After I retired from daily newspapering at the end of 2008, I spent several months without a full-time day job, and that gave me the opportunity to meet a man named Wally Halverson. I did some freelance feature writing for the Pierre paper during my retirement. Lucky for me, while I was doing that, the Capital Journal decided to do a series of features called "Hometown Heroes." The premise of the project was that the community was filled with folks who mostly flew under the radar while doing good works and contributing to the betterment of their fellow citizens in some way.
It's been nearly 17 years since I had my first PSA test, but I'm still convinced the thing helped save my life. If that's too dramatic, well, for sure I'm convinced it helped detect my cancer earlier than without the test. I believe that saved me from more prolonged medical treatments and a more uncertain prognosis. But what do I know? The PSA (that's "prostate specific antigen") was in the news earlier this month when a task force questioned its value for routine cancer screening. A positive test doesn't always mean cancer.
I started working at a definition of love because I'd just stumbled across an old column by a writer friend of mine named Jim Carrier. Carrier talked about fall and leaves and soft colors and chain saws and apple cider and the sweetness of an October-afternoon kiss, and it seemed to me he was circling around a definition of love.
Fall can be a fickle time of the year. That's old news to anyone who has sweltered in shorts and flip-flops on one October day and splashed through icy rain in a hooded coat and winter boots the next. Still, the crazy changes catch me by surprise every year. Seems like only yesterday I was getting home from work and jumping into shorts and a T-shirt. Earlier this month, I was thinking I might just keep that outfit, my basic summer casual wardrobe, handy all winter.
Opening day of pheasant season in South Dakota has always been an incredible spectacle. It was pretty cool to be a young guy hanging around with the adults and mentally ticking off the minutes until it was legal to start shooting. The shooting during the first day, first weekend, was usually pretty intense when I was younger.
Sometimes a guy gets a reminder of his mortality in the strangest of places. The other day, the reminder came at a four-way stop in Miller. It isn't like I'm unfamiliar with the territory. We've been traveling Highway 14 between Pierre and Brookings for most of four decades. My little sister has lived there since forever, our three kids got at least part of their higher education there over the years, our daughter and her family have been there a couple of decades, and we have three granddaughters currently living there -- two in college, one in high school.
I don't have to work very hard to remember back to late May and early June when I thought it might never quit raining in South Dakota. Those were the days of levee building and river-gauge watching and friends gathering to help neighbors pile sandbags and move belongings. Sometimes during the early stages of the Missouri River flooding, it seemed like it was raining every time I stepped outside.
My brother Jim said it the other afternoon during a ceremony at South Dakota State, but I'd been thinking it to myself just before that. Boiled down, what Jim said was that there are few finer times than early autumn on a college campus. That's what I was thinking as I walked with Nancy and our Brookings family across the campus to the new health building. Our Brookings family lives a couple of blocks off campus, just a block or so west of Scobey Hall and West Hall.
Driving from Pierre to Brookings and back in the same afternoon and evening is a bit of a challenge for a couple of mature folks like me and Nancy, but we made the trip on Wednesday for the pleasure of watching my big brother honored at South Dakota State University. Jim, the oldest of Henry and Marie Woster's five children, is four years older than I am, but he graduated from Chamberlain High School five years before I did. He skipped second or third grade while we were still at Reliance, so he graduated from high school a couple of months before his 17th birthday.
I think I understand the notion of subliminal messages pretty well. Those are things hidden in other messages on television, in films or in songs. The idea is to make the person watching the program or listening to the tune suddenly realize he wants to buy a BMW or a bomber jacket or a big bag of buttered popcorn. I read in Wikipedia -- a modern-day encyclopedia much like the World Book series except trained researchers generally researched the World Book entries and they couldn't be randomly altered by any electronic passerby -- that subliminal stimuli were first used in 1895.