WILTZ: Have you ever heard of Pheasant City
It's part of the wisdom that comes with age. When I'm going to spend some time outdoors, I pay attention to the weather forecast, and I put considerable thought into appropriate dress. Our vehicle is also equipped for a worst case scenario.
Our South Dakota weather can kill. Not long ago, a Redfield man died from exposure after abandoning his car. He underestimated the severity of the conditions. Don't think for a second that we can't have blizzards like they had in the 1880s. We still have those storms, it's just that our warning systems are much improved.
Like most South Dakotans, Betsy and I can remember a particular storm. We were married in June 1965. I taught at Willow Lake, and we lived in a single-story farm house a mile south of town. It was January and the Pirates had a big basketball game in Huron. We considered going, but Betsy was six months pregnant, so we decided to stay home. A winter storm was the farthest thing from our minds.
When I got up for school the next morning, we couldn't see out any of the windows. We tried the front and back doors, but they were snowed shut. I called school to see if there was school, but there was no answer. We eventually learned that at game's end, skies in Huron were clear. By the time the Willow Lake fans reached the Pheasant City gas station, 18 miles north of Huron at the intersection of Highways 37 and 28, further travel was impossible.
Eighty-three people spent three days at Pheasant City. The pop, chips and candy bars were gone in short order, the toilet ran over as the septic tank and drain field flooded and most of the people got sick. Still, had it not been for Pheasant City, good friends and students might have perished.
On the lighter side, February 1971 marked South Dakota's first Class B state wrestling tournament, which was held in Mitchell. It began to snow Thursday night, and as coach of the Parkston wrestlers, I worried about making it to Mitchell the next morning. Before going to bed that night, I had a fleet of four-wheel drives and snowmobiles ready to go. If you think my imagination is out of control, check with my good friend Jerry Opbroek. Jerry was coaching the Burke wrestlers at the time, and they used snow mobiles to get the Bulldogs to the Corn Palace.
South Dakota winter storms differ from those of Iowa or Minnesota. Our wind and theirs are completely different things. Wind makes cold weather brutal. Murderous would be a better word. We are also far more remote. Farms and ranches are farther apart. A seemingly harmless ice fishing junket to a dam north of Burke or a lake west of Colome might just as well be in the Arctic when the snow starts blowing.
Don't go alone! Take along some warmer clothes and blankets. Fill the gas tank, and carry a spare gas can. Pack some candy bars. Along these lines, I was really frustrated the week of Monday, Feb. 25. Betsy made me promise her that when I went ice fishing, I wouldn't go out on the ice if no one else was there.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, I headed to Pickstown. I was after big northern pike, and I had brought some big, live shiners back to South Dakota from Wisconsin. Most of the ice was out of the bay, and what was left looked rotten. I kept my promise to Betsy as no one was out there. I had the same experience Saturday afternoon at Dante Lake. In spite of the balmy 45 degree weather, no one was out there. I felt cheated, but I was alive and well. Betsy was right in making me promise.
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Over the years, I've pondered whether or not the Sierra Club was for or against hunting. Sierra Club representatives have personally told me that they were indeed "pro" hunting, but at times I've had my doubts. Still, their founder, John Muir, once wrote, "Fine scenery may not stir a fiber of mind or body, but how quick and how true is the excitement of the pursuit of game!" The guy was right on!
The Sierra Club recently revealed its current true colors. In or about August of 2012, after years of legal battles and injunctions, the Western gray wolf was finally removed from the federal list of endangered species. In the heavy wolf population states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, wolf hunting seasons were established. Immediately, new lawsuits were in place to re-list the wolf as endangered. These suits were initiated by The Humane Society, Earthjustice and other groups in spite of the fact that the wolves had decimated many elk herds.
I recently learned ("Backcountry," Sports Afield, March/April 2013) that the Sierra Club is in partnership with the Earthjustice law suit. There is nothing more to say. We now know where today's Sierra Club stands.
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Today, I hope you will tolerate a little history in today's column that's far more interesting and meaningful than a few storms I pulled from my memory.
In January, some letters to the editor of The Daily Republic dealt with whether or not President Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew of Japan's plan to attack Pearl Harbor prior to the attack. Though there have long been some strong suspicions, there seemed to be no conclusive proof that he knew until The Freedom of Information Act enabled or forced the Navy to release the incriminating documents. A letter in The Daily Republic suggested reading "Day of Deceit" by Robert B. Stinnet. The glossary of Stinnet's book contains copies of the revealing documents, and I have since read the book.
Roosevelt not only knew of the attack, he, through the implementation of a plan orchestrated by Lt. Commander Arthur H. McCollum, provoked the attack. The McCollum plan included: "Giving all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek, Sending a division of heavy cruisers and two divisions of submarines into Japanese waters, Keeping the main strength of the U.S. fleet in the Hawaiian Islands as an inviting target, Insisting that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese requests for goods including oil, and embargoing all trade with Japan in collaboration with a similar embargo by the British."
Other than American provocation, U.S. cryptographers had broken all of Japan's codes. Our highest-ranking leadership, with the exception Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander-in-chief of our Pacific fleet, knew of Japanese plans. Kimmel had been purposely kept in the dark. If Kimmel had been allowed to defend Pearl Harbor as he saw fit, there would have been no Japanese attack.
Before we condemn FDR, we must look at his reasons for wanting World War II. Stinnet actually sympathizes with Roosevelt up to a point. We'll look at the rest of the story next week, along with some thoughts on the meat we eat.