Though Sheri Burrell didn’t grow up in this area, she’s not a stranger to it. She and her family spent every summer visiting here while she was growing up; Burrell’s father was raised on a farm right outside of Tyndall, SD which has remained in the family ever since.

She recalls the history of the farm place. In the 1870’s, her grandfather and his brother left their home in Germany, along with about 700 other families, to farm in Russia. In 1876 there was a big uprising and the Germans had to flee Russia, some heading back to Germany and some heading to America, as her ancestors chose to do. They ended up in Baltimore, Maryland and went by train to the Dakotas.

They got off in Yankton and homesteaded on a farm just outside of Tyndall.

Burrell’s father was born and raised on that very farm years later. Wanting to venture out when he was in his early 20’s, he and his next younger brother left the farm and headed west, landing in southern Oregon.

He married a lovely woman and they were blessed with 5 children – four boys and one girl. The family resided in Oregon for some time but moved often because of his occupation as a minister.

Burrell moved schools a shockingly 23 times by the time she graduated high school.

Her family came back to visit the farm for a few weeks every summer until the mid-1950’s, when she was approximately 15 years old. She didn’t make it back to South Dakota until 1982, when she was back for a family reunion in the Black Hills. “We went to the farm then, but it was really in disrepair,” she explains with sadness in her voice.

At that time, she could recognize outbuildings, the location of the old root cellar and chicken coop and the weather-beaten frame of the windmill. Years passed and a cousin bought the farm, keeping it in the Hauck family, and soon began the painstaking work of remodeling the house and cleaning up the farm.

For Burrell’s 80th birthday, her son Ty flew her and all four of her children back to this area for an opportunity to revisit her family’s roots.

Getting all the children together for five days straight wasn’t an easy task as, like most families, they all have busy lives.

Her oldest son John lives in Portland Oregon where he works for the city, daughter Reagan is a stay-home mom in Bisbee, Arizona, an old mining town turned tourist town. Son Ty lives in Salt Lake City and is an actor and co-owns two bars there with youngest son Duncan, who lives in Salt Lake City as well. The two bars owned by the two brothers are actually “sister” bars right next to each other, she explains. Beer Bar and Bar X each have their own specialty.

This is the first time she and her children have spent five days together uninterrupted as a family. It serves as a great history lesson for the kids to learn about their mom’s family history and to see the places that she talks about. Several other family members also flew in when they heard about this visit. She was delighted at the chance to talk with cousins she hadn’t seen for many years. “It was an amazing family gathering because these are people you want to have in your family.”


About a dozen family members were together for the reunion. Some brought scrap books and pictures of the farm and of family that Sheri hadn’t seen for many years, bringing up many fond memories for her. Burrell and her children planned to drive around the area in search of the farm but were excited when someone volunteered to serve as their tour guide. Barb Hauck, who lives near the farm, offered to drive them directly to the destinations they were looking for.

She remembers back to her past visits in the summer, the weather always sticky, hot and humid, different than what she was used to. Now visiting in the spring, she enjoyed the cool and breezy welcoming weather and realized that South Dakota can have a beautiful climate. The rolling hills they encountered on their tour surprised her as her memories are of the land being relatively flat.

Reaching the home place sent her mind on a jog back to memory lane. She remembers a long windbreak of mulberry trees; that sweet taste of the abundant mulberries comes back to her and how they would have a large mulberry picking day with the neighbors there to help. She explains that the mulberries weren’t actually “picked” from the tree, for the most part they were shaken off the branches to land on sheets lying on the ground. She realized that she hasn’t seen a fruity mulberry tree on the western coast. That old wind grove of trees wasn’t there anymore, unfortunately, they died during the drought a few years ago.

Walking around the farm, she noticed that the blades on the windmill were gone and learns that they had blown off from a huge windstorm several years earlier. She remembers how she and her brother would sit many times at the bottom of functioning windmill, watching the parts in action and curious about the science and physics at work. To them, this simple object was fascinating because it wasn’t something they saw in the city.

When I ask her how it felt to revisit the farm that she always looked forward to visiting, she beams. “It was so much better. It was very therapeutic to see the farm, actually. It was given a lot of TLC in the last 35 years.”

There were other sights to see during their journey and she shows me a picture of an old schoolhouse they visited. The schoolhouse, built by the Hauck family, is close to the family farm. She was surprised to see the school in such good shape and the landscape around it well kept. She also plans to visit the cemetery in Tyndall and would like to try some unique foods to South Dakota, including kuchen, pheasant and walleye. It’s hard to believe that she’s never seen walleye on a menu before as that’s a common menu item around here!

She explains that they will also be stopping in Lynch, Nebraska, a small town where she lived for part of her second-grade school year and hasn’t been back since they moved away. Showing me a scar on her finger that she got while living there, she explains how she had fallen while holding glass jars of canned goods she had retrieved from their cellar.

She laughs, explaining how the lived on the “backside of the tracks.” Those tracks became part of a challenge she had with one of her brothers. They would stand on those tracks as long as they could before the train came. She once took the challenge too far as she stood on the tracks, suddenly frozen in fear as the train came barreling toward her. She recalls how she just couldn’t move her feet and she just stood there in shock. Her brother yanked her off the tracks right before the train shot by them. Her mom saw the incident and boy they got in trouble for it!

Her dad wasn’t a preacher in Lynch because the town already had one. She tells the story of the preacher’s son at that time, a child with the last name of Snodgrass who had a pet monkey. Sounds like the next Disney movie, doesn’t it? Knowing what it’s like to be teased for being a preacher’s kid, they tended to watch out for the boy, even chasing off older kids as they were bullying him.

Some of the sights on their journey required traveling on some muddy and sloppy back roads and one of the trucks in their convoy had gotten stuck in the thick, muddy tracks. She and her “tour guide” stopped and walked to the scene to watch as another truck in the convoy quickly jumped to action to help.

She laughs heartily as she explains how the spinning truck tires were flinging large chunks of mud into the air. “I had mud all over me! We were both trying to get out of the way so we wouldn’t get flung with mud. It was just hilarious!”

“Is that the first time you’ve seen someone stuck in the mud like that?” I ask.

“YES!” she exclaims, laughing with her eyes open wide. I couldn’t stop laughing as I pictured the incident.

This moment became a favorite for her, remembering how everyone remained calm and worked so respectively together as a team to handle the situation.

Though she loves living the big city life in Salt Lake City where there is an abundance of plays and events nearby for her to attend, she still appreciates what she learned from those farm visits in her younger years. Large tasks like picking mulberries or butchering chickens brought several neighbors together to complete the task, working as a large team. That’s where she learned how to cut up a chicken, she explains.

Though her husband didn’t have the chance to visit the Hauck farm before he passed away about 30 years ago, she is extremely grateful to have this opportunity with her children. She grins, “I think about how lucky I am as a mom to have all four of my kids together to spend the whole weekend together. They’re just great kids and I’m just so lucky because not everybody can have so much to be grateful for.”

Uncertain at first of how the trip would go, she soon became pleasantly surprised. “It’s been a really great trip. Very memorable. I am so grateful Ty did this. It was everything I wanted it to be.”