I visited with an old friend the other day, and as it often does during a South Dakota summer -- and way more so during the month of July in this South Dakota summer -- the conversation turned to the weather. I'd just come from the river, where Nancy and I had joined two other couples in a kayak trip from just below Oahe Dam down to Marion's Garden. The Corps of Engineers had the release rate from the dam cranked up, so the current was ripping downstream at a pretty fair clip.
It's perhaps a sign of how devoted we are to boating that Nancy and I toyed with the idea of going up on Lake Oahe last Sunday even though the branches of the trees outside the family room were whipping back and forth in the obnoxious breeze and The Weather Channel's local report said 100 degrees and 33 mph gusts of wind. Matter of fact, we went so far as to climb into her car and drive the loop out of Pierre along Highway 1804, across Oahe Dam, back into Fort Pierre on Highway 1806 and across the Missouri River bridge to home.
Years and years ago, back when I still played in the sensational Standbys, we provided the dance music for a 50th reunion get-together for the Pierre High School Class of 1939. Do the math and you'll see that we were playing in the summer of 1989. That was a big year for South Dakota, what with the state's centennial under way and all. The Standbys found quite a bit of work that year, including a gig at the South Dakota Newspaper Association gathering in Brookings, where we followed the late Kyle Evans, the centennial troubadour for South Dakota. That was an honor.
I'm a sucker for weddings, especially weddings involving a young, optimistic and cheerful couple, so it's no surprise that I shed a few tears at my granddaughter Jackie's wedding last weekend. As is often the case when I go all soft at a wedding, what got me started wasn't the bride so much as her younger sisters. Jackie was about as upbeat as a bride can be. She positively beamed as she prepared to make perhaps the most solemn commitment of her 22-year-old life. Less than two months ago, she hadn't even finished college. Now she has a diploma and a wedding band.
Last Fourth of July, with the Missouri River closed to boating between Pierre and Fort Pierre, we watched the annual post-rodeo fireworks show from the parking lot of the football field in Pierre. It wasn't a terrible place to watch a fireworks display, but compared to being in a boat on the river just offshore from the rodeo grounds, it was a tad, well, distant. Our granddaughter from Brookings, who usually doesn't say too many negative things when she's visiting in Pierre, was disappointed.
Several years ago when legislators argued over how much money should go from the state treasury into local schools, the lobbyist for one of the education groups talked of South Dakota's ability to "make do." At least a couple of generations of South Dakotans came of age at a time when parents, grandparents and other elders told them to make do, rather than asking for more. Want new shoes? Make do with the ones you have for now? Want a new car? Combine? Tractor? Patio set? Kitchen appliances? House? Make do with what you have for now.
Might as well confess this right smack in the heart of Mitchell Kernel country. I didn't watch the last game of the National Basketball Association playoffs. You know the one. The championship game for the Miami Heat? The game in which Mike Miller hit seven of eight three-point shots and scored 23 points to do way, way more than his fair share to make sure his team went out winners? Yeah, that game. Missed it completely. I picked up on it later when I did some channel flipping.
I told you recently that the old City Hall in Chamberlain was demolished, and I talked a little about the terror that building held for a kid whose name was on the program for Miss Willrodt's piano recital if that kid hadn't practiced his chosen piece of music. What I didn't tell you was how incredibly varied were the uses of the old City Hall. Sure, the local piano teacher paraded her students there, and doting parents and grandparents hung on every note -- true or clunker -- while little brothers and sisters squirmed on the unforgiving metal chairs.
I missed the annual induction ceremony for the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, and that's a shame for a couple of huge reasons. First, the Vivian Dance Hall received the honor of being inducted in the category of dance halls and/or ballrooms. Dance halls and ballrooms were both accepted terms for the dance sites when I was a young guy in black slacks and white bucks.
No child who had even a mediocre relationship with a father ever forgets that relationship, or that man. For me, it's been 44 years since my dad passed, back in the heat of an August evening at the hospital in Chamberlain. Cancer took the big, strong farmer faster than his wife and five children could understand. One day he was Charles Atlas, strongest man in the quiet farming countryside northeast of Reliance. The next day, or so it seemed, he lay in a hospital bed, struggling to draw shallow, rasping breaths, oblivious to the presence of family members in the room or out in the hallway.