Every fall when pheasant hunting season comes around, I feel a tug of nostalgia about those good old days as a kid on the farm. Folks might think it unusual for me to have a sentimental feeling for the days when I used to hunt pheasants, since I've not done it for half a century or so. The tug of the past may seem odd, too, because I have no desire to go out and tromp the fields again, not even on a Saturday as weather-perfect as the forecasters say this one should turn out to be. Been there, done that. Got the memories.
I couldn't bring myself to watch any of the national political debates, not the first one, not the one last Sunday, not even the one between the candidates for vice president.
When they asked me at a program on news reporting last weekend about the legacy of the Wounded Knee takeover in 1973, I should have gotten personal.
I thought about Joyce Hazeltine last Friday evening during a program in Rapid City where my younger brother and I swapped stories from our news reporting years. We were talking of the plane crash that killed Gov. George Mickelson. For some reason, as my brother told a story from that time, I remembered meeting Joyce on the Capitol stairway either very late the night of the crash or very early the next morning. Timing is a bit blurred from those days. Anyway, we stopped, hugged and she sobbed for a moment.
It had been a long day on the road by the time I hit the traffic roundabout at University Drive and Fifth Avenue South near the St. Cloud State University campus last week. That must be why I ended up going round and round the circle like an old-fashioned wind-up clock with a bad spring.
During the South Dakota Festival of Books last weekend in Brookings, I moderated a panel discussion on "Restoring Civility to Democracy.'' The panel included a former legislator, long-time lobbyist, retired Supreme Court justice and university professor and administrator. I've known each of the panelists for quite a while, and each has the ability to turn a quip quickly along with the discipline for measured, thoughtful conversation. They're the sort of folks who listen to learn and understand, rather than listening only to prepare a retort.
About a quarter-century ago, a kid named Matt Cecil joined me in Pierre to report on the Legislature. Matt was a Brookings native who had recently joined the Argus Leader staff in Sioux Falls. I worked for the paper in Pierre, so session was part of my regular beat. Back then, the paper sent a second reporter for all or large parts of each session. For two years, that second reporter was Matt.
Newspaper reporters sometimes are accused of getting facts wrong, but if you had to learn a little bit about a lot of things in a five-minutes interview on deadline, maybe you'd cut them some slack. Having said that, most news reporters I worked around were sticklers for facts. An error in print drove them bonkers. One guy, the first time he committed an error and had to write a correction, said he was changing his name and moving to the Bering Sea Wilderness area. I felt bad for his error, but I liked his choice of hide-outs, a place most of us had never heard of.
During one of the Legislature's frequent discussions about the future of small schools a number of years ago, I suggested to a couple of the leaders that they create a foreign-exchange program between big cities and ranch country. I'd written a campaign story sometime earlier about the differences in geographical sizes of legislative districts. A legislative candidate out west, I wrote, starts a campaign day by making sure the gas tank is topped off. A legislative candidate in the big city starts the day by making sure the shoes are laced up tight.
In my school days, if a kid finished an assignment ahead of the other kids, a number of teachers would let that student spend the free time reading. The teacher would, that is, if the student had not only finished the assignment but also checked the work. I liked those times a lot, first because I have always greatly enjoyed reading and second because reading was twice as much fun when I did it during a class period. Maybe it helped me become a better student, too, knowing if I did the work correctly and without dawdling, I'd be rewarded with reading time.