Felicia Hoshino Illustration


A Place for Harvest : Road Trip to Spearfish, Kenny’s Hometown

While in South Dakota promoting the book A Place for Harvest, my Sunday morning flight home is cancelled. With the next flight not leaving until Tuesday, I decide to make the most of my time and drive an hour up to revisit Spearfish, Kenny’s hometown. Jennifer McIntyre and Dedra Birzer of South Dakota Historical Society Press think it would be a good chance to visit the spots depicted in the book. So after double-checking that road and weather conditions look good, off I go… I love a road trip!


First stop, the Higashi Farm and home where Mr. and Mrs. Higashi raised Kenny and his four siblings, older brother Clarence and younger sisters, Mae, Jean and Lily. It is located along Old U.S. 14. 

I understand Kenny’s step-daughter lives there now, but I do not want to disturb the family. So I do my best to pull in across the street without obstructing traffic. I thought the house would be a little further back from the road and imagined all the customers pulling up to pick up carts of vegetables from the farm stand. 


I imagine the family hunkering down all together “during the short winter days and long winter nights.”


From Old U.S. 14 I turn right on Evans Lane and head south towards downtown Spearfish. I imagine Kenny in the 1930’s riding his bike down this road (perhaps dirt at the time?) on a delivery, running an errand for his mother or on his way to see “the tall jars of colorful candies” at Lown’s Merchantile.


spearfish historic commercial district : a walking tour

This is my very first trip to South Dakota. While illustrating A Place for Harvest I heavily relied on online resources, photos and links shared by the Press. I must credit the pamphlet, Spearfish Historic Commercial District put together by the Spearfish Historic Preservation Commission, for helping me visualize the downtown streets. Through Kevin Miller’s illustrations I was able to see more clearly the details of the Merchantile facade and how the signage may have looked like at the time.



downtown spearfish

In the story, Kenny works at Lown’s Merchantile on Fifth Street where the building still stands. Made of native sandstone it was originally built by William Lown in 1893. Kenny’s boss “Mr. Lown” is one of William Lown’s two sons, Brownie and Ernest who ran the store for 70 years until it closed in 1963. Today it is a restaurant, Steerfish Steak & Smoke.


Mountains in the background.


The intersection of Hudson and Main Street is where I depict Kenny on the bus returning from the war, with the Spearfish community welcoming him home. The building on the left (now Spearfish Visitor Center) was originally the Bank of Spearfish and Matthews Block, the commercial building on the right was built in the early 1900s.


Near the same intersection, I spot the old post office where Kenny worked for 30 years. In the illustration I include a mailman on the bottom right of the spread as a nod to his many dedicated years of working for the post office and where people in the Spearfish community knew him.


spearfish canyon scenic byway

Jennifer suggests that I take the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. It’s a 22 mile drive through the Black Hills. Driving through the mountains and seeing the trees covered from the fresh snow was absolutely breathtaking. I imagine Kenny and his father exploring the canyon and following the streams as they filled their creels with fish.

Can you spot the deer?

Although unexpected, these extra couple days in South Dakota have given me a first-hand glimpse of living in Spearfish. Perhaps if feasible (and not in the middle of a pandemic) I would have made this trip prior to starting the illustrations to gather reference photos. But spending the past year and a half getting to know Kenny through Lauren’s words while working on illustrating his life, it’s rewarding to bookend the project with memories of Kenny’s home and “happiest place.”



I continue on 14A and come across Deadwood. What a surprise! It felt like a movie set. 

I was looking for a restroom and someone suggested the Gold Rush Casino. Since I was there, I decided to play the one dollar I had in my wallet.


I won $10!