To this day, I can't have a bagel for breakfast without thinking of Denise Ross. Back when we were legislative reporters for competing newspapers, Ross and I had adjoining workstations in the Capitol press room. My routine was to arrive early, make a round of the statehouse to check happenings, then return to the press room for a bagel and coffee. I'd been doing that for years before Ross showed up.
The other morning, when our 10-year-old granddaughter joined me for a trip to the bank to deposit some checks, the teller surprised us with a campfire-style treat. The bank was offering ready-to-cook s'mores — you know, a couple of graham crackers, a square of chocolate and a puffy marshmallow, all tucked neatly in a sandwich bag. Well, who doesn't jump at the chance to boost his bank balance and get a free s'more, one of America's favorite childhood treats? The granddaughter and I walked out of the bank with big smiles, thinking of our after-lunch dessert to come.
It's a fine thing to have a barber who knows about fishing, I discovered during a haircut a week or so after the Pierre area hosted a high-powered tournament for people who only fish for bass. It was called the Bassmaster Elite, I guess. Wikipedia tells me it's a competition in professional bass fishing. The winner is "widely considered to be the world champion of bass fishing,'' according to the online encyclopedia. I did not know that. My barber, or stylist as they call them today, knew all about Bassmasters.
I wonder if young people get excited when they hear the sound of a train whistle on a dark night. Perhaps I should be wondering if young kids these days ever hear a train whistle, dark night or bright day. There's so much other noise out there. Maybe the mournful but inviting whistle from a west-bound locomotive on a long haul doesn't break through. Or maybe it does, but it just bounces off the headphones or earbuds that seem to be ever-present in today's world, and not just for young kids, either.
Anyone who has been a news reporter for any length of time has been threatened with harm at some point for something published in a newspaper or broadcast over the airwaves.
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.