The first time I covered a meeting of an interim legislative committee, the chairman ordered an executive session and made me leave the room. That was in 1969, the Dark Ages of open meetings/open records laws in South Dakota. By law meetings were open. Executive sessions (a fancy term for secret meetings) could be called to discuss student, employee and personnel matters. I became familiar with that law when I became a government reporter.
The other day, as I drove near the Capitol building, I pulled to the curb briefly to study the Trail of Governors sculpture of George T. Mickelson. I find it the most striking of the sculptures along the trail. All are nicely done, but this one especially catches the eye. Located along the sidewalk west of the Capitol, the sculpture captures the late governor striding purposefully, shoulders back, head high, clad in a double-breasted suit and holding the snap brim of a dress hat in one hand.
Several times a year during my career as a newspaper reporter, I'd wake from sleep in the middle of the night suddenly worried that I'd written a factual error into a story to be published in the morning newspaper. I hated the thought of an incorrect fact in a story. I used to print out a copy of each story I submitted and take it home with me. When I came awake in the middle of the night sweating over a possible error, I checked the printout to make sure I hadn't written George Mickelson when Mike Rounds was governor or said a bill passed when it failed.
When I was younger, before my dad died, I didn't talk much with him, but I listened a lot and I watched. Now that I'm older, especially on Father's Day, I often wish I had talked more when he lived. I have so many questions I should have asked, could have asked, wish I would have asked. But I was a quiet child, and he was a big, Bohemian farmer, and I suppose I was half in awe of his massive forearms and broad back. I wonder if many children feel that way about their fathers.
Across South Dakota, towns are running summer recreation programs these days to make sure young people fill their school vacation with healthy activities and positive experiences. I love the idea of summer rec, as it is universally called. My kids participated in tennis, swimming, crafts and other programs during summer vacations, and my youngest granddaughter has a full schedule going on. She has many more options for summer rec activities than her dad did when he was her age, and that's a good thing.
My dad would have liked Bob Duxbury. Henry Woster didn't serve in the Legislature for 22 years or work as a legislative leader or head the state Agriculture Department. He spent his life raising wheat and Herefords and a family on a dry-land farm near the small town of Reliance. He died in 1968 at the age of 56, still working the farm, still trying to raise the family.
As summer heats up and things start drying out west of the Missouri River, I recall how hard my dad used to try to grow trees back on the farm. He used to dig up small cottonwood trees that grew down by the stock pond, carry them up to the farm yard and plant them in places where, in 20 years or so, they'd provide cooling shade to the south and west sides of the house. Most of them didn't make it 20 years, in spite of the fact that he'd haul water, bucket after bucket, from the tank down by the barn.
When I first heard about drone-grabbing eagles, I got excited, before I realized I wasn't thinking about the welfare of the eagles. A bird has feelings, too, and I forgot that at first when I heard about the police force in the Netherlands that uses eagles to swoop out of the sky and capture drones. No, I was thinking, "What a great idea. Grab those things, throw them to earth and watch them crash and burn.''
The first time I heard the following joke, I laughed, but not because it's the least bit funny. Question: How many Vietnam vets does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: I don't know. I wasn't there. I repeat the joke at the beginning of this Memorial Day weekend with deepest respect for the men and women who were there and who do know. Vietnam was my generation's war. I wasn't there, though, so I don't know.
Five years ago on this date, Gov. Dennis Daugaard activated the state Emergency Operations Center in response to what became a summer of record flows on the Missouri River. May 25 fell on a Wednesday in 2011, as it does this year. I worked in public information for the Department of Public Safety at the time, a job I'd taken after I left the newspaper. With a dozen different agencies in DPS, the work was varied and interesting.