If you grow up on a farm, for as long as you live, the regular crop and livestock reports from the U.S. Agriculture Department are required reading. It's been a long time since I actually worked a farm. I was a kid about the time gumbo was invented in Lyman County. Even so, I read the ag reports, worry about the weather and temperature and generally act like someone who is nervous about getting the last quarter-section of corn planted. That's natural enough. All of us in South Dakota depend to some extent on those who actually farm the land.
When I was still a young boy, I sat in the passenger seat of our four-door Nash as my mother drove it for maybe half a mile down the middle of a ditch on the way to Kistlers' farm. We were heading up the road from our farm to take lunch or something to people working in the hay fields. My mother had a healthy respect for the accelerator, so we weren't setting any land speed records in the bathtub-shaped sedan. I never did hear exactly what happened to send the car off the roadway and into the ditch.
South Dakota is less than five weeks from its primary elections, so the political ads and stories are sure to be increasing in quantity and intensity. Relax. I'm not going to write about politics, at least not the partisan sort of politics that chooses one candidate or party over another. But with the primary drawing near, I've been thinking about a governor's race I covered as a newspaper reporter eight years ago. When the 2002 campaign season started, the governor's chair was open. The incumbent couldn't run again.
The first governor I ever covered as a rookie newspaper photographer was Nils Boe. I shot his picture when he helped dedicate a bridge or something near Mitchell on Interstate 90. That was sometime in late 1967 or 1968. I-90 was still under construction in many spots, and Highway 16 remained the road of choice for much of the east-west travel across South Dakota. That's the road I grew up traveling. Every 10 or 15 miles, the old road went through or just past the edge of a small town. I don't remember much from my photo shoot that involved Gov.
One of the big surprises of my freshman week at Creighton University was visiting the campus library and finding out that bags and briefcases were searched at the exit. Eighteen years old, and it had never occurred to me that someone would steal a library book. I knew people who would check books out and forget to return them. I ran up some late fees myself during the time I was a regular customer at the city library in Chamberlain. That was simple forgetfulness, though, or maybe laziness.
I have to tell you, I sometimes do a double-take when I see the name Joe Quintal in a Daily Republic headline. I have seen the name quite a bit in headlines over the past year or so as the community discussed improving the old facility. I know a bit about the current events issue, but when I see the name in the paper, the first thing I think of is, well, Joe Quintal. A.A. Joe Quintal was around long before there was a Joe Quintal Field. Wait, that's not quite right. The field was there, too, I guess.
After the grand march to open the Chamberlain High School prom last Saturday evening, a school official made an announcement that drew a round of applause. Every student who took part in the grand march, he said, had signed up for the post-prom party. The applause was for the students, but it also could have been for a group of parents. It takes a lot of parental involvement to put together a party that teenagers don't mind attending.
My wife, Nancy, has a birthday today. If things go as planned (and I'm writing this a couple of days in advance, so the whole world could change between now and when this shows up in The Daily Republic), we'll be in Chamberlain, celebrating a milestone birthday for Nancy and taking in some of the preliminary festivities for the high-school prom. Granddaughter Jordan is a senior, so that's a pretty big deal. The birthday is a pretty big deal, too.
I spent last Saturday in Brookings again, watching a granddaughter in oral interpretation competition. No, this isn't about the granddaughter, although Lara did really well in the humor division and although her Grandma Widman sent a message that I didn't give the child enough praise when I wrote about her reading an original story at the Great Plains Writers Conference last month. I'm in awe of the kids who compete in oral interp, I'll say that.
We moved to Pierre in 1969, and I've never thought seriously about living anyplace else since. Every now and then, though, I think it would be nice to be just a little closer to some of the events and programs offered in other communities in South Dakota. I had that thought a couple of weeks ago when Nancy and I traveled to Brookings to take in part of the Great Plains Writers' Conference on the campus at South Dakota State University. We also spent time with our daughter and son-in-law, our younger son, our college sophomore granddaughter and our middle-school granddaughter.