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WOSTER: Say it ain't snow

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

I was working my way through a typical Thursday afternoon this week when I received the updated forecast from the National Weather Service and saw the word “blizzard.”

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The word was used in reference to expected weather conditions in the western part of the state, on the lee side of the Black Hills, as the forecast put it. Still, it was only Oct. 3 on Thursday. That’s way early fall. Blizzard and early fall shouldn’t even be found in the same dictionary, much less in the same geographic space. And yet, the weather pattern given the strong-sounding name “Atlas” by The Weather Channel is sharing space with the first week in October.

I’ll tell you what. If my alma matter is considerate enough to schedule Hobo Day on the first weekend in October, the weather should be thoughtful enough to show a little sunshine, maybe some light autumn breezes and the soft colors that appear as if by magic when a delicate coating of fallen leaves spreads across the grass playing field at Coughlin Alumni Stadium. A bit of a chill in the air for the morning parade, sure. Maybe even a shower and 55 degrees for the afternoon. That I could handle. A forecast that includes the word blizzard? Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” might say, “To me, it is quite illogical, Captain.”

Well, late that evening as I pondered the lack of logic in such a forecast, I recalled an early October political-campaign trip I made as a young Associated Press reporter. The year was 1970, I was in my first year with the AP in the Pierre bureau and I’d never reported on a general election campaign before. I’d never reported on any kind of election campaign until the spring preceding this October trip in 1970. I managed to cover a couple of candidates in the June primary that year, and I learned just enough in the process to think I was beginning to learn quite a lot about campaign coverage.

I traveled to Rapid City late one afternoon and found a room for overnight. The next morning, I was scheduled to rise early and drive to Lead to meet Jim Abourezk, a Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives. After a day with him, I was to meet the Republican candidate, Fred Brady, and follow him around for a day.

This was, it goes without saying, a different time. I carried no phone or laptop. Well, of course I didn’t. Phones were hooked to the wall or placed on the corners of desks, not carried in a hip pocket or holstered to a hip.

Laptops were uninvented, although quite possibly somewhere in the country, some young, quiet man or woman was sitting in a garage or basement work room dreaming of a way to take a typewriter and send messages all over the world without paper, envelopes, stamp or even a U.S. Postal Service. If so, I didn’t know about it.

The Weather Channel didn’t exist, and I was young enough to not pay attention to weather, anyway. When I went to sleep in Rapid City that evening, I had no idea I would wake to snow on the ground and to a fierce wind and a temperature that seemed at least 40 degrees cooler than the previous afternoon.

I pushed snow from the windshield of my station wagon and drove to Lead. The canyon road was treacherous at best, all slippery and icy and slushy and full of twists and turns. The windshield wipers were barely keeping ahead of the wet snow that fell like feathers from a plucked chicken.

In spite of it all, I arrived at the union hall where Abourezk greeted me enthusiastically, asking if I needed a cup of coffee and introducing me to a couple of gold miners just off shift or about to go on shift. I apologized for being late. Abourezk said he was surprised I made it at all, a flatlander trying to drive in the hills in snow. “It wasn’t supposed to snow this early,” I said.

It’s more than 40 years later, but those are still words to live by.

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