I love the Fourth of July, not only for the fireworks and picnics and band concerts, which are great fun, but also for the meaning of the date we celebrate every year. How could a kid grow up in this country in the 1940s and 1950s and not think Independence Day was special? We threw off the burdensome hand of the king and declared ourselves the United States of America.
About eight years ago, I had a conversation with a state tree expert about a wicked little bug called the Emerald Ash Borer. The ash borer is an exotic, beetle sort-of creature, green in color, originally from somewhere in Asia. I was told it shipped into the United States in a wooden packing crate and was first discovered here somewhere around Detroit in 2002. At the time of the interview with the tree guy (his real title was urban forester), the creature was slowly working its way across the country, killing every ash tree in its path.
If you want to know something important about David Kranz, consider that my younger son has considered him a friend since they met in the Argus Leader newsroom when Andy was 10 or 12 years old. I sent Andy, a 40-year-old guy with a wife and a job in Denver, a note this morning telling him David died over the weekend at age 72. I know the text message cast a shadow over the kid's morning. His simple reply: "He was always really nice to me.'' And he was, from a first, chance meeting three decades ago.
As I drove along Interstate 90 west toward Rapid City the other morning, I noticed the tall grass growing along the shoulder of the road, and I had the urge to find a tractor-drawn mower and clip the growth into a neat border. Don't get me wrong. I loved the way the grass looked, all sparkling green and alive as it swayed in the breeze. In some places, the grass ran off across the ditches, up the bank and through the barbed wire fence to disappear into acres and acres of sprightly waving prairie. Who could not love that sight?
Late one evening last weekend, I recalled the time my dad and my uncle nearly skewered me while we were stacking over on that patch of alfalfa over west of the home place. It's a good story, a tale of near disaster during one of those typical moments that happens day after day on any family farm I've ever known. I was stacking. They were running farmhands loaded with hay to drop on the stack. They came at me at the same time. All I could do was throw the pitchfork left and jump off the stack right as the buck teeth from the two farmhands clanged together.
About 15 years ago, after seeing the movie “Dad,’’ starring Jack Lemmon and Ted Danson, I dreamed that my father showed up unexpectedly on my doorstep one morning.
Back in the summer of 2008, when I still covered state government for the Sioux Falls newspaper, a legislative committee studied gas taxes and highway costs in a series of meetings that involved some open, frank discussion.
Perhaps because I was born in 1944 a few months before June 6, I've always been fascinated by D-Day, the Allied military operation that ultimately liberated Western Europe and led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Today is the 74th anniversary of the start of that massive invasion of the European continent, an operation that took place on five separate beaches in Normandy on the coast of the English Channel in France. As best I can tell from past reading and current online searches, D-Day involved the largest gathering of invasion forces in the world's history of military operations.
Here's something I learned while hanging around a Little League baseball field years ago: The smartest baseball minds are often not the people who volunteer to manage and coach teams of young kids. Here's another: The most knowledgeable umpires aren't the people behind home plate or out past second base. In my experience as a father who tried to help out with my sons' teams even though I knew almost nothing about baseball, the smartest coaches and umpires sit in the stands during the games.
For a number of years, our older son accompanied his grandmother to the cemetery atop the river bluffs near Chamberlain on Memorial Day weekend to clean and decorate the graves of several family members.