For more than 35 years, the Woster family in Pierre has spent summers on the Missouri River. This year, we missed the Fourth of July weekend, and that wasn't the half of it. We went Oh-for-July because of mechanical issues. It's pretty amazing to realize how much of our summer life involves being on the water. The problem that surfaced on Father's Day weekend took us off the water for what we had every reason to expect would be a short time. We were disappointed that day, sure.
I finally found something of enormous value on Facebook. As some of you know, I have a Facebook account, or presence or whatever it's called. My place on the book is a bit monastic, lacking in decoration and color and, you know, vigor, as President Kennedy used to say in the days before that word became synonymous with harder high-school courses. My daughter occasionally offers to help me brighten up the place. She's pretty subtle about it, no high-pressure sales pitches or criticism of the bare walls and threadbare carpet.
Billy Woster was the Kansas City cousin closest to me in age, but when he told me last weekend that the last time we'd seen each other was 1962, I didn't have a clue where that would have been. A bunch of Wosters gathered in the southern Black Hills for a few days last weekend. I didn't see any warning signs posted in the area. Thirty or 40 years ago, there would have been when that many of this clan congregated in a spot. We've mellowed, for the most part. We come from three brothers, George, Frank and Henry.
I'm coming to the conclusion that highway accident reports should be required reading for anyone who is driving on South Dakota roads. I just finished four days on the road, traveling with Nancy, our daughter and her husband and their daughter. We went to the Black Hills for an extended family reunion and managed to get in a couple of days of sight-seeing, too.
When Nancy and I were out in Lyman County at an old neighbor's farm a couple of weeks ago, I took the car and drove to Reliance to get gas. I probably could have waited until the end of the evening and just filled up when we got back to Chamberlain. It's only about six miles from our neighbor's farm to Reliance, though, and I had an urge to drive once more down the main drag of my old home town, as long as I was so close.
Three of the granddaughters received invitations to a huge party thrown by Sanford Health a few weeks ago. The girls wangled their invitations to the gala by virtue of having type 1 diabetes. If you stop to think about it, that's a pretty stiff ticket price just to dress up, have some great food and hang around with other people who know families impacted by serious childhood illnesses. The girls didn't spend much time reflecting on the cost of admission.
Bill Dougherty told me once that things were so desperate during some of his Democratic Party organizing days in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he and another guy stood on a street corner in Mobridge trying to sell George McGovern campaign buttons to pick up enough cash to buy gas to get to Pierre for an evening political event. That's pretty bleak, considering it wouldn't take much gas to travel from Mobridge to Pierre. Besides, what was the price of gas back then, 20 cents a gallon? I knew Bill Dougherty for about half of his 78 years.
As frightened as we were of prairie fires back on the farm, we never went a single Fourth of July without a pile of firecrackers, sparklers and sky rockets. As a young boy, I didn't pay much attention when Dad and Uncle Frank and a bunch of the neighbors raced off to fight a prairie fire.
Some years ago, my old newspaper sent me to Albany, N.Y., for a week. I wasn't particularly excited about traveling halfway across the country and living in a hotel room out of a suitcase for seven days. I was rather interested in seeing the capital city of New York State, though, as well as -- according to at least one history I checked -- the oldest surviving European settlement from the original 13 colonies. I worked in the Gannett News Service bureau during the week I spent in Albany.
I dug through the stuff under the basement stairs the other day and found a couple of really old friends. Way back under the steps, behind the ice chests and coolers, past the leaf bags, Thermos bottles and work gloves and around the corner where things get really dark, I found a pair of western boots I've owned since the summer after my freshman year in college. That was 1963, which makes this pair of Justin boots 47 years old. When I was still a newspaper reporter, I sometimes joked to new members of the Capitol press corps that I had saddle shoes older than they were.