One warm fall afternoon when I was in fourth or fifth grade, the physical education teacher took his class of boys down to the football field below the school, tossed out a goofy, white, undersized ball and proceeded to teach us the basics of soccer. I know, right? This was the middle of the 1950s, and the teacher was trying to interest a group of 10- or 11-year-old all-American boys in (gasp!) soccer. The finer points of the sport failed to gain traction with my classmates.
The start of the school year across South Dakota reminds me that long ago I missed the chance to start my formal education in a country school. Yep, a farm kid, and I never went to country school. Be honest. How many experiences in rural America are bigger than going to a one-room country school, a place with maybe six or 10 students ranging from first grade through eighth grade?
Many people may have trouble imagining this, but there was a time when the committee meetings and floor sessions of the South Dakota Legislature were not streamed live over the Internet or archived in digital files accessible to anyone with an online connection. That time was more than four decades ago.
For a good part of her life, my mom had a desire to travel through Ireland, land of her McManus ancestors. Notice I said she longed to travel "through'' Ireland. She loved the idea of being in Ireland, the idea of seeing the shamrocks and the leprechauns, hearing the lilt of Irish laughter and watching the sun go down on Galway Bay and all of those other colorful things that were in the Irish songs she would sing as she played the upright piano in the east room back home. But she couldn't come to grips with the notion of traveling "to'' Ireland.
The world is a much better place when grandchildren and grandparents get to spend time together. I'm not suggesting that grandparents should raise the grandchildren. Heaven forbid. We'd spoil the little darlings silly, and they would run us into the ground inside of a week. There's a reason most infants are given to younger couples. But frequent contact between the old folks and their children's children is—in all but a few, crazy situations—a good thing. I say that coming off a few days with the 7-year-old granddaughter. She lives 85 miles away.
When the gang at the Office of Emergency Management offered me the chance to leave retirement temporarily and do some public-information work with them for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, it seemed like a pleasant way to spend a few days in August. As I idled on a stretch of head-to-head traffic in a construction zone on Interstate 90 west of Murdo last Saturday afternoon, I was thinking maybe I should have stayed retired and spent that time sitting in my porch swing with a mug of coffee. I only came out of retirement for a week, so it wasn't like Michael Jordan trying baseball for a season.
If you grew up in a time when cell phones were everywhere, you probably would be unable to function with a telephone booth and a pay phone. My mind wandered off to the days of collect calls and reversed charges this past weekend because I spent some time down in the Soldier Creek area. That's along U.S. Highway 18 a ways west of the Rosebud corner.
I know it's only the first day of August, but I'm seeing signs that summer is coming to a close. One sign came the other morning. I had mowed the lawn the afternoon before, and when I took my first cup of coffee to the window of the bedroom, I saw a dusting of yellow and brown leaves lying on the freshly clipped, deep-green grass. I always like the sight of fallen leaves on new-mown grass, but this time it made me a bit sad. It's just too early for autumn to be peeking into the neighborhood.
The Henry and Marie Woster clan had only begun its annual gathering on the Missouri River bluffs near Chamberlain last weekend when word spread that our cousin, Tom, had died. My four siblings and I have been coming together here for the past decade, ever since our mother passed in 2004. Our dad died forever ago, 1968, but we had our mother until she was in her middle 80s. It seemed fitting to recognize her McManus roots by gathering the clan where we grew up.
The other evening, as Nancy and I sat quietly enjoying each other's company and watching a television re-run of one of our favorite programs, I noticed each of us also occasionally used a hand-held electronic device to catch up on our social media obligations. And, by the way, we were talking back and forth a bit. Huh? Multi-tasking seniors?