I talked somewhere recently about stopping at a roadside cider stand in some small town between Sioux City and Omaha on my first trip to Creighton University as a freshman. My dad was driving me and my big sister to college. There are many things I've forgotten about that trip, but I still remember the smell of the cherry cider and the coolness of the glass of the gallon jug.
"Sometimes a Great Notion'' is the title of a marvelous novel by Ken Kesey, but it's also the theme of my long-running, just ended relationship with a patio full of flagstone. In the novel, which was turned into an awfully decent movie starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman, the story is about a family of independent loggers led by the old man, Henry Stamper. The novel has little to do with my flagstone story except the title. Flagstone: Sometimes a Great Notion. Flagstone is heavy, pinkish, flat rock. It's a commitment, not a notion.
I won't do any more South Dakota Hall of Fame inductee stories for a while, I promise, but Jim Abourezk joined the group last weekend, and some attention should be paid to that. Abourezk grew up in the Wood area. That's Daily Republic country, or was back in the days when the Mitchell newspaper's western coverage area reached about as far as Wall.
Before today is over, in a ceremony at Cedar Shore near Oacoma, a mild-mannered lawyer from Rapid City will take his place in the South Dakota Hall of Fame. I guarantee Gene Lebrun will be honored by his selection to the hall. I assure you, the hall is honored by his presence. Gene Lebrun is a remarkable and decent South Dakotan. He's also the only Democrat in decades to have been speaker of the South Dakota House of Representatives.
This is a recurring theme for old guys, maybe, but I just had another example of what a wimp I've become since I left the farm and discovered air conditioning. We did some serious boating over the Labor Day weekend about 15 miles above the dam on Lake Oahe. When we put the boat into the water, the wind was something in the 25 mph range, blowing sideways across the ramps. We set out looking for a sheltered spot somewhere along the downstream side of Okobojo Point, and we plowed through heavy swells all the way out from the Cow Creek launch area.
I have a friend who always used to say at some point during the Fourth of July holiday, "Well, boys, summer's about done." That was back in the days when he would water ski several times a summer. There was a time, many years ago now, when the group of us who boated together religiously started our ski season on Mother's Day weekend and didn't finish until sometime after Labor Day, unless a way-early or way-late blizzard shut us down. In those days, my older friend skied a lot. He tapered off a bit as years went by, but he managed to get in a few runs each summer.
I slept much of the way from Chamberlain to Omaha that late-summer day 50 years ago when Dad drove me and my big sister to enroll for fall-semester classes at Creighton University. It was pretty easy to sleep in the old 1956 Pontiac station wagon. It was packed with the belongings of two kids, one a college freshman, the other a nursing-school graduate on her way to get a bachelor's degree in her chosen profession. Jeanne and Dad spent a lot of the trip talking. He loved to talk, and she was a good listener. Me? I tuned out as soon as we hit the highway headed east.
A couple of weekends ago, as we drove home a bit before midnight from a pow-wow at Lower Brule, a coyote flashed across the highway ahead of us and into the north ditch about a mile short of Kennebec. I hadn't seen a coyote in the wild, so to speak, in years and years, and this one made its move across the interstate way out where the beam from the headlights was beginning to fade. Even so, there was no mistaking the creature, any more than a person can mistake the sound of a rattlesnake. I've had a fascination with coyotes since I was a kid.
Nobody actually uses a telephone these days. "Tele" has disappeared from the language. People use "phones'' -- cell phones, mobile phones, smart phones, iPhones and all sorts of other fancy names that creative marketers give to handheld devices that can take photographs, make videos, surf the Internet, tell the temperature, pinpoint the owner's location and, if the mood strikes the user, make an actual telephone call. You know, a telephone call?
When I was a high-school senior, I took some aptitude tests that told E.J. Lodge, the Chamberlain High guidance counselor, I would make a terrific medical doctor. Well, I liked Mr. Lodge quite a lot, and when he told me the results of the tests, I nodded my head in what I hoped was a contemplative way, but I didn't say much. I wasn't at all sure what questions I answered in such a way as to show an aptitude for medicine. If I remember the test, it was pages and pages of "would you rather do this or do that" kind of questions.