Lottery winner rides the range

Remember Neal Wanless, South Dakota’s $232 million man? When last we heard from him in June, he was collecting a giant check from the South Dakota Lottery. He opted for a one-time, lump-sum payout instead of receiving all of the winnings gradually over time, so he was left with $88.5 million after taxes.

At the time, the 23-year-old ranching bachelor issued a written statement saying that he had told his horse “It’d be nice if we could go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own.” Prior to winning, he lived on a ranch with his parents.

South Dakotans and the world recently got word that Wanless is pursuing his dream, and then some. A news story by the Associated Press says Wanless “has bought more than 23 square miles of western South Dakota for roughly $9.9 million, according to three deeds recorded in Butte County.”

Butte County is serious ranching country. The county includes the cowboy town of Belle Fourche and is near to the tiny town of Saint Onge, which boasts one of the busiest livestock auction barns in the state. The population density of the county, according to the 2000 Census, is four people per square mile.

So let’s hope that Wanless doesn’t end up a cautionary tale like so many other Powerball jackpot winners who’ve frittered away their winnings and ended up miserable. I like to envision him smiling contentedly as he rides across the rolling plains of Butte County, against the backdrop of the Black Hills. And that’s probably why we’re so fascinated by lottery winners – they allow us to escape from our own lives during those brief moments when we daydream about what it would be like to be them.

It must be pretty good to be Neal Wanless right now. I hope it stays that way.

Categories: General News, Western SD

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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