourself in front of a drive-in movie on a hot summer night. There’s also the world’s largest bottle of ketchup, and enchanted highway and the Jolly Green Giant…. wait, what?
It’s true, travelers. The Midwest is home to many quirky attractions that might seem downright weird, but make for great roadside fun. Here are 10 that are worthy of your time:
World’s Largest Catsup Bottle – Collinsville, Illinois
Along the Mississippi River in tiny Collinsville, Illinois, stands the world’s largest catsup bottle. It was built in 1949 and used to serve as a water tower for the Catsup factory that once existed there. The Catsup tower is 170 feet tall and located next to Route 159.
Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz – Liberal, Kansas
Whether you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz or simply appreciate the classic film, dropping by this Land of Oz museum is a must. This roadside attraction is located in Liberal, Kansas and visitors can tour a replica of Dorothy’s house in addition to the actual Land of Oz. Don’t forget to say hello to the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota
Even those who aren’t a fan of vegetables will be mesmerized by this 60 foot tall replica of the Jolly Green Giant. It rests alongside I-90 and Highway 169 in Blue Earth, Minnesota and was built in 1979 to celebrate the city’s canning business.Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
This 32 mile stretch off I-94 in North Dakota is appropriately dubbed the Enchanted Highway. It was designed by Gary Greff, a ND inhabitant, who wanted to improve the tourism business in the state. The highway features a variety of quirky sculptures, including a giant family made of tin and massive statues of insect and animals.
World’s Largest Easel / Van Gogh replica – Goodland, Kansas
Located along I-70 in the town of Goodland, Kansas passers by can ooh and ah over a 768-square foot replica of Van Gogh’s Three Sunflowers. In addition to being the world’s largest Van Gogh reproduction, it’s also the world’s largest easel. The House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin
It may seem a bit dangerous, but don’t be fooled. the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin is home to an eclectic collection of armor, pipe organs, the world’s largest carousel, fiberglass elephants and pretty much anything else your brain can think up. The house itself is perched atop a rock (hence the name) and located at 5754 Hwy. 23, Spring Green Wisconsin.
The Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
If there’s one thing the Midwest is especially known for, it’s got to be its infinite supply of corn. Visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and you’ll have all the proof you need. The entire palace-shaped building is constructed of thousands of bushes of corn, grass and grains and is re-furbished annually.
Precious Moments Chapel – Carthage, Missouri
Collector or not, the Precious Moments Chapel is definitely worth checking out. It’s located in Carthage, Missouri and consists of dozens of Precious Moments statues and paintings in and around the chapel. Visitors can stop by from 9 to 5 p.m. on 4321 S. Chapel Road off I-44.
Villisca Ax Murder House – Villisca, Iowa
The Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa is coined one of the scariest places on Earth for a good reason. There, an unknown butcher is said to have crept into the house (owned by Josia Moore) to kill Moore, his wife and their six children. The house, located at 323 East 4th. Street, has since turned into a reportedly haunted museum.
Heidelberg Project – Detroit, Michigan
The Heidelberg Project, located at 3600 Hedelberg Street in Detroit, is just as cool-looking as it is beneficial to the Earth. It’s essentially a giant sculpture made of random trash and debris. The urban junkscape consists of cars painted and filled with trashed stuffed animals, painted pieces of plywood and an entire house decorated with brightly colored rubbish.
Here are some keepers from this past weekend’s English-language newspaper travel sections.
1. In the Financial Times, Philip Horne writes a fascinating North Dakota pilgrimage story that traces Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure in the Peace Garden State.
2. In the Guardian, Haroon Siddique writes about the Bed&Fed phenomenon (a couchsurfing/hostelling hybrid) across the UK and Ireland.
3. Also in the Guardian, Gemma Bowes weighs in on remarkable deals in Greece this summer, including an overview of luxury villas, some of which turn out to be surprisingly inexpensive.
4. In the New York Times, Jeremy Peters ponders 36 Hours in Genoa. In between his hunger-inducing restaurant and wine bar recommendations, Peters helps readers envision a day and a half of well-met culinary urges.
5. In the Times of London, Tom Chesshyre, Daniel Start, Alex Wade, Derwent May and Rufus Purdy list the UK’s 40 best beaches, from Land’s End to the Isle of Skye.