WOSTER: South Dakotans know how to 'make do'Several years ago when legislators argued over how much money should go from the state treasury into local schools, the lobbyist for one of the education groups talked of South Dakota’s ability to “make do.”
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Several years ago when legislators argued over how much money should go from the state treasury into local schools, the lobbyist for one of the education groups talked of South Dakota’s ability to “make do.”
At least a couple of generations of South Dakotans came of age at a time when parents, grandparents and other elders told them to make do, rather than asking for more.
Want new shoes? Make do with the ones you have for now? Want a new car? Combine? Tractor? Patio set? Kitchen appliances? House? Make do with what you have for now.
Maybe someday those new things will show up — and maybe not.
The lobbyist compared that South Dakota tradition to the way the state treated schools. I’m not saying she was right or wrong. I’m just saying her argument is one I’ve remembers for quite a long while now.
The notion of making do hits a little harder this time of year, because this is nearly the start of the real harvest season, and I’ll never forgot the year I watched my cousin make do with an old, old pull-type combine.
Now, Cousin Leo worked for the Woster Brothers farm partnership. I did, too, and so did my big brother, Jim. The big shots of Woster Brothers were Henry and Frank. Henry produced Jim and me. Frank produced Leo.
Bloodlines didn’t get in the way of either of the big shots telling any of the offspring what needed to be done next in the Woster Brothers operation. And those two old boys were great ones for making do.
My brother Jim gets a lot of laughs whenever he tells the story of his first day at college. The set-up is that our dad generally didn’t show a lot of soft emotion, but the big farmer opened up as he and our mom were about to walk out of the dorm room and leave their first-born son on his own for the first time.
“Son,” Henry Woster supposedly said to Jim on that occasion, “If there’s anything you need, anything at all, you just give a call home, and I’ll tell you how you can make do without it.”
Growing up, we learned to make do with whatever was around the place. The space between the garage and the machine shed was a jumble of angle iron, short rolls of barbed wire, boards, planks, fence posts, sickle teeth for mowers, crumpled hunks of sheet metal and a whole grab-bag of other junk.
It was stuff that had no immediate purpose, that had, in fact, been cast off like those poor creatures on the Island of Misfit Toys in the Christmas television special.
None of it was cast-off enough to really be thrown away, though, because a person never knew when he might need a bit of angle iron to weld into a brace, and, what do you know, there it would be, in that pile.
Some parts of my first bicycle came out of that pile of junk. My dad got the main frame in town, though — at the junkyard, the way he told it to me.
The thing rode pretty well, back in the days before the Tour de France made folks think they needed matching wheels and a shiny paint job. Eventually, I was allowed to buy a factory-made bicycle from a store in Chamberlain, but I made do until that remarkable day.
So did Cousin Leo with the rickety Case combine. We had a relatively new (Woster Brothers seldom bought brand-new. New to them meant it was the first time they had owned the thing) self-propelled combine that ate up a lot of field in a day.
The tractor-drawn Case was slow, when it ran. That one harvest, it seemed to break down every other time around the field.
Leo was forever hauling it to the home place to weld some cracked part or other.
By the time the harvest ended, the Case might have doubled its original weight in welded parts, and it probably spent more time parked at the shop than circling the field.
When I think of making do, I think of Leo and the combine.