There are lots of great stories in De Smet. This year I discovered a not directly Laura connected, but lovely story about how the volunteer fire department in De Smet helps Santa out each Christmas. Then again, while they know for sure it went back as far the 1940s, but they don't have a start date, so maybe the volunteer fire department of the day delivered a Christmas bag to Ma's house when she still lived there. I read about it in South Dakota Magazine.
Every Christmas morning in De Smet, the fire trucks pull out, sirens and lights going, to deliver Christmas bags to people around town. Each truck gets three or four volunteer firemen and they go through town. They leave at 9 am and are greeted with "cheers and hugs." No one knows how long ago it started. Even 80 years old say they remember it as children. Randy Holland is the current department chief of the volunteer department who heads up the Christmas tradition.
"De Smet's sweet Christmas." South Dakota Magazine 29.4 (Nov./Dec. 2013): 17. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.
After reading the article, I followed up by calling the Hazel L. Meyer Library in De Smet. The library doesn't have anything to do with the fire department, but one problem with a volunteer department is that they can be a little hard to contact. However, Library Assistant Librarian Linda Reynhout has been a recipient of the Christmas bags and kindly answered a few questions for me. There is no official age limit. "Kids are kids, even if they are in college." They drop off a bag with candy and fruit.
I've talked to a couple of local volunteer fire departments around Iowa and apparently there is a tradition for them to play Santa Claus. The Martelle, Iowa Department in the photo is the one my brother volunteers with and they have a Christmas party with Santa Claus and similar Christmas bags are given out each year to the town's kids at the party in Mid-December. Many other departments have a Santa Claus night in the lead up to Christmas with a visit from the man himself. The main difference is in De Smet it's actually on Christmas Day itself and they deliver to the houses rather than having everyone come down to the fire station. Have you heard of another department that drives around on Christmas? If you ever are so lucky to spend a Christmas in De Smet, maybe you can get a Christmas goodie bag yourself.
Sarah S. Uthoff blogs at TrundleBed Tales; look for her on Facebook, Twitter , YouTube, Blog Talk Radio, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, Acting President