When I was a young boy, the snow and wind two days ago, the first of the winter season for many of us, would have had me jumping up and down and racing to the garage to dig the old Flexible Flyer sled out of the far corner and head for the (sledding) hills. I don't care what people say about tropical breezes and sandy beaches, snow and sleds and kids are an essential part of South Dakota life.
During my stint as editor of the newspaper in Pierre, we once published an obituary of a local man who was very much alive. How did it happen? There's no good explanation, certainly nothing acceptable, for something like that. It was somebody's practical joke. At least one of the jokers understood how the newspaper worked and was capable of drafting a believable obituary. I doubt the pranksters expected the thing to make the newspaper, but it did.
Several years ago, I did a couple of feature stories on South Dakota farmers who were making a little extra cash by letting city folks stay and work on their land. People were paying good money to come from Philadelphia or Atlanta to the middle of South Dakota to live on a farm, pitching hay and combining wheat. The stories were fun to report and write, and I gather they were fun to read in the newspaper.
Former Gov. Bill Janklow and I once stood under the eaves of a garage roof trying to stay dry while water from a light rain trickled into a quart jar we hoped would eventually hold enough to fill the over-heated radiator on his car.
Cruising north on U.S. Highway 83 at dusk the other evening after watching our granddaughter's fourth-grade basketball game, we hit a deer. It's been years since I hit a deer on the highway, years since I even came close. And we almost "came close'' this time, except the startled critter decided at the last second to turn back into our lane. I'd slowed before the impact. Nancy and I came out just fine. The deer, sadly, did not.
Leave it to former President Ronald Reagan to sum up what it means to be a veteran of the armed forces. To mark Veterans Day, I turned to the Great Communicator, himself a veteran of military service before and during World War II. This quote is attributed to Reagan: "Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don't have that problem."
Sutherland Springs. I started columns on at least four other topics before typing those words onto my computer screen. Sutherland Springs. That's the small Texas town where, last Sunday morning, a gunman walked into a Baptist church and began firing a semi-automatic rifle. He killed 26 praying and singing people and injured another 20 worshippers before leaving, being engaged in a gun battle and car chase by a citizen with a weapon, crashing his car and dying, apparently by his own hand.
Growing up on the farm, I learned from my dad the value of taking a long view of life. I don't always do it. He didn't, either, I suppose. But he did it often enough that, hanging around him on a drive from field to field or working cattle in the corrals west of the barn, I became aware that his default attitude was well beyond the moment.
Years ago, then-Gov. Bill Janklow and I were talking quietly at the back of a packed meeting room when he lifted one hand and said, "Just a second.'' Several candidates were making presentations during the meeting. Most had display tables with campaign photographs and folders. Janklow walked to one table and began removing pictures and brochures. I watched and wondered as he placed the items on the floor.
I knew marching could be a challenge, but until I took basic ROTC in college, I didn't know that, for some people, it could be impossible.