Officials: Women thought Poet’s Table was ‘eyesore’

By Jason Ferguson

This photo, taken by a witness to the event, shows two women taking Poet's Table—which they cut in half—out of Custer State Park. They later threw the table in a dumpster in Rapid City.

The two women who dismantled and hauled away the iconic Poet’s Table furniture and journals told Custer State Park law enforcement they did so for one reason: it was an eyesore.

Kobee Stalder, visitor services program manager at Custer State Park, where the green table, chairs and book shelves have sat since the 1960s, said the women, who are in their 20s, felt Poet’s Table was “destroying the Black Hills and it didn’t belong there because it wasn’t there originally.”

The women apparently did not like people continuing to leave things there, thought it was a nuisance and should be removed.

Why the women thought they could remove Poet’s Table from a state park is anybody’s guess, Stalder said.

“I’m not sure why they felt they could do that,” he said. “What took place in their mind I don’t know.”

Whether or not the women will be charged with a crime remains to be seen. Stalder said park officials spent Tuesday consulting with South Dakota State Game, Fish & Parks officials to determine what the next step should be. Legally, the items at Poet’s Table are considered abandoned property, but since it has been in the park so long, the park can claim it as park property, which means charges of theft or vandalism of park property could be pursued.

The incident occurred Saturday, and by Sunday there was a full-fledged firestorm about the incident on social media. Witnesses posted photos of the two women packing the table down the hill and another photo with the table and chairs in the back of a truck. There was also a short video of one of the women sawing the table in half with a hand saw.

Stalder said park officials are baffled that so many people witnessed what was happening, but failed to call either the park or the Custer County Sheriff’s Office. However, the photos and videos posted did help them locate the suspects, who eventually called the Custer County Sheriff’s Office to confess, likely because of the social media uproar that ensued.

“I didn’t hear anything about [why the women turned themselves in], so I can’t speculate on that,” Stalder said. “It would make sense.”

A Custer State Park ranger went to Pennington County Monday to collect the furniture. The women had put Poet’s Table into a dumpster and it is now in several pieces, either because it was cut up further or broken more as it was transported. The women had the bookshelf, chairs and journals in their home. Stalder said he did not know what the women planned to do with them.

He didn’t know if the women had been to Poet’s Table before or how long they had been planning to remove the items, but said it was obviously a premeditated event because the women took a saw up to the location. Since they live in Pennington County, he said, it’s probable they were aware of the location.

Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley said his office was swarmed with calls and messages—both via email and Facebook—when word got out about what had happened. He and Custer County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve McMillin spent a great deal of time answering those messages, many of which were derogatory toward the sheriff’s office, park and anybody thought to be involved.

“The disappointing part was people throwing out false information, which only took more time out of everybody’s day to try to solve the case,” Mechaley said. “I think the park did a really good job. It’s very unfortunate it happened.”

The sheriff’s office posted that it and Custer State Park officials were investigating and later posted  that it had identified the suspects, but a post later Sunday night said the suspects have not been identified. The sheriff’s office wrote that the earlier post was due to miscommunication. 

The conspiracy theories included two women from the eastern part of the county who had been to Poet’s Table recently and left a note, leading some to believe they were responsible. Other innocent people were targets of the public’s ire, as well.

It is that frenzy—along with threats toward those who did it—that led law enforcement to so far keep secret the names of the two women responsible.  Should they be charged with a crime, however, their names will become public information.

The table was first placed  in the park around 50 years ago by John Raeck, a man who loved the Black Hills and called himself “The Vagabond Poet.”

Stalder said it seems the women didn’t realize—or perhaps didn’t care—about the historical significance of Poet’s Table.

“(Maybe) they didn’t realize how big of a deal and how iconic a piece of the Black Hills this is,” he said. “It’s an historical icon that brought a lot of enjoyment to people in this area.”

Ever since Raeck placed the table there, visitors have climbed to the alcove to relax, read some of the journals, add to the journals or make their mark on the table.

It didn’t take long for people to begin offering to replace the table, also. The park asked people not to put anything in the site, but Stalder said park officials are working to figure out what they can do with the now recovered original table. Discussions are being held to potentially work with volunteers to incorporate the top of the old table onto a new table or somehow put the old table up there in some form as memorabilia. No official decisions have been made.

“We’re working through a lot of things today we didn’t expect to have to deal with and we never thought would happen,” Stalder said Tuesday.

The park intends to replace the items, including the table, in some form, despite the best efforts of the women who believed they were doing a good deed by removing the items.

“That was their mentality. It was an eyesore on the Black Hills and they were adamant they were going to remove it because it didn’t belong there,” Stalder said. “I’m not certain why they felt that was OK.”


  1. It is sad that with out asking they took it upon them selves to make a decision to remove something from the park without asking. There are so many places that they could have offered to clean up. But the key work is ask before you make a move!

  2. People took pictures and videos, but nobody tried to stop the vandals?
    What’s wrong with this “picture”?

    • I can’t say that I would have tried to stop anyone, but you can be sure I would have called authorities. Sounds like many of the folks were tourists… who knows what I would have done in that situation

  3. These are grown women who make adult decisions. Don’t refer to them as girls, as you then excuse their behavior, and diminish their ability to know there is a consequence for every decision. That being said, let them be responsible for what they did, under the law.

  4. They need to be charged with theft and vandalism and destruction of park property…….. And spend sometime in jail and go to a mental hospital for rehab……i have never been there but my family has and i was planning on going there when we come back out there but now i cant….. It is just sad

  5. Did their parents not teach them not to touch what doesn’t belong to them? ESPECIALLy if it’s on someone else’s property? I truly hope they pay a price.

  6. If charges are not filed for theft of historical state property, then these ladies will have set a presidence that it is OK to do this for future thieves. Please press charges to the full extent of the law.

    • You mean the bookshelves and journals were found in their home? I guess it wasn’t such an eyesore after all. That is history they stole and there eyesore story is pure BS…Let’s get something on their record for theft and destruction!

  7. I think they should charged with a crime! It was in Custer State Park for such a long time. If Custer State Park had wanted it out of there, they would have done it years ago. I will argue it was Custer State Park’s property. Poet’s Table brought people to Custer State Park. I finally hiked there in 2015! Wow was my first reaction! It was tranquil, full of history (so many people who had left poems etc. before me) and sacred. If they thought it was trash then why was the chairs, bookshelf and journals in their home? I believe anyone who saw them were shocked. Taking pictures was a great idea to catch them. Those that saw them vandalize and steal are not at fault. Cell service isn’t great there either. Book them. If not, others will think they can commit crimes like this too. Set a precedence for state park crimes in South Dakota if there isn’t one already.

    • Why does this lead to “White Privilege”? I’m white and I don’t believe I have the authority to take someone else’s property… The current generation however does seem to believe themselves to be entitled to anything and everything without recourse. Participation trophies and this delusion and that everyone deserves everything has aided in enabling this mentality. But I don’t believe this has to be a race-related topic at all as much as lack morals and grounding in the reality that is, not everything you see is yours.

    • What does your attempt at changing this to politics have to do with anything. White privledge? How about i do and say what i want because i have been told thats how prople live now! Not any privledge its just the way people raise kids with out rules, spankings and discipline.

  8. Often ones persons beauty is not appreciated by someone else. That is Why we should respect each other. Give each other space to have our own joys in life 🙁

  9. Mary These two lumberjacks look like “20 miles of bad road” They are an eyesore in any environment. Throw their sorry butts in jail!!!

  10. These two lumberjacks look like “20 miles of bad road” They are an eyesore in any environment. Throw their sorry butts in jail!!!

  11. So….does this mean that anyone can steal a bison if they think it’s ugly and doesn’t belong there?-if you don’t prosecute these women to the fullest extent of the law,and set the standard,that will soon become the new standard !!

  12. They are obviously lying to try to get away from any type of prosecution…let’s not be ignorant as they are playing to be…they need to be charged and the names need to be released..these items have been there for years and used by many, and they just decide it’s an eyesore and cut it up and take everything down…what right do they have or who do they think they are…CHARGE THEM!

  13. Nothing more then a couple of psychotic tree hugging hippies that had parents that never was punished or taught not to take others property that did not belong to them.

  14. There better be some serious charges filed. Their story is B.S. The names will get out at some point and them having had those consequences will be the only way to calm this “frenzy.”

  15. Stop covering for these grown women. Obviously they belong to someone “important”. Jail time, stiff fine and community service. Your article is all over the place. Trying to divert attention. Shame on you.

  16. Stop covering for these grown women. Obviously they belong to someone “important”. Jail time, stiff fine and community service. Your article is all over the place. Trying to divert attention. Shame on you.

  17. Why won’t you release the names? Are these women part of wealthy well connected or politically connected families??? You can bet your last dollar if the women were from poor or minority backgrounds, those names would have been plastered all over the internet by now! You did the crime, now do the time. RELEASE THE NAMES!

  18. I think the old table should be put in somekind of protection, but as a monument for the man who started this whole thing. I think he deserves some kind if recognition for his beliefs and thoughts. He just wanted a place where people could just sit and write their thought. What is so wrong with that? I think it is very special. As far as the women who demolished the table. Make them pay a hefty fine, or help build a monument with their money, so this won’t happen again.

  19. I think their sentencing should involve cleaning up some of the graffitti that is popping up in our hills, aka the Maze which is truly an eyesore…..and environmentally harmful…

  20. I might be wrong but isn’t it illegal to remove anything from a State Park? When I worked in CSP (a long time ago) I remember being told that visitors were not allowed to remove anything – natural or historical. These items have been there for 50+ years so wouldn’t it be like removing items such as arrowheads, artifacts from Indians or early pioneers? I don’t know the answers but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  21. I don’t know. Maybe the governor should have made the hiking spot a state monument or historical site. Then the law would have a leg to stand on and maybe park personnel could maintain it to keep it from being mistaken as an eyesore. As for the bison comment up above… You’re comparing apples and oranges. Bison occur naturally. Tables with items, some important and some trash, do not.

  22. Definitely needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Otherwise there’s just a precedence put in place for people to remove whatever they don’t like. Trail markers worn? Oh we’ll just remove those. Trash cans beat up? Load them up. That motorcycle isn’t brand new and looks ugly, just put it in the back of the truck. You heard about Poets Table from word of mouth (generally) and then had to put in work to find it. If you heard it about it by word of mouth, you heard some or all of it’s history as well. So they KNEW the historical significance. They KNEW the sentimental value to hundreds or thousands of people that went up there over the last 50 years. They should KNOW their actions have consequences, and should be punished. Plus, keeping everything but the table in their home? Yeah… right.. I don’t believe they thought it was an eyesore for a minute. I believe they decided to take something from everyone for whatever selfish reasons they had.

  23. First off, their names need to be released. Why are the authorities covering for them? Did an official get a gratuity to keep their names silent? They need to be charged, period.

  24. They should be punished to the FULL EXTENT of the law AND made to do a lot of community service in the form of picking up trash from the roads and sweeping streets, which is a real eyesore! Or how about removing graffiti, cleaning bathrooms, other real eyesores! Perhaps they should also hand out informative flyers to visitors entering the Park about not taking anything out of the Park or disturbing wildlife, while they wore a sign designating them as the offenders? They should also be monetarily responsible for the damage.

  25. I am pretty sure there are some jobs out at the park these girls could do for community service. Perhaps cleaning up carrion that is an eyesore for Custer state park roads. I am sure that the park has many outdoor bathroom facilities that need waste removed, because, well you know it just doesn’t belong there! I really don’t care who they are, and do not think they deserve 5 minutes of anything except a summer or two of community service without pay.
    “One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork”.

    • It is a State Landmark, not a National Landmark. If they would have done this in Wind Cave, that is a federal offense.

  26. Ok, if charges are not filed does that mean if I think something on someone else’s property is an ugly eyesore, I can remove and destroy it without consequences?

    Do we really want to open that proverbial “can o worms”?

    • They are being charged today. It was a holiday Monday. Their names are being released today as it will be public record when the charges are filed.

  27. They should be charged with destruction of property, and charged with theft for the items they had in their home. These women are self-entitled, ignorant, disrespectful and selfish and I hope they are humiliated and punished for what they did.

  28. I think the table needs to be put in its original location not the one where it was taken from. Then those who really want to spend time at the table will put in the time to find it. From what I am told by the old timers this is the third or fourth location of the table and in the past it was moved when it’s location became exposed to too many people. This was to keep its secrecy from the general public. This is where I proposed to my wife and is dear to our hearts. Happy to see it was recovered.

  29. They need to be taught a lesson and be an example to others that you don’t just act on what you think is just! Jail is an easy way out since they’d likely get only a few days. If they’re so concerned about “doing good” I’d give them about a 1000 hrs of community service. That should fulfill their need to do good!!!

  30. Most Lakota have no problem with what these women did, they were just cleaning up some eyesore clutter. Historical significance? Some guy arbitrarily decided to put that table there a half century back. What was wrong with the pristine beauty of the spot before he decided to “improve” on it? The Black Hills had sentimental value to an entire tribe but that didn’t stop people from taking it. THAT is some real historical significance.

  31. What was wrong with the pristine spot where Crazy Horse is before Kozak decided to improve upon it? My sentiments exactly with you Cody. We should just clean up the eyesore clutter of a monument of Crazy Horse that destroys the natural beauty of the Black Hills. Get real Mr. James Giago Davies.

  32. First there was the Legion Lake Fire…and now this…

    Oh well, just another “kick in the teeth” of the tourist trade surrounding this area…

    I guess it’s time to think about going to Disney World this year…

  33. People don’t take time to think. Everything is instant; I WANT becomes the norm without thought of consequences. It is sad and troubling that two people thought they could destroy something that did not being to either. Very sad indeed.

  34. Perhaps justice would be best served if the two women were directly involved in restoring the site, under the supervision people who value the place. And, they should pay all costs of repair and restoration. This is a great circumstance for restorative justice.

  35. Absolutely they are adults who need to be held responsible, names released like any other criminal, and jail time. If nothing is done it sends a message that it’s OK to destroy beloved spots in our beautiful Hills.

  36. What a %$^%&% lame excuse to try to get out of the hole they dug for themselves.. Make an example out of them.. What a Crock of an excuse..

  37. I totally agree with the “White Privilege” comment. I think charges would have already been filed if it were anyone other than two younger white women.

  38. I wish they would restore the old table and put it back…If a piece of artwork is damaged, you don’t have someone make a new one, you restore it.

    • Or they could encase the old table in a display at the site and put an official State Park marker and a new table put in.

  39. Liberals, the gift that just keeps giving………..they should be held accountable, have the desk repaired and replaced at their expense. 1 mo in the county jail. The public has a right to know who they are………They should be made an example.

  40. This is the snowflake mentality of the young people today, they are raised without being taught respect. They think because they do not like something, whether it be laws, artwork or anything, that they can do what ever they want to to make themselves happy. It is bullshit and it totally out of hand, HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.

  41. Mount Rushmore wasn’t there “originally” either. Maybe they’d like to take a crack at that with a jackhammer…

  42. The authorities said the women have the journals, bookshelf and chairs — Are they not going to get those back??? These items don’t belong to the women. They were STOLEN items. They belong back where they were STOLEN from!!!