Beyond Cricket: More Bonkers Stories From Kristi Noem’s Memoir

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Ultra-MAGA South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has become quasi-infamous for admitting to having cold-bloodedly assassinated a puppy and a goat, but in her newly released memoir, the right-wing true believer recounts an “inspirational” episode by which her own negligence nearly killed or seriously maimed untold numbers of innocent motorists.

In 2016, when Noem was a member of Congress, she flew from Washington, D.C. to Nashville, Tennessee to see her daughter Kass, who had driven there from South Dakota with a friend to deliver a load of custom fire pits Noem’s brother had built, according to the passage in No Going Back, which came out on Tuesday.

But the friend wasn’t planning to make the return trip, so Noem would instead keep Kass company, she writes (or, more accurately, ghostwriter and “crazy guy” Mike Loomis, who did not respond on Thursday to a request for comment).

“We got to the truck and flatbed that I had someone else hook up and get ready for us to take off early in the morning,” the passage goes on. “I made the mistake of not checking the hitch, but just jumped into the truck at six a.m. and hit the interstate headed out of Nashville. About ten minutes into the drive, going seventy miles per hour in eight lanes of crowded traffic, we hit a bump, and the trailer came unhitched. The heavy hitch slammed onto the asphalt, sparks flew everywhere, and the back end of the truck fishtailed almost out of control!”

Noem says she “struggled to get the rig slowed down without slamming the trailer into the tailgate of the pickup and without breaking the safety chains holding the trailer to the pickup.” The chains, Noem continues, “were the only thing keeping that trailer from running across traffic and surely hurting dozens of people.” She managed to pull off to the side of the road, where she and Kass “just stood there as thousands of people rushed by in their vehicles, oblivious to the destruction we had all just avoided.”

“Gosh, Kass, we could have killed so many people,” Noem recalls saying as she shook her head “in disbelief.”

“I know,” Kass replied, according to Noem. “Thank God we didn’t.”

Anti-seatbelt vigilante

To be sure, safety does not appear to have been drilled into Noem’s method of operating by her childhood role models. In chapter eight, Noem introduces readers to her father, Ron Arnold, a rancher who died in 1994 after jumping into a grain bin on the family farm.

She remembers watching Ron out in the yard, and seeing him “take a knife to his brand-new pickup, fresh from the dealership.”

“He was cutting the seat belts out,” Noem writes.

“‘What are you doing?’ I asked, wide-eyed.”

“The government is trying to pass a law to say we’re required to wear seat belts,” Noem says her father replied. “No government is going to tell me I have to wear them. So I’m taking them out.”

As Noem tells readers, “the message was clear: the government telling us what to do was not right.”

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota arrives at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground after riding in the Legends Ride for charity in 2021

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota arrives at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground after riding in the Legends Ride for charity in 2021.

Scott Olson

Hiring the Hells Angels

The casual death, destruction, and risky behavior that seems to have been part-and-parcel of Noem’s life appears in full flower throughout her book.

When COVID-19 cut a deadly swath across the globe in the beginning of 2020, Noem was concerned not about the virus but that “the American population was at high risk for being controlled,” she writes.

“My staff and I watched the news as, one by one, states announced unthinkable lockdowns with unimaginable fear-mongering and threats,” Noem explains. “Spoiler alert, in case you missed it: South Dakota was the only state that stayed open.”

She describes the “crucial local support” at an Independence Day celebration that year which Noem insisted on having even though public health experts roundly warned the massive public gathering would likely become a “superspreader” event. Noem concedes that her decision to let it proceed was “controversial,” and that then-President Donald Trump would be in attendance, meaning security would be a “nightmare.”

“Hundreds if not thousands of Secret Service agents would be there, along with members of the South Dakota National Guard and law enforcement officers from every branch,” Noem writes. “Even with all these resources, we were concerned about several scenarios. In one of countless meetings, I said to my public safety secretary, ‘You know what? These motorcycle guys love Donald Trump. And we need help to make sure the roads aren’t blocked by protesters or troublemakers. There must be a way to engage their help, but the state can’t officially request it.’”

With a proverbial wink and nod, “[s]omeone in the room made it clear that they knew what to do, and that was the end of the discussion,” Noem says. “... Let’s put it this way: if someone wearing a Hell’s Angels vest makes it clear they don’t have time for any roadblocks, interruptions, or noise, potential disrupters will think twice.”

Throughout the book, Noem proudly touts her non-response to COVID, boasting that South Dakota leads the nation in “freedom.” In September 2020, Noem allowed the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to proceed unabated, creating a so-called superspreader event with attached public health costs of some $12 billion. And by November 2020, the state had recorded the third-highest COVID mortality rate in the world.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem rejected COVID guidelines

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem rejected COVID guidelines.

Tom Williams

Church, meet state

“Can I share one more thing I’m angry about?” Noem writes in chapter eight. “I’m tired of listening to many Christians tell me it’s the government’s job to take care of people. It’s actually our job as the church, and there are many ways we can do it.”

Noem says she has “spent countless hours after church services talking to people who have needs.”

“Sometimes it feels like I should bring a staffer with us to handle all the casework that’s brought to me,” she continues. “‘Governor, can you help me get my unemployment check?’ ‘Governor, can you help me get food stamps?’ I want to help people. I do. And I always do what I can to assist. But in most situations, what people need, they could handle themselves or in partnership with church staff and local leaders. That’s how life is supposed to work, in my view.”

Provision, according to Noem, “comes from God and not government. We’re designed to work faithfully so we have the means to help others who genuinely need it. I’m glad there are people praying for me and other leaders. Wow, I sure need it! But this world also needs people who step into the mess and become part of the solution. I enjoy yelling at my TV as much as anyone, but in reality it accomplishes zero. We can’t delegate our God-given responsibility to bureaucrats.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the NRA conference in 2022

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks during the NRA conference in 2022.

Houston Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Taking aim, poorly

Noem tends to make a lot of noise about the Second Amendment and protecting gun rights, but admits to multiple firearms-related mishaps due to her own “poor shooting skills.” In October 2020, Noem posted what she “thought was a funny video about how we do social distancing in South Dakota—we go hunting,” she writes. “I was in a field and shot a pheasant… on the third attempt.”

“It was embarrassing that it took me three shots to kill that bird,” Noem continues. “But I had obviously spent too much time that year dealing with COVID, crises, decisions, press conferences, and running our state. That video horrified the legacy media but turned out to be one of the best ways to draw attention, and much-needed funds, to our campaign.”

One section in particular of Noem’s book has received significant blowback from people across the political spectrum, and especially from members of her own conference—including ex-president and de facto party boss Donald Trump. In it, Noem shares graphic, highly disturbing details of the day she fatally shot her own puppy and a billy goat from a herd she kept on her ranch.

The chapter, titled, “BAD DAY TO BE A GOAT,” begins with a recitation of the stressors Noem was facing during harvest season, likening it to “the Super Bowl of farming.” Running a hunting lodge at the same time, according to Noem, “is insane,” calling the combination “enough to break a family.”

Kristi Noem Blows Up at Fox Anchor Pressing Her on Puppy Murder

During one “particularly stressful year,” a group of longtime friends were at Noem’s ranch for their annual weeklong hunting trip, she writes. On their final day, after “strategically push[ing]” as many pheasants as possible to an 80-acre patch of land so her guests would “have an amazing amount of success” before heading home, Noem took “a few experienced dogs” along, as well as “one young dog named Cricket.”

“Cricket was a wirehair pointer, about fourteen months old, and she had come to us from a home that struggled with her aggressive personality,” Noem writes. “I was sure she’d learn a lot going out with our older dogs that day. I was wrong. Within an hour of walking the first field, Cricket had blown past the group, gotten too far ahead, and flushed up birds out of range. She was out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life. The only problem was there were no hunters nearby to shoot the birds she scared up.”

Cricket was slow to respond to Noem’s verbal commands, and ignored vibrations from a shock collar around her neck, the book says.

“We all watched helplessly as dozens and dozens of pheasants exploded from the grass and flew out of sight,” it goes on. “The hunt was ruined. I was livid.”

On the way home, Noem says she realized she was one kennel short and decided to let Cricket ride loose in the back of her pickup truck. After all, if she “was dumb enough to jump out, then good riddance. After what she had pulled that day, I didn’t care.”

After Cricket later killed a neighbor’s chickens—Noem unironically dubs the pup a “trained assassin”—Noem says she decided she was untrainable and needed to go. She was “less than worthless to us as a hunting dog,” Noem writes.

“This was my dog and my responsibility, and I would not ask someone else to clean up my mess,” the passage continues. “I stopped the truck in the middle of the yard, got my gun, grabbed Cricket’s leash and led her out into the pasture and down into the gravel pit. It was not a pleasant job—but it had to be done.” (Noem says her other daughter would later emerge from the school bus, asking, “Hey, where’s Cricket?”)

Once Cricket was no longer, Noem “realized another unpleasant job needed to be done,” she writes. A billy goat that had been living on the farm for years was too “nasty and mean” to tolerate, and smelled like urine, which is how males in rut attract females.

“It’s the most disgusting, musky, rancid smell you can imagine,” Noem writes. “Not only was this goat constantly covered in his own muck, but he also loved to chase the kids.”

So, she shot him. However, Noem admits, “My shot was off and I needed one more shell to finish the job. Problem was, I didn’t have one. Not wanting him to suffer, I hustled back across the pasture to the pickup, grabbed another shell, hurried back to the gravel pit, and put him down.”

While walking back across the pasture, Noem says she passed a group of construction workers building her family’s new home. The men had “looks of shocked amazement on their faces,” and seemed afraid of Noem, she writes.

“Later that evening, my uncle, who was the general contractor building our house, called me and said, ‘What got into you today?’ ‘Nothing,’ I responded. ‘Why?’” Noem goes on.

“‘Well, the guys said you came barreling into the yard with your truck, slammed the door, and took a gun and a dog over the hill, out of sight. They heard one shot and you came back without the dog. Then you grabbed the goat and headed back up over the hill. They heard another shot, you came back, slammed the pickup door, went back. Then they heard another shot and then you came back without the goat. They said they hurried back to work before you decided they were next!’”

Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and Donald Trump

Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and Donald Trump.

Drew Angerer

GOP bootlicker

Twice-impeached ex-President Donald Trump, now on trial for paying $130,000 in hush money to a porn star so she wouldn’t discuss their fling and deep-six his chances of victory in 2016, “broke politics,” Noem admiringly writes.

“Some people try to emulate President Trump without success,” she says. “They seem unaware of what authenticity looks like—the power of conviction, forged over many years of action. Instead, they take the low, thoughtless road of being verbal bomb throwers. There’s a world of difference. And those fakers are so obvious, it’s almost sad to watch them try to imitate his style without the substance to back it up.”

The pathologically self-absorbed Trump, according to Noem, “really doesn’t think he’s better than anyone else. He values everyone.”

Noem’s first choice for president was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, she writes. But after Rubio dropped out, having become “Liddle Marco” to Trump, who mocked the size of Rubio’s genitalia in one particularly asinine debate, “supporting Trump was not a difficult decision.”

“Trump’s renegade spirit had always resonated with me,” Noem writes. “It reminded me of some members of my family. As a candidate, Donald Trump did everything that the consultants had told me not to do. He did what everyone in Washington was afraid to do. He did some things I would never do. But he was running, he was working, he was doing, and he was speaking clearly.”

Trump has made a cottage industry of relaying tales of “big, strong” men, including U.S. military generals, police officers, and the like, weeping and sobbing when they get near him, drawing derision and no shortage of disbelief from most rational observers. Yet, Noem floats a claim in her memoir about a close friend named Beth who she insists collapsed into tears during an audience with the 45th president.

Noem brought Beth to the White House one day, and was able to get her into the Oval Office, according to the book. Trump was seated at the Resolute Desk, “reviewing some papers.”

“Beth stopped in her tracks just inside the door when she realized where she was,” Noem writes. “Then she looked up, covered her face with her hands, and started to cry. She gave me the biggest hug ever and said ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m here.’”

Although Noem describes her as “a friend,” she also seems to have little regard for former Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who Trump forced to drop the first half of her last name, due to his unhinged dislike for Mitt Romney, her uncle, then forced her out of the RNC altogether in favor of his adult son Eric’s wife, Lara Trump.

“The fact that our party did not achieve a majority in the US Senate was a failure by the Republican National Committee (RNC),” Noem writes. “Ronna McDaniel’s leadership was in the spotlight during the 2023 presidential debates and, I must say, rightfully so. Ronna is a friend, and I respect her, but no business executive gets to produce poor results and still keep the top job—unless you work for Disney.”

Further, Noem complains, after Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020, the RNC didn’t immediately provide a team of lawyers “ready to look into every question of fishy voting.” (The few known fraudulent votes cast in 2020 were largely cast by Republicans, according to reports.)

“Weeks passed,” Noem writes. “Months passed. Nothing.”

Noem goes on to mention various politicians she does look up to, namechecking neo-fascists like Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and Italian leader Giorgia Meloni as having achieved “encouraging victories.”

“Giorgia and I talked candidly about being ostracized for our beliefs and attacks from political enemies,” Noem writes. “I reassured her that we all face those challenges. ‘Other than the fact that these people want to destroy our very existence, what’s the downside?’ I joked.”

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