Captain 11 is gone, but not soon forgottenSometime in the mid-1970s, Captain 11 made a personal appearance at Burke Real Estate here in Pierre, and I took Jennifer and Scott down to see him in the lot across the street from the old junior high school. We can prove we did it, because somewhere in the albums in the basement, we have a photo of the Captain, the two kids and me, standing there mugging for the camera.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Sometime in the mid-1970s, Captain 11 made a personal appearance at Burke Real Estate here in Pierre, and I took Jennifer and Scott down to see him in the lot across the street from the old junior high school.
We can prove we did it, because somewhere in the albums in the basement, we have a photo of the Captain, the two kids and me, standing there mugging for the camera. Just before the shutter snapped, Captain 11 took his blue-and-yellow cap and placed it on my head. The kids thought that was pretty funny, and so did the Captain. I thought I looked kind of goofy, but when Captain 11 lets you wear his cap, even for one moment on a late spring afternoon, it’s a time to remember.
Over the years after that, I used to see Dave Dedrick here and there, and we struck up a casual acquaintance. We weren’t fast friends, you know? We didn’t hang out and watch football or go hunting. We just saw each other now and then and spent a few minutes chatting.
During one of those visits, at the State Fair in Huron where I was doing some reporting for the newspaper, I mentioned the afternoon in Pierre when I got to wear Captain 11’s cap. Dedrick, on the fairgrounds doing a meet-and-greet with the KELO folks across the street from the Freedom Stage, didn’t pretend to remember the incident. He got a kick out of me telling the story, though, partly because I also mentioned that I was probably half drunk at the time. That was a period when I was doing some serious abusing of alcohol, so if I was out and about late in the afternoon, more than likely, I’d been drinking.
Our fairground conversation took place at the time Dedrick was finishing his book, “It Ain’t All Cartoons,” and he had described for me the way the book opened and how he handled the subject of alcoholism and recovery. He was a storyteller, Dedrick was, whether he was in the Captain 11 uniform or in street clothes on a dusty State Fair street, slapping a free yardstick against his thigh as he spoke. I’ll admit I had chills as he talked about some of the stuff in his book. I promised myself I’d get a copy as soon as it came out to read how it all turned out. As a great storyteller will, he left me in suspense about the book that day at the fairgrounds and moved to other topics.
One of those topics involved the traveling each of us had done through South Dakota’s back country. I did most of mine chasing stories. He did much of his traveling to and from personal appearances or hunting trips. We had covered a surprising number of the same unbeaten paths.
As we were one-upping each other over the prettiest pieces of scenery that most people will never see, we discovered that for each of us, one of those places was the White River valley south of Reliance. In fact, Dedrick said, he was thinking of having himself buried there, right in the bluffs along the winding road that rises out of the river valley. He said he thought he might have a shiny marker, and when cars traveling south on that road in the evening rose out of the valley and made that sweeping turn part way up the hill, their headlights at night would catch the marker.
Everyone who passed that way, Dedrick said laughing, would see that flash of light and remember him.
I’d driven that road many times. I knew exactly the spot he meant. I could picture headlights hitting a metal marker, and I could see the smiles on the faces of the people in that car as they realized what they were seeing.
Now that he has gone, I remember when the Captain let me wear his hat and when Dave Dedrick talked about being remembered. Even as we talked, I knew he wouldn’t need a metal marker on a hillside. People won’t soon forget Captain 11 — or Dave Dedrick.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.