The Scots and the Bots. Sounds like a good combination. After Rick Bot and his wife Ruth traveled to Scotland in June as part of the Rotary International Friendship Exchange, three couples from that island country returned the favor this week.
One of the things that was among the biggest surprises in our country was the food served here. "Not the type of the food, but how large the portions are," laughed Frances Drummond. "They are three times bigger than what they serve in Scotland."
"We didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, though, so we ate it all," joked Irene Robertson.
"One food we tried that I never had before were brats. They were really good, but in Scotland we think of brats as naughty kids."
"And your sweet corn is to die for," said Alistair Marquis. "You could really sink your teeth into it. In Scotland, our corn is canned or frozen, not on a cob."
On Monday and Tuesday, the three Scotland couples took in many sites in and around southern Minnesota such as the truShrimp Corporation in Balaton, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and dugout site in Walnut Grove, the scenic overlook off Highway 23 outside of Granite Falls, the Upper Sioux Agency State Park and Fagen Fighters Museum in Granite Falls, as well as the Martin Hennen Feedlot, Gislason's Hardware and the former Big Store (now the public library) building in Minneota.
"When we were in Scotland, the people there showed us a lot of older sights," said Rick. "But a building that's 100 years old to us is like brand new to them."
"They really respect and honor history over there," Ruth. "The old castles, churches and other buildings we were able to tour are hundreds and hundreds of years old." One castle the Bots visited was built in the 1200s, a church was nearly 500 years old, and even an old pub had a sign hanging out from that displayed the date established as 1360.
The Bots, who hosted two of the Scottish couples in their home while Alan and Rita Dovre hosted the other couple, found a little humor in attempting to find similar ancient historical sites in this area of the state. "We took them to Gislason's Hardware building; it's 100 years old," said Rick.
"That's about as old as we get for building sites around here. When our buildings get old, we tear them down.” When the Bots embarked on their international trip from June 9-25, nine other members from the South Dakota Rotary Clubs in Pierre, Brookings and Rapid City also went.
The Scots arrived in South Dakota on Aug. 15 and spent a total of two weeks in South Dakota and Minnesota. Even though there was no comparison to the ancient buildings of the island country in Europe, the six Scots found the sites and culture of the two states interesting nonetheless.
"I’m most impressed with your expanded openness here," said Marquis.
"It's just lovely here with all your vast plains and trees.”
“We didn't really know what to expect because the central part of the United States isn't marketed very well in other countries." In South Dakota, the Scots toured such sites as Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Corn Palace, Custer State Park, Deadwood and the dam in Pierre, among many museums and other stops.
"We got to visit the old cemetery (Mt. Moriah) where we saw the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane," said Marquis. "We got to get a feel for the old west." The six Scotlanders touring here were: Alistair Marquis and his wife Margaret Alistair, Jim and Irene Robertson, and Ken and Frances Drummond.
"Mount Rushmore was really stunning," said Ken Drummond. "To see the work that went into those carvings is impressive." Marquis noticed a similarity in the small town business districts of the two countries. "Your main streets are suffering from gaps just like ours,” he noted.
"It's so sad to see empty shops everywhere. That's a shame because they are the lifeblood of a community." "But the shops that are open are very lovely here," Frances Drummond mentioned. The six Scots left no doubt how well they enjoyed their time here and how much they learned.
"We learned a lot.” “We didn't know who Laura Ingalls Wilder was," said Ken Drummond.
"But we knew about the Little House on the Prairie TV show." "We've really learned a lot about the interesting history of the United States," said Margaret Alistair. "And everyone here has been so nice. We've seen a lot of smiles all around."
"I think we will find out way back here again," said Marquis. "Not a day went by where we have not come away thinking 'wow'. We really enjoyed our time here."