Pictured from left: Bruce and Tracee Flaig, the Holmquist Family, and Leigh Welling are all new or returning residents of Fall River.
New residents make Fall River their home
Part 1 of 3
By Marcus Heerdt
HOT SPRINGS --- The lyrics of the song “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & the Papas could easily be changed to fit our area.
“I’d be safe and warm...if I was in Hot Springs...Fall River dreamin’...”
It seems many people from around the country have had this dream, as many new faces are appearing in Fall River.
Local realtors are reporting a record amount of home and land sales in the area and that the housing market is not showing any signs of slowing down (see next week’s newspaper for more on this part of the story).
This article features new residents to the area who have chosen to make Fall River their home simply because they love it here.
Bruce and Tracee Flaig
Bruce and Tracee Flaig moved to Hot Springs in February of 2020 from southwestern Wisconsin.
“We were praying about where to go and we were led here,” Tracee said.
Prior to moving to Hot Springs, Bruce and Tracee lived in Prairie du Chien, Wis., situated along the Mississippi River and the Iowa border.
Bruce worked as a maintenance worker at Effigy Mounds National Monument across the border in Iowa and Tracee worked in the activity department at an assisted living home.
“I had always wanted to live out West and eventually everything fell into place. The beauty here is amazing,” said Bruce.
The Flaig’s enjoy the sense of community in Hot Springs and find the local residents helpful and easy to work with.
“It’s nice dealing with people here. They are helpful, kind, and people look out for each other. Very compassionate. There are also less government loopholes here compared to Wisconsin,” Bruce said.
“The community feels so much like family,” Tracee added.
With relatively short winters and less humidity during the summer, the Flaig’s enjoy the climate of southwestern South Dakota compared to Wisconsin.
“It’s not even like winter to us. It snows here but it usually melts right away. In Wisconsin, snow would stay for the entire winter and it would be bone-chilling cold,” Tracee explained.
The Flaig’s love getting outside and exploring the region.
“We like driving out to Wind Cave National Park, other areas of the Black Hills, and out to the prairie. I love to hunt, fish, hike, and we also go four-wheeling together,” Bruce said.
In Wisconsin, one of Tracee’s hobbies was to go mushroom hunting, oftentimes selling her finds for up to $50 per pound. Now, she hunts for unique rocks such as agates throughout the Black Hills region.
“Rockhounding has replaced mushroom hunting...and that’s not a bad thing,” Tracee said.
Some families, like the Holmquist family of rural Fall River County, have chosen to move back to the area after moving away for an extended period of time.
Timber and Cassie Holmquist, along with their four children, Tesa, Monte, Braelynn, and Carter, moved back to South Dakota from Arizona in October 2020. The family lives on a ranch near the mouth of Red Canyon between Hot Springs and Edgemont.
“While in Arizona, we had been praying about our next step as Arizona had a few dry summers in a row which made it really hard for ranchers,” Cassie said. “So we weren’t sure if we would have a permanent job there and we missed being close to family.”
Cassie was born and raised in New Jersey but at age 13, she moved with her family to DeSmet, S.D. After graduating from high school there, she attended Cornerstone Bible Institute here in Hot Springs and fell in love with the area.
Timber is a life-long rancher; the couple met while he was working on an area ranch and Cassie was babysitting the neighbor’s children.
After getting married, the couple moved to Broadus, Mont., and eventually on to Arizona.
“After leaving Hot Springs we went to Montana and ranched. We lived down a 30-mile dirt road that was two hours away from the nearest big town for shopping and groceries. We had our first two kids there. We then moved to Arizona where we lived only 30 minutes away from the Grand Canyon. We lived in Arizona for four years and had our last two children there before moving back to South Dakota,” Cassie said.
“In the three places that we have lived I’ve always thought if we could move back to one it would be Fall River. I enjoy the ranching out here and it’s a great place to raise a family,” said Timber.
In their free time, Timber competes in ranch rodeos and bronc riding while Cassie enjoys baking and spending time with her family.
“I wouldn’t change where we are and love being able to raise our kids in the ranch culture,’’ Cassie summed.
Leigh Welling moved to Hot Springs in December of 2020 and is the recently appointed Superintendent of Wind Cave National Park.
Leigh is no stranger to the area; she was born into a ranching family in Crawford, Neb., approximately 65 miles south of Hot Springs.
“My dad was a Marine Air Force fighter pilot and he built the ranching operation himself after World War II. We had horses and cattle and farmed wheat and alfalfa. I rode horseback a lot growing up,” Leigh said.
Leigh remembers being the only student in the 4-6 grades at Trunk Butte, a former country school located outside of Chadron, Neb.
“The school work for the day would be written on the board for each subject and we self-paced to get it done,” Leigh said. “I usually had it done by morning recess and could then read books or work on another project. I enjoyed learning how to embroider and do leather work.”
After living and working in places like Alaska, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada, Leigh decided to move back to the Pine Ridge/Black Hills area to reconnect with not only family and friends but also the land.
“I moved back to reconnect to a fundamental sense of place,” said Leigh. “It’s about the people you feel most at home with and it’s also a deep connection to a place. It’s difficult to explain but I just felt the need to reconnect. I saw the opportunity and thought ‘I need to do this.’”
Leigh enjoys living in Hot Springs and working at Wind Cave.
“I think Hot Springs is charming and just a lovely community and I like the relaxed pace. Wind Cave is magical. It has this deep prehistory and is one of the oldest national parks. You have this sense of how long this place and these features have been here and that they will last much longer than any of the people who work here. I feel this reverence for the place just walking around,” Leigh explained.
In her free time, Leigh enjoys arts and crafts, reading, and interior design.
When asked if there were any big plans in the future for Wind Cave, Leigh responded: “We are looking to strengthen our cultural programming and to encourage visitors to explore the surface features of the park as well as the cave itself, and the Black Hills Parks and Forests Association, our non-profit partner, has greatly helped to accomplish these plans.”