To tell the story of the Airhead water-fun towable tube, I must go back to the beginning of time. Back in 1973 or 1974, Nancy and I went on our first weekend camping trip up the Missouri River to Okobojo Creek. We hung out with two couples who became some of the closest friends we will ever know, learned to water ski (yup, at age 30 and after growing up along the Missouri, I finally learned to ski), decided to buy a boat and changed the course of summers forever. In those days, folks who used the river either camped and fished or camped and skied.
The Chamberlain High School Class of 1963 gathered for a 50-years-after reunion last Saturday, and I had the pleasure of escorting the former Nancy Gust, co-editor of the award-winning (could have been) CHS Hi-Life student newspaper. If she reads that sentence, she'll figure I'm fibbing, because for most of the past year, I told her I didn't want to go to her reunion. I graduated from CHS in 1962.
I read with some surprise the other day a news story that referred to a member of the South Dakota Legislature as a longtime lawmaker and noted that he'd been in office for a dozen years. I'm not thinking of pulling one of those "I knew Jack Kennedy'' things, but I knew the guy from the news story. I'd been covering the South Dakota Legislature for 30 years by the time the person won his first election. In my memory, this person remains kind of a newcomer, but a good chunk of my legislative-reporting memory was created before term limits.
When a storm would fire up in the middle of the night back on the farm, Dad would always be the first one down in the cellar. He didn't stay there. Oh, no.
Leave it to a muggy Saturday morning and a massive, freshly shingled roof to make a guy think life on the farm was romantic. Nancy and I had taken our usual weekend morning walk along the Missouri River shoreline. We'd hoped to get out early enough to avoid the heat and humidity. We didn't, but we completed the walk, anyway. About halfway through the homebound leg, I saw the roof. It covered a building that stretched for what seemed like a city block, and the roof was roughly the size of the flight deck on the USS Enterprise. The roof held acres and acres of new shingles.
We talked about dream vacations the other day during a break at work, and I realized -- not for the first time -- that I'm different from the rest of the staff. When asked casually where I'd go if I could travel anywhere in the world, I usually say I'd like to tour all of the Civil War battlefields. I would, too, to see the lands I've read about for years and years in the histories of that terrible war.
One of my favorite Fourth of July stories was told several years ago by a friend who rocked his entire neighborhood with a particularly wicked product of the fireworks industry. My friend has long held a good job in a central South Dakota community, and even he would agree he should have known better. He was just trying to celebrate Independence Day, he said. Here's his story as I recall it.
I think I mentioned not so long ago that one of my granddaughters is spending a couple of weeks in Europe this summer, traveling with a group of other South Dakota singers and instrumentalists. I remember mentioning what an adventure I thought it was going to be, how well worth her time and money to visit six or seven countries in 16 days as a 17-year-old highschool student. Well, the group headed off on the first leg of the journey last Thursday.
Many years ago, when I was a much younger man and thought a Saturday spent deep in the Missouri River bluffs cutting up dead trees and hauling them home for firewood was a grand adventure, an old friend gave me some great advice. I enjoyed collecting firewood in spite of the fact that chain saws don't always get along with me. They just don't start easily in my hands. Even a saw fresh from the store and still warm from the hand of the sales person who fired it up to show me how quiet it was would turn stubborn in my hands.
When I was a cub reporter, the editors I knew were mature -- not to say middle-aged -- and wise in the ways of newspapering and the world outside the newsroom. They seemed to understand things about their communities and their fellow citizens that I wasn't sure I'd ever know. I tried to be like them, meaning that on work days, I wore suits or sports coats and slacks to the newspaper and out on the streets for assignments.