It is difficult for a full-time dairy farmer to take vacations. Those cows have to be milked every day, and it is nearly impossible to find a hotel whose complementary breakfast includes generous helpings of alfalfa hay.     
    When I was a dairyman, I perfected the art of sneaking out on quick excursions between the morning and the evening milkings. In short, I became skilled in the art of day tripping.
    An example of this took place one summer Saturday when our youngest son, who was 14 at the time, had a friend over. Having a pair of 14-year-old boys at the house is like being cooped up with adolescent male tigers. They are always in motion, constantly testing each other with mock battles. They will begin pacing the floor the instant they become the least bit bored.     
    “That’s enough,” I announced. “You boys are wearing out our nerves, not to mention the carpet. Everybody into the car!”     
    My wife, the boys and I piled into our family sedan. We set out with no particular destination in mind just as long as it was fun, inexpensive and nearby. We ended up in the tiny hamlet of Garretson, South Dakota.     
    Garretson has one major claim to fame: it is home to the legendary Devil’s Gulch.     
    In case you have forgotten your Old West gangster history, Devil’s Gulch is the spot where, in 1876, the notorious outlaw Jessie James jumped his horse across the yawning chasm to escape a pursuing posse. Geraldo Rivera must have been busy that day or else I am sure he would have been there to film the feat and interview the bandit.     
    It was probably the highlight of the week for Jessie after he and his gang botched a bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, a few days earlier. Two of his gang members were killed during the ensuing gunfight and two others were wounded, including Jesse’s brother, Frank.     
    You cannot help but learn such historic tidbits when you travel. This is especially true when you visit a town that is so proud of its history that it erects numerous signs depicting a desperado and his horse vaulting across a rocky gulch. Nobody has made so much of such bad behavior except for the producers of “The Jerry Springer Show.”     
    The boys and I decided to walk the footpath that loops around Devil’s Gulch. It was quite pleasant except that our son and his pal had to stop on occasion, go to the edge of the rocky precipice and chuck pebbles into the abyss. The fact that there were not any guardrails did not bother them in the least, but it was certainly tough on my nerves.     
    We eventually arrived at the infamous jumping-off point. A footbridge has been erected across the gorge to accommodate us non-equestrian pedestrians. The boys paused halfway across the bridge to gawk at the lazy brook that flowed 50 feet below. Persons downstream on Split Rock Creek probably noticed a large number of loogies floating by later that day.     
    We must have had a pleasant afternoon because it suddenly became time to head home. The car took us back via a different route, and we were soon meandering our way through an unfamiliar small town.     
    We motored languidly down a sleepy residential street in the oldest part of the village. My wife was driving. (She always drives. She says that my driving makes her nervous because I do not pay enough attention to the road.) I was staring blankly ahead. Her arm abruptly shot across my field of view.     
    “Look at that,” she exclaimed.
    I quickly swiveled my head to see where she was pointing. Based on the extreme urgency in her voice, I surmised that a tornado had dropped from the blue summer sky. Either that or she had spotted a red 1957 Chevrolet. I have always wanted a red ’57 Chevy.
    “What an adorable Victorian,” my wife gushed. “See that cute bay window and the fancy gingerbreading?”
    “Watch the road, Joanna Gaines,” I warned as the car slowly swerved. “You’re going to get ticketed for DUA: Driving Under the influence of Architecture.”     
    This led to a frank exchange of views between my wife and me regarding whether or not “House Hunters” is a fake show. Then the boys got squirrely, and we had to threaten them with several violations of the Child Welfare Act.
    By the time we got home, everyone was tired and crabby, and I was actually looking forward to spending some quality time with the cows.     
    It was a very fun and fulfilling day trip. The only way it could have been improved would be if we had driven home in a red ’57 Chevy.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: