National Geographic : 2002 Apr
PICKSTOWN, SOU to handle the sudden migration of workers required for the project. My family moved there from an Army base in western South Dakota in 1948. We moved into a three-bedroom S duplex while construction on the town went on around us. Soon we had paved streets, a large movie theater, hospital, church, police and fire station, and U.S. ARMYCORPSOF ENGINEERS shopping center complete with a bak ery, department store, and soda fountain. I started the third grade in a two-story school with state-of-the-art classrooms and athletic facilities. My father was a heavy equipment operator on the town maintenance crew, and my mother worked as a clerk in the post office, where I always studied the FBI's Most Wanted posters carefully, thinking the suspects might show up in Pickstown. They never did. But for a time it seemed everyone else did, as the population quickly grew to 3,500: Caterpillar operators from Mississippi, welders from Montana, truck drivers from Minnesota, mechanics from Oklahoma. The town dentist came from Indiana. One nurse was an Irish war bride. The other half of our duplex was home to a family of amateur country-and-western musicians from southern Illinois. Their record player could be heard through our common wall, and to this day I still remember most of the lyrics to "Cattle Call" by Eddie Arnold. Along the river and in the surrounding hills I had a Tom Sawyer boy hood, swimming in the Missouri, collecting fossils and Indian artifacts, hunting small game with my friends, including Sylvan Highrock, a Sioux who lived with his large family in a cabin a few miles from town. I was only vaguely aware that this was Indian territory and that Picks town was surrounded by the Yankton Sioux Reservation. No one said TH DAKOTA FULL-TIME POPULATION: 168 PEAK (IN THE 1950s): 3,500 LOW (IN 1990): 94 NUMBER OF STOPLIGHTS, ELEVATORS, GROCERY STORES, SCHOOLS: None LARGEST EMPLOYER: Fort Randall Bait & Tackle, with about 20 people in the summer NOTABLE RECORD: The 1986 world-record flathead catfish, 54 pounds, caught by Marlin Horsley BIG COMEBACK: Third fastest growing town in South Dakota As federal workers (top) poured In to build the Fort Randall Dam and power plant, Pickstown and its main attraction-Lake Francis Case-were born.