The time a circuit judge called me out of the audience to testify during a live trial might have been the weirdest experience of my newspaper reporting life. It happened in April of 1991 in the Tripp County Courthouse in Winner. Judge Max A. Gors presided over a hearing involving a disputed $12.4 million winning lottery ticket, the first big jackpot winner sold in South Dakota's history with legal lottery gaming.
Twenty years ago this Friday, I watched some television coverage of the Waco incident with Joe Kafka in the Associated Press bureau, then went home, set some hamburger to browning in a skillet and received a call with word that a state airplane had crashed near a small town in Iowa. A routine day, ordinary but for the national news. Then a phone call, and the world changed forever for South Dakota, its citizens and the family members and friends of the eight men who crashed. Lost in the crash were Gov.
In a few short days, it will be my wife's birthday. Six weeks after that, she and I will celebrate, quietly as is our fashion, the 46th anniversary of our wedding day. I don't need to give Nancy's age. That isn't important to the story. She is ageless, even after a career as a registered nurse and a second, part-time career as part of a team of daycare providers for a 5-year-old granddaughter.
The benefits of grandchildren are far too numerous to count, but at the Vivian Dance Hall last Saturday evening, I discovered one more. I had the rare opportunity to sing a rock and roll tune with Mogen's Heroes, the zany, multi-talented musical trio that joins with my big brother Jim for shows, fundraisers, fairs and hoe-downs across a wide stretch of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. More a bit later on why Mogen's Heroes and Jim were in Vivian on a Saturday evening in early April. First, the granddaughter. I sang with a dance band for several years, but that is going on two decades ago.
The granddaughters would be proud. I finally got the Easter bunny removed from the porch swing and stored away for another year. A couple of the granddaughters felt a bit cramped on Easter Sunday after dinner. As is tradition, we left the table after the meal and moved to the porch to watch the egg hunt across the street on the lawn at the governor's residence. I had planned ahead and hauled patio chairs from winter storage in the garage out to the west porch.
After Easter break my freshman year at Creighton University, my big sister and I returned to campus in a 1956 Pontiac station wagon. We needed a vehicle to bring our stuff home at the end of spring semester. After Easter break my sophomore year at South Dakota State University, I returned alone to Brookings in a 1957 Chevrolet, again because I'd need a vehicle to bring my stuff home. The '57 Chevy compared to the '56 Poncho wagon sounds like a trade up.
I don't know the age of the spare refrigerator in our basement, but if you looked at reruns of some of the television sitcoms about families from the early 1970s, you'd surely recognize both the style and the lime-green color of our appliance. The doors don't seal quite as firmly as they did when it was new, and the motor labors with groans and grunts when it's trying to cool heavy loads. Still, it remains a serviceable thing.
Once South Dakota State is eliminated from the basketball playoffs, I'm a Bluejay. That's Creighton Bluejay. I spent just a single year on campus there before transferring to SDSU, but during that memorable year, I once stood behind Paul Silas in the chow line at the student center. Exactly. That Paul Silas. He was a junior and on his way to another 20-rebounds-a-game season. Silas had played for the same Oakland high school that produced Celtics' legend Bill Russell. He was the main scoring threat for Creighton.
What I don't get about life is how people think they can compete with bigger-name people. OK, so there are a lot of things I don't get about life. I don't have time to type them all, The Daily Republic doesn't have space to print them, and the reader has neither the patience nor the time to wade through them. For now, I'm thinking of athletics mostly. The puzzlement struck me as I prepared for the South Dakota State University men's basketball game against the University of Michigan and the SDSU women's basketball game against South Carolina.
When Nancy and I moved into the corner house in the Pierre neighborhood that includes the governor's residence, we were the young couple on the block. That was 40 years ago. The older, established residents of the neighborhood watched our comings and goings closely. At first, I wondered if they were displeased with our noise, commotion and general disruption of the peace in a neighborhood of older homes and tree-lined streets.