Living the life of a dairy farmer can make it difficult to take family vacations. The cows have to be milked and fed every day no matter what. As if that were not enough, it is almost impossible to find a hotel whose complimentary breakfast includes generous portions of alfalfa.     
     It is not like we never got away from our dairy farm. My wife and I perfected the art of sneaking out for short excursions between the morning and evening milkings. In fact, I believe we invented the concept of day tripping.     
     For instance, one summer Saturday, our youngest son, who was 14 at the time, had a friend over for the weekend. Having a couple of 14-year-old boys in the house is like being trapped in a cage with a pair of adolescent tigers. They are always in motion, holding mock battles, testing each other, pacing the floor when they get bored.     
     “That’s enough,” I announced at length. “You boys are wearing out our nerves, not to mention the carpet. Everybody outside and into the car.”     
     We piled into our family sedan and set out with no particular destination in mind, just as long as it was fun, cheap and nearby. We ended up in the tiny hamlet of Garretson, S.D.     
     Garretson has two major claims to fame. It is located near the ruggedly scenic Palisades State Park and is home to the renowned Devil’s Gulch.     
     In case you have forgotten your Old West 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 had a previous engagement 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 having botched the robbery of a Northfield, Minn., bank a few days earlier. Two of his gang members were killed in the ensuing gun battle and two others were wounded, including his brother, Frank.     
     You cannot help but learn such historic tidbits when you get the opportunity to travel, especially when you visit a town that is so proud of its history that it slaps up numerous signs depicting a desperado on a horse vaulting across an impossibly wide stone gulch. Few have made so much hay from known criminals other than 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 every so often, walk up to the edge of the precipice and chuck pebbles into the abyss. The fact that there were not any guardrails did not bother them in the least, but it sure was tough on my nerves.     
     We finally arrived at the infamous jump site. A footbridge now spans the gulch to accommodate us non-equestrian pedestrians. The boys paused halfway across the bridge to gawk at the rivulet flowing lazily 50 feet below. People downstream on Split Rock Creek probably noticed a large number of loogies on the surface of the water later that day.     
     About when we had enough of Garretson, it was time to head for home. We decided to return by a different route and were soon wending our way through another small town.     
     We tooled down a quiet residential street in the oldest part of the village. My wife was driving and I was staring blankly ahead. Suddenly her arm shot across my field of view.     
     “Look at that,” she exclaimed, pointing. I instantly swiveled my head to see what had evoked such a high level of emotion. From my wife’s tone of voice, I expected an ax murder was in progress or perhaps some homeowner was driving that Super Chewer lawnmower I had been coveting. But all I saw was houses.     
     “What an adorable Victorian. See that cute turret and the fancy gingerbreading?”
     “Watch the road, Ms. House Hunter,” I replied as the car slowly swerved. “You’re going to get arrested for DUA: Driving Under the influence of Architecture.”     
     My wife and I then had a frank discussion about safety versus scenery. No sooner had the dust settled than the boys got squirrely and we had to threaten them with several violations of the child welfare protection act. By the time we got home, everyone was tired and crabby, and I was actually looking forward to spending quality time with the cows.     
     And that is how we spent our summer vacations as dairy farmers. And by all measures, I would say they were resounding successes.
    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: jerry.n@dairystar.com.