Dan Richards returns to state as Indian Creek manager
By Sandy Bond
Leaving behind the steep red cliffs, roan dunes and pinion and juniper trees and, most importantly, the people they had grown to love in southern Utah, was not easy for the Richards family.
Yet 20 years ago as Dan and Jayne pulled away from their Dakota prairie home heading for their new home and Dan’s new career as park ranger of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, they made a vow they would someday return.
“I have worked for state parks all of my adult life and can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said. “When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it. Jayne’s family lives in Milbank, so it will good to be back home.”
As Dan retired from the Utah State Parks, he embraced his new assignment as Indian Creek Park Manager through the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
The son of Glen and Linda Richards, Dan and his younger sister grew up in Sioux Falls. After graduating from Lincoln High, he set his sights on becoming a conservation officer or park ranger and headed for South Dakota State University in Brookings, where he received his bachelor’s degree in park management. He served as a seasonal employee, summers at Palisades State Park near Garretson, and as a nine-month seasonal park ranger on Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota near Picks-town. As park rangers are also law enforcement officers, he became certified as a law enforcement officer through the Police Officer Standard Training Program in both North Dakota and Utah. Finding employment opportunities few and fiercely competitive he and his family set their sights on a job opportunity in Utah at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
“We really enjoyed living in southeast Utah but the time was right to come back to our home state,” he said.
As the offer presented itself in the midst of older son Cle’s senior year, Jayne and Cle, and youngest son, Jimmy, decided to remain in Utah until Cle graduates and where Jayne is a certified nursing assistant specializing in medical records.
“Cle’s been accepted at few colleges,” Dan said, “but he’s leaning toward the University of South Dakota at Vermillion.”
Active in football, he has aspirations to enter sports medicine, he said. Dan and Eli are living in Mobridge where Eli is a freshman at Mobridge-Pollock High School.
The Dakotas welcomed them to the area in the form of an old-fashioned blizzard in early January.
Straddling the Utah and Arizona border and 30 miles from the nearest town, the southern part of Utah is an undiscovered paradise, according to Richards, fantastic for hiking, motocross dirt biking, and horseback riding, and just exploring. It is filled with indigenous mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bats, and relative newcomers including wild burros and horses. But his absolute favorite are-scorpions.
Recognizable by its segmented body, the arthropod is best known by its grasping claws and a tail ending with a venomous stinger.
Previously only somewhat familiar from John’s Steinbeck’s, “The Pearl,” Dan quickly learned that there are only a few which are slightly more venomous than a sting from a bee.
“Persons who are allergic can succumb to anaphylaxis,” he said. “Reclusive by nature, they retreat under rocks during the heat of the day, only emerging at night. When cornered they choose flight over fight!”
The best-known scenario is of one crawling into a boot and someone getting “stung” when they didn’t check before pushing their foot into the boot.
So intrigued was he, that he couldn’t wait to share his knowledge with others, he said. Eventually, as a park ranger he gave midnight tours and uncovered scorpions with the aid of a black light. He also has acquired any number of species that are preserved in rubbing alcohol.
Surprisingly, in death, rigor mortis does not affect arthropods when preserved in an alcohol solution, he said, even after 20 years.
Instead of a dog, cat, or parakeet, the Richards family has scorpions.
Excited by the progressiveness as well as the family centered town of Mobridge, they have already been welcomed by the Family Worship Center. Dan has plans to join the Oahe Bow Hunters and resume fishing, bowhunting, and pheasant hunting, making memories far afield the will last a lifetime as he did years ago with his dad.