The other day, when I wrote a piece about the late Republican Rep. Joe Barnett, of Aberdeen, I left out a rather startling historical fact about the man's service. Barnett is the only Republican in the last 75 years to serve as minority leader of the South Dakota House of Representatives (unless someone can prove otherwise -- that's a qualifier for relying on memory, not research).
Nancy and I had our first actual date -- the kind where a guy calls a girl's house, talks his way past her mother and then stammers out an invitation to a movie while the girl waits patiently for a pause in the halting monologue so she can say "sure" -- on March 12, 1961. I mention that today because I was just thinking how lucky I've been. Well, of course because she said she'd go with me, but also because it was March 12, not Feb. 12. Had it been Feb. 12, it would have been two days before Valentine's Day.
The most complete legislator I knew in four decades of covering state government was Republican Rep. Joe Barnett, of Aberdeen. I met many, many lawmakers I liked and admired. Barnett, though, was something else. He was highly intelligent and nearly always personable, and his work ethic was a thing to behold. He had an Old World charm about him, and a barking laugh that shook his whole body.
I'll say this about social media: If I hadn't created a Twitter account, I would never have known that other people think it's cool to work in the state Capitol building. I know a young man who grew up in Pierre, went off to college and then returned to work in state government. I knew him when he was a high school kid. I knew his parents before him and at least one set of grandparents before that.
Sometimes a cigar may just be a cigar, as Freud may or may not have said, but when I was growing up, my pals and I used cigars to demonstrate our maturity. If you're thinking we schoolboys were demonstrating a pretty low level of maturity, sure, you're right. These days, you wouldn't expect to see four or five laughing, clowning high-school guys lighting up cigars. Back then, we didn't know any better, and we sure didn't know anything about surgeons general or tobacco warnings. I suppose I was like a lot of kids back in the 1950s.
Having been away from reporting on the South Dakota Legislature for a couple of sessions now, I know two things for sure. I managed to cover 40 lawmaking sessions before I retired because I knew how to mark time, tread water, kick back or whatever you want to call hanging around waiting for action. One of the long-standing jokes in the Capitol press room went like this: "Hey, the senior government class from (insert any South Dakota school district) is here to watch the Legislature in action.'' "That's nice. In action? Inaction?
We hosted our Brookings granddaughter for the holiday weekend -- driving through a localized little snowstorm between Highmore and Wessington to pick her up -- and one of the things we did for fun was watch a movie called "The Green Hornet." I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite the Britt Reid and Kato who showed up in the movie. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the film. It's always fun to have the granddaughter around sharing some low-key time in the family room.
My dad used to say that any job worth doing is worth doing well. I suppose every kid's dad -- or mom -- said that at one time or another. I agree with the sentiment in part, but what about this other one my dad used to toss off: Moderation in all things. Didn't he really mean "moderation in most things?" I mean, the very concept of moderation becomes a mockery if it is demanded in all things. How immoderate is that? That being the case, it doesn't seem moderate to demand that ANY job worth doing be done well.
Years and years ago -- so many that we can't tell when it happened -- we invested in a set of 20 luminaries for the curved railing of our front porch. I know traditional luminaries are supposed to be candles in bags weighted down with sand or something. That would have been wonderfully quaint and pure Martha Stewart decorative. Lighted candles in paper bags is a pretty impractical notion, though, don't you think, when we're talking about placing them atop a porch railing of a house located in a part of the country where the wind sometimes tears through the pillars at 40 mph or 50 mph.
Every year for Christmas, each member of our family receives a calendar for the new year. The themes for all of the calendars were set years and years ago, so one son gets Grateful Dead months, another gets Phish, our daughter usually gets ballet, Nancy gets bears and I get The Beatles. I was in the process of replacing last year's Beatles calendar with the 2012 model, when I took a close look at the January photo. The Lads from Liverpool were early in their career, and the place they played looked pretty tacky.