After camping in Batesville, Mississippi; Perryville, Missouri; Platte City, Missouri; and Tea, South Dakota, we finally made the turn west in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Our first stop was The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. We had received mixed reviews on The Corn Palace from “A must stop!” to “If you are in the area with nothing better to do, give it a try.” After four days on the road with little to do but drive, sing along with John Prine, Neil Diamond, and Elton John cds and watch coals die in the evening campfire, we were excited to make Mitchell, South Dakota our first sightseeing stop. To prepare ourselves for what we would see, we discussed the functionality and structural integrity of corn as a building material.
I should have known something was amiss when we walked up to The Corn Palace and three guys with staple guns and Elmers Glue were gluing and stapling corn cob halves to the building. I was dumbfounded! Prior to visiting The Corn Palace, I was like the little girl I overheard telling her mother as they walked through the front door, “But, Mama, you said this place was made of corn.” Her mother smiled and tried to explain to her disappointed daughter that the murals and pictures on the front of the building and in the auditorium were made of corn. The little girl was having none of it, “But, is that all there is?” she asked. The mother stopped, and looked down at her. “Sorry, Honey,” she said, “but that is all there is. It is what is.” I felt bad for the little girl; heck, I felt bad I had dragged my wife and friends to see what I told them was “a building made of corn.” To be fair, the murals and pictures inside and outside the building were made of corn and its by products, such as the cob, and if you like that sort of thing, you should go see The Corn Palace because there is not much more to the place than that.
After the little girl and her mother were gone, I sat down on a bench in the foyer and reflected on the little girl’s words, “Is that all there is?” Those words reminded me of a song by one of my mother’s favorite singers, Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” she sang. “Is that all there is?” her sweet voice rang. “If that’s all there is, my friends; Then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,” she warbled. “If that’s all there is,” she sang with a finality that pushed me ever closer to the door – if I could only find my wife.
Unfortunately, there was no one dancing in The Corn Palace, there was no booze that I could see, and the only ball anyone was having was the stale popcorn balls sold for $3.00 each in the lobby concessions area. The Corn Palace was not terrible; it served a purpose – from there our trip could only get better! So, friends, whenever you are in the area, STOP if you must, to say you have done it, but don’t be disappointed when you learn “corn cobs is all it is!”
©Jack Linton, July 19, 2017