Sully County native Sandy Egly grew up the youngest of two kids born to Ted and Marie Schmitgen, and has lived most of her life on the Lake Township farm where her own mother was born. "My dad lived where Lewie Schmitgen lived in Buffalo Township, all in a nine-mile area."
As described in 100 Years of Proud People 1883-1983 A History of Sully County, 'Lake Township is a very "plush" area. The Medicine Creek courses diagonally across the township. Lake Township, with its rolling hills and creek bottom, constitutes an ideal location for raising most kinds of stock animals.' Sandy agrees. "I live down in the valley, in the bottom," said Sandy about her home along the Medicine Creek. "I like living down below."
Sandy "grew up riding a horse." She also remembers "neighboring back and forth," especially with relatives. "I remember my mom and dad having card parties and going to card parties. A lot of times they played marbles. Lewie and Dorothy [Schmitgen] and my folks always played marbles," said Sandy. It along with a bowl of popcorn “was always a hot game when they played.”
"I remember a tornado in the 1960s," said Sandy. "My folks were out mowing hay, and they high-tailed it into the place. Mom come in the house, and brought the dog in, and her, I, the dog and cat sat on a step in the basement and listened to bricks come down the chimney." Her dad and older brother Gary “didn't make the house. They spent the storm in the shop.” Part of their barn was lost in the tornado.
Even as she recalls what many would consider a childhood trauma Sandy says, "Storms are good sleeping weather."
From her location in the southern part of the county, Sandy attended school in Harrold. "We rode the school bus to school," said Sandy. "It was a load full. There was a lot of kids then."
Not even the camaraderie of her school mates could make going to school appeal to Sandy. "I hated school," said Sandy. "It was just hard, and I’d rather be outside, riding my horse or on the tractor in the field.”
She dropped out and earned her GED, and "went back to school through Job Service." Sandy learned secretarial skills such as typing and bookkeeping and got a job with the state. "After that I worked for the federal government," said Sandy. "I worked at the district Farmers Home Administration office."
After a time, she returned to school, enrolling at Western Dakota VoTec in Sturgis in pursuit of a degree in Ag Technology. "That's where Sturgis High School is now." While there, she met her husband Vern, and after their 1982 marriage, located on the ranch near his hometown of Oelrichs. "We moved back here in 1984," and they've resided in Lake Township ever since.
They operated the property as a farm and ranch with Sandy’s parents, but "I rent everything out now," said Sandy. For nearly the entirety of their marriage, Vern has also worked as a truck driver and in construction.
Sandy and Vern have three grown children, Ashlea, who lives with her husband and their two children in Midwest City, OK where she works as a dog groomer; Tara who lives in Beresford with her son and works assembling transmitters; and Ty, a truck driver who also resides in Beresford.
While her kids were growing up, Sandy helped out with 4-H, and “whatever else they were involved in,” said Sandy. “I hauled their horses to a lot of play days where the kids rode.”
"I've always got something to do," said Sandy. "The grass never grows under my pickup."
"For several years I went to my cousin's home where I did her bookwork and read to her for several hours, as she was blind and couldn't do the things she enjoyed. She passed away this January.”
Sandy writes the Harrold News for the Highmore Herald, and is the secretary of the Medicine Hill cemetery south of Harrold. "I was asked if I would help them out and then I got stuck doing it," said Sandy with a chuckle about taking on the role when the previous secretary passed away.
A talented musician, Sandy has played organ for church for 44 years.
"At one time, I could play nine different instruments, but I doubt I could anymore," said Sandy. In addition to organ, Sandy plays the piano and guitar, and in the last couple of years, has picked up bass.
She enjoys doing cross stitch, and crocheting, and playing music.
The 1983 history book also touches on a topic that continues to affect Lake Township and its residents nearly four decades later. 'One-third of the acreage in Lake Township is now owned by the United States government. A controversial water project, the Oahe Project, was the cause for the governmental purchase. A huge reservoir was to be constructed through the township, following the Medicine Creek valley. Because of the controversy, the project was put “on hold” and, as of this writing, the project appears to have died. The government is now in the position of leasing the acreage it purchased to those that originally owned the land.’
“For the Blunt Reservoir, the land was condemned and sold to the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Sandy. “This was so they could come onto the land to take test samples and to pressure landowners into accepting their offer.”
“The dam was to be built a quarter mile west of the house. And there would have been 66 feet of water where the house sits,” said Sandy. “My dad wouldn’t sell out. He told them the Medicine Creek bottom wouldn’t hold water as it’s a gravel base, and that any water collected in the lye bottom would be undrinkable. I’m surrounded by government ground.”
While many landowners were given the opportunity to buy back their land under legislation sponsored by Senator Thune, quite a bit became the property of the South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks. “I’ve had to put up with all these hunters, as some don’t respect the landowners or the people who live here.”
The Lake Township of Sandy’s childhood is not the same place she resides in today, where five or more miles separates the Eglys from their nearest neighbor. Still, Sandy is content to call it home. “I like the quiet,” said Sandy.