On Memorial Day weekend, newspaper columnists have this much in common with presidents and governors: They'd like to find something to say that justly honors those who died in service to their country. It's a terribly important annual event. Holiday is too trivial a word for an observance dedicated to men and women who fought and died in the armed forces. The Memorial Day Foundation says the observance, first called Decoration Day, originated after the Civil War 150 years ago at the order of former Union Army Maj. Gen. John A. Logan.
I didn't know South Dakota had a medical school that didn't grant degrees until about 1970, when I started covering meetings of the state Board of Regents as a reporter for the Associated Press and its member news organizations. (The 1970 Legislature is when I first met a Democrat senator from Hitchcock named Harvey Wollman. More on that a bit later.)
I often think news used to be easier to manage — for readers and viewers, at least, if not for gatherers and distributors.
My little sister played "Pomp and Circumstances'' as I walked with other members of the Class of 1962 to seats in front of the stage to start our commencement ceremony. I don't remember that. I found my '62 Cub, the high-school yearbook, in a box a few weeks ago. When I opened it, a copy of the commencement program fell out. It says Mary Woster played the processional and the recessional. Only "Pomp and Circumstances'' would be appropriate walking-in music, right?
Recently, our older son sent us a picture of the fence my mom painted years ago in the backyard of the Chamberlain house where I grew up.
When we moved to Pierre in the fall of 1969, we rented a small house from a guy who owned a hardware store on the corner of a downtown street. Roy maybe hadn't kept the rental place up that well, but he let us repaint the interior, and we were able to get our paint and brushes free from the inventory in his store. And if you're past a certain age and grew up in a smaller community, you know what kind of store it was.
I'm such a nut about track and field, you'd think I'd have marvelous memories of running in state meets. Well, I do and I don't. I have a lot of memories of my years as a runner for Chamberlain High School. Most of them are good. But even though I qualified for the state track meet three times, those meets weren't my finest hours, and sometimes I can't tell for sure what I remember and what I imagined. That happens. I've discovered as I've grown older that my imagination generally casts me in a hero's role. Memory is more realistic.
Thirty years ago about this time, the young administration of Gov. George Mickelson began working on a bid for a massive federal science thing called the superconducting super collider. In fact, the week in June of 1987 when I started my job covering state government for the Sioux Falls newspaper, one of my first stories broke the news that Mickelson might call a special session to finalize the state's sales pitch for what then was described as a $4.4 billion project.
One afternoon shortly before the high school prom my junior year, the class advisor called us into his room and gestured to a table set with glasses of water and packets of saltine crackers. "That's what the prom banquet menu will be if you don't start selling,'' he growled.
For many years if you drove into our farm yard and parked near the machine shed west of the garage, you would see a dark patch of soil where my dad used to change the oil in the tractors. We did nearly all of our own service work on the farm. Once in a rare while there'd be something that required an actual tractor mechanic's attention, but things as simple as an oil change? Mere child's play.