Just before the last of the kids and their families left for home after a hectic Christmas weekend, Nancy and I took a moment to carry on what has become a family tradition.
One calm, chilly Christmas Eve several years ago, the family came home from midnight mass and discovered none of us had waited for our younger son. Well, it was only six or seven blocks to the church, but the kid, home from college, had gone to mass without a coat. He dressed up nicely, but he went off in shirt sleeves. He grew up in an age when young people figured cars had heaters and it was seldom far from a house to a car and back.
Back when our band worked regularly, we played a ton of Christmas dances for area businesses and state-government departments. I didn't get in on such parties as an employee. When I worked at the paper, the home office was in Sioux Falls, and I was in Pierre. That would have been a long trip for a late night on a weekend. Later, when I worked for the state, my department preferred a holiday potluck in the middle of the work day. My experience with office Christmas parties came as a member of a dance band.
I spent the past couple of days wrapping family Christmas gifts, and I'm sitting here wondering why. I'm not wondering why we wrap the gifts. That's tradition, "Fiddler on the Roof" and all that. The splash of color under the tree is lovely, especially viewed from a soft sofa while sipping a cup of strong coffee. Wrapping the packages is worth it for those moments alone.
When I was a kid, my mom used to pick Christmas gifts from the mail-order catalogs and wait until the resulting packages arrived at the mailbox up the road a mile from our farm. Seven decades later, Nancy and I sometimes pick Christmas gifts from the online version of a mail-order catalog and wait until the resulting packages arrive either in the mailbox by the curb or right at the front door, depending on the method of delivery.
The United States had entered World War I before Lorene Gust was born, but she was nearly a year old before the armistice of November 1918, ended the fighting. I don't know many people still around besides my mother-in-law who were alive when America fought "the war to end all wars.'' Family of Lorene Leiferman Gust, of Chamberlain, celebrated her 100th birthday today. She joins about 72,000 other Americans who are 100 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's a fairly select group out of nearly 320 million citizens in the country.
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.