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.
Yesterday I pulled up a photograph from 24 years ago, showing Gov. George Mickelson and me standing near a table in the lobby behind the Senate chamber, obviously listening to someone who was off-camera.
I played guitar in the pit orchestra when the Pierre Players, a local theater group, performed a week-long run of the musical "Godspell'' some 35 years ago. I had to borrow an electric guitar and an amplifier. A local rock musician took time out of an evening to teach me how to adjust various amp and guitar settings to create "fuzz'' tones. He showed me how to bend notes. It was a technically challenging bit of guitar playing for me, so when I wasn't terrible at it, the whole thing was a rewarding experience.
News reporters exist to go places and witness events for other citizens who can't or don't wish to be there, I believe. Think of Mark Kellogg. I learned of Kellogg when I joined The Associated Press and read a quick history of the newsgathering cooperative. Kellogg, a Bismarck Tribune reporter, accompanied the Custer expedition to Little Bighorn in June of 1876. One online account says, "As a newspaper stringer whose reports were picked up around the country, Kellogg is considered the first Associated Press correspondent to die in the line of duty.''
I look at the obituary picture of the soft-eyed Marine in dress blues, and I think, "Gosh, he looks even younger than he did in junior high.'' The Marine is my friend Ross, a classmate from schools days in Chamberlain. He died a week ago at age 73, half a century after a tour in Vietnam as a pilot with the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron. After Vietnam, he spent some time in Pensacola, Florida, as a flight instructor. Then, having served his country, he returned home to serve his community.
I watched an aluminum boat drift lazily past my dock this morning and thought, not for the first time, "I don't get fishing." Two guys sat in the boat, one on a kind of pedestal chair near the bow, the other on what looked like a more comfortable chair back near the motor. Both wore coveralls and hooded jackets (looked like insulated gear in the 38-degree chill) and baseball caps. Both held fishing rods, and in the light of the mid-morning sun the lines running from the rods to the smooth water glistened like strands of a spider web.