I rarely try to stir up trouble these days, but good heavens, the press is not the enemy of the American public, no matter who says it is. Yes, I'm biased. I worked for newspapers or wire services my whole career. I know reporters and editors and photographers. I never worked with one, never met one, who was an enemy of the people. I met many who made mistakes, sure. But their errors happened during good-faith efforts to report the news, and the mistakes were publicly corrected as quickly as possible. That's being human, not being an enemy of the people.
During an otherwise relaxing bicycle ride the other afternoon, a young woman whose attention was on the cell phone in her hand nearly ran me down. Here's the thing: She was riding a bicycle, too. We were on a hard-surfaced bike path that runs along the west shore of the Missouri River. Seriously. I had to brake and veer off the trail almost onto the pink rip-rap to avoid being struck by a phone-using bicycle rider. That may happen all the time in some cities, but it's a first in my 74-year life out here on the prairie.
It's been 40 years since the only South Dakota governor to resign the office left Pierre for Singapore and a post as United States ambassador. Dick Kneip, whose official last day as governor was July 24, 1978, was also the last Democrat elected to the executive office. South Dakotans chose him three times — twice for two-year terms and a third time for a four-year term after the state Supreme Court said he could run again because of a change in the constitution approved by voters in the 1972 election.
The first time I sang in public, back in high school with a six-piece combo called the Bearcats, I did a song by Elvis and another by Johnny Cash. The crowd in the old Chamberlain auditorium seemed to like both songs, "Hound Dog'' and "Folsom Prison Blues,'' even though one was rock and roll, the other country-western. Cash and Elvis had crossover appeal.
To this day, I can't have a bagel for breakfast without thinking of Denise Ross. Back when we were legislative reporters for competing newspapers, Ross and I had adjoining workstations in the Capitol press room. My routine was to arrive early, make a round of the statehouse to check happenings, then return to the press room for a bagel and coffee. I'd been doing that for years before Ross showed up.
The other morning, when our 10-year-old granddaughter joined me for a trip to the bank to deposit some checks, the teller surprised us with a campfire-style treat. The bank was offering ready-to-cook s'mores — you know, a couple of graham crackers, a square of chocolate and a puffy marshmallow, all tucked neatly in a sandwich bag. Well, who doesn't jump at the chance to boost his bank balance and get a free s'more, one of America's favorite childhood treats? The granddaughter and I walked out of the bank with big smiles, thinking of our after-lunch dessert to come.
It's a fine thing to have a barber who knows about fishing, I discovered during a haircut a week or so after the Pierre area hosted a high-powered tournament for people who only fish for bass. It was called the Bassmaster Elite, I guess. Wikipedia tells me it's a competition in professional bass fishing. The winner is "widely considered to be the world champion of bass fishing,'' according to the online encyclopedia. I did not know that. My barber, or stylist as they call them today, knew all about Bassmasters.
I wonder if young people get excited when they hear the sound of a train whistle on a dark night. Perhaps I should be wondering if young kids these days ever hear a train whistle, dark night or bright day. There's so much other noise out there. Maybe the mournful but inviting whistle from a west-bound locomotive on a long haul doesn't break through. Or maybe it does, but it just bounces off the headphones or earbuds that seem to be ever-present in today's world, and not just for young kids, either.
Anyone who has been a news reporter for any length of time has been threatened with harm at some point for something published in a newspaper or broadcast over the airwaves.
I love the Fourth of July, not only for the fireworks and picnics and band concerts, which are great fun, but also for the meaning of the date we celebrate every year. How could a kid grow up in this country in the 1940s and 1950s and not think Independence Day was special? We threw off the burdensome hand of the king and declared ourselves the United States of America.