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?
Last Monday was July 20. The date was a Sunday back in 1960. That day, Neil Armstrong became the first earthling to set foot on the moon. I remember the day of the week because a golf tournament was wrapping up at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, and I had to leave home to travel across town to shoot pictures of the winners. I can't recall who won the tournament, or even what tournament the person won.
I'm a Milwaukee Brewers fan, but there was a time, briefly, when I almost began to cheer for the New York Yankees. Henry Aaron saved me. I offer that confession, I suppose, because I'm caught up in the emotion and excitement of Major League Baseball's annual all-star game. My deadline arrived before the end of the game. I can't tell you anything about this year's contest, except to note that, as a Milwaukee fan, I didn't have the opportunity to cheer on many players from my favorite team this year—again.
Speaking of wacky news items, New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan is accused of stealing water during California's prolonged drought. Actually, Tom Selleck was accused of that action. He isn't commissioner of the New York City Police, but he plays one on television — Frank Reagan on the television series "Blue Bloods.'' Years before he took on that role, Selleck was known for playing the lead, Thomas Magnum, in a long-running TV series about a private investigator who lived and worked in Hawaii.
On Lake Oahe north of Pierre, there are times when the surface is so calm, so flat and so endless the water appears to be of a thickness more than water. I tried to explain that to some friends recently. Unfortunately, I used the comparison to butter, which sent them into fits of laughter—at my expense, I guess, since I wasn't laughing with them. "OK, then, if not butter, maybe I'm thinking of motor oil,' I said. Surely you've also had one of those experiences when the fits of laughter at your expense turn to gale-force guffaws?
I read a news piece about the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe's initiative to legalize marijuana, and I thought immediately about the Triangle Bar in Minneapolis. That's the place I first saw someone smoke dope. That was the place I first realized people actually did smoke dope. Up to that moment, the concept had been entirely theoretical in my young life. I was in college then, 1964 or maybe early 1965. I went to school at South Dakota State in Brookings, but Nancy chose the College of St. Catherine's in St. Paul, so I spent some time in the cities during our respective college careers.
You should live on my corner of Pierre the morning after a huge storm blows through. It's Grand Central Station, people. Someone once said (long ago in the days of passenger travel by rail) that if you sat in Grand Central Station in New York City long enough, everybody in the world would pass by. As a kid, I thought that might actually be true. When I grew older, I understood that it was a way of saying Grand Central was a crazy busy place to be.
Father's Day is Sunday, and all these years after he passed, I still wish my kids had known my dad. My dad died in 1968 at the age of 56. It was quick, but not painless. The doctors in Minneapolis found cancer during exploratory surgery in late June, and he died in the third week of August. It was a terrible time for everyone. The foundation of my whole world collapsed, just disappeared as if into one of those sinkholes that open up without warning in a neighbor's back yard. I was 24, the middle child of five—brother, sister, me, sister, brother.
Thursday is Paul McCartney's birthday. He'll be 73, and even he must sometimes wonder what his life would have been like had he not met John Lennon way back when they were teenagers with inexpensive guitars and big dreams. McCartney, of course, is the guy who played bass guitar for the Beatles, maybe the first rock 'n' roll band in which, if you just said first names, everyone knew who you meant (well, except old fogies listening to 78 rpm platters of big-band music).