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My granddaughter Lara has been in chorus all through high school, but never, not once, has she tried to be front and center on stage at any concert Nancy and I have attended. The other evening we made the road trip for the last vocal concert of this granddaughter's high-school career. Tomorrow, she will be among the Brookings High School Class of 2014. Not so long after that, she'll be college bound. So, this recent pop concert was another in a string of those "lasts'' for this senior, for her classmates and for all of their parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends.
When Nancy and I were first married, we had little extra spending money, and we purchased several household items with S&H Green Stamps. I read a bit of S&H history that says the 1960s were the hey-day of the company's success. Nancy and I weren't the sole reason, but we contributed as often as we could. My all-time favorite Green Stamp purchase was a Kennedy-style rocking chair. It was black with a colorful design running along the back rest.
Every now and then, just often enough so I remember why I should turn down the offer, I accept an invitation to speak somewhere. By speak somewhere, I mean in public. I mean in public in front of people. I mean in public in front of people who -- at least I always imagine so -- came to the event in part with the expectation that the speaker would have something interesting to say.
South Dakota is a land of incredible beauty and variety, peopled by characters who can be gruff, sweet, sullen, bubbly, soft-spoken or red-faced-loud. Now and then I miss the newspaper reporting days, mostly because of those characters. As a newspaper guy, I traveled from town to town, often several times a week one direction or another. I'd usually travel for a news purpose -- a public meeting, a campaign event, a protest, a court hearing, whatever. I usually managed to find an excuse to talk to the local characters. I'm something of an introvert. It's my parents' fault.
I was digging through the clutter on the shelves in our basement furnace room the other evening when I discovered an amazing invention -- a yo-yo. This one is blue and yellow, so it could be from South Dakota State, except that it has a "Stop, Drop and Roll" message. Maybe the fire marshal was giving them out, or the Pierre Fire Department. Whatever the origin, it's a good message, and a great little toy. All it takes is a piece of string and a spool of wood with a split that lets the string wrap itself around the stem of the spool. Everybody had a yo-yo when I was in grade school.
This will escape the younger folks, but people my age will understand why it remains memorable to me that, after Easter break in 1963, I received permission from my dad to drive our 1956 Pontiac station wagon back to Omaha and keep it there until the end of the spring semester at Creighton University. I was a freshman. Many things were memorable about that year in Omaha, but few more memorable than actually having a car on campus, if only for a couple of short months. (And it was a couple of months. Spring academic terms lasted until June, as I remember it.
I saw a Sunday morning television piece about a 98-year-old man who still cut hair at his barbershop every day, and what I wanted to do was find that barbershop and get in line for a trim. Don't get me wrong. I have a great barber. Some of his customers probably think he's a stylist. For me, with my thinning, unkempt hair, he's pretty much an old-time barber. "Just a little off the top and keep the sides above the ears, if you don't mind.'' That's the kind of stuff I say, and then he cuts it the way he thinks will look best.
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It's probably no coincidence that singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton was born in Oklahoma. A lot of us old folks were (uh, figuratively, anyway). Many people know Axton's music. You'd have to have grown up in another universe not to recognize "Joy to the World'' and "Never Been to Spain.'' Both were hits for Three Dog Night. Waylon Jennings did a nice job with "Never Been to Spain,'' but no one sang it as well as the guy who wrote it. One line in that song goes, "Well, I never been to Heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma.'' I've never been to Heaven. It's on my post-bucket list. We'll see.
The decision to drink alcohol or not was such a simple one for me in high school. I didn't do it. I'd tasted the stuff as a kid, conspiring with my cousin to pilfer a can of beer from an ice-filled tub out in the garage at my uncle's place during a wedding reception. I was 10, maybe 12, at the time. The forbidden nature of the substance made it exciting. The taste was unimpressive. Even so, I took a sip, swallowed and sighed contentedly, the way an adult might, if an adult were a total doofus. After that, I didn't try the stuff until I was out of high school. I had chances.