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.
Seriously, there have been years in my boating life when Nancy and I would be on the water and in the water no later than Mother's Day each spring. I say that to contrast it with this year, when Father's Day weekend marked our first outing in our boat. Is that late? Well, it is for us, and it is for the boating season. Summer is officially here this week, for heaven's sake.
In spite of the number of times in my career I've written personal columns about my dad, 45 years after his death, I still feel compelled to talk about him on Father's Day. The first column I wrote about Henry Woster was full of raw emotion but perhaps short on well-written sentences and paragraphs. I wrote it several years after he died in 1968, and some of the feeling of loss should have passed by then. Obviously, it hadn't, I see as I read the thing again. It was probably the first time I ever opened up about my dad and what his life and death meant to his family.
The last handwritten note I received from Alice Kundert came a few days after I'd written about visiting her in her Mound City home and finding her still lively, if aging. She took exception to the aging part. It may be so, she said, but did I have to tell the whole world? Beyond that, she thanked me for taking the time to stop and visit.
Not long after Nancy and I moved into the house we own at the corner of Capitol and Washington in Pierre, our next-door neighbor told us of a visit she received from a brash young couple who wanted to buy her house. The neighbor at the time was a kind, old woman named Florence. When I say old, I'm thinking back 40 years. Nancy and I would have been in our late 20s, so a lot of people looked old.
When I went back to covering the South Dakota Legislature for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in 1987, I moved into a Pierre office building that also housed the Pierre bureau of the Associated Press. It was my good fortune to be thrown into almost daily contact with Joe Kafka, who along with Chet Brokaw, worked for what both of them would tell you is the "oldest, largest and best wire service in the world.'' Well, I worked for AP for nine years, and I wasn't about to argue.
A vivid memory from my one year at Creighton University was the evening a gang of the guys from Wareham Hall walked downtown to the movie theater and watched "The Longest Day." It was a long movie, packed with acting superstars like John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and Sean Connery. Red Buttons played a paratrooper whose chute hung up on a bell tower in the town square of the French village of St. Mere Eglise.
Last Saturday evening I spent a remarkably satisfying hour or so just sitting at a kitchen table holding a sleeping child. The child is my 5-year-old granddaughter, Sage. Nancy and I were visiting the Chamberlain gang for the day. The day, for Sage, involved non-stop activity.
I see by a Facebook posting that at 85 years of age, my old friend Virge just had one of the two happiest days of his life. He sold his boat, according to a post from his elder son. You know. That's the old joke among the river-rat set. The happiest day of your life is the day you buy your boat. The next happiest is the day you sell your boat. Now and then, when things aren't going so well -- say when you wait most of the summer for a water pump or sacrifice an entire boating season to a submerged tree stump that takes out the lower unit -- the order of those two days might be reversed.