My little sister was the first person I ever knew who thought the Beatles were totally fab. I'll never forget a trip home from college in mid-winter of 1964, a trip during which I first heard of the lads from Liverpool. I might have been the last person in the United States to learn about Beatlemania. I later became a tremendous fan of the quartet of talented mop-heads, but back in1964, I didn't have a clue. I was still setting the radio dial to the oldies station. OK, it wasn't the oldies station back then. It was the Top 40.
The Weather Channel told me the temperature in Pierre at mid-afternoon on Sunday was 36 degrees. That was 50 degrees or so higher than it had been at the end of the Wednesday-Thursday snowstorm last week.
An old photograph in a newspaper and the bitterly cold weather across South Dakota the last couple of days reminded me of the inaugural of the late Gov. Dick Kneip one January weekend in 1971. Kneip, a Democrat from Salem with a passel of sons and a passion for tax reform, served in the state Senate before he announced for governor in 1970.
A couple of years before I took early retirement from the newspaper, a fellow reporter asked me when I was planning to "pull the pin." I hadn't given it much thought. I told him I could do it just about any day except for the fringe benefits. "I'm just working for the health package," I said, laughing. The other reporter didn't crack a smile. "We're all just working for the health package," he said. He was a dedicated, energetic reporter who seemed excited about the new stories that came his way. I knew he was working for a lot more than a group health plan.
Growing up, I had no idea how flat our piece of Lyman County really was. The evidence was all around me. I just never gave it a thought. The lane leading from our farm yard was slightly inclined, but not so much anyone would mistake it for a hill. If I stood in the middle of the farm yard, and if a shelterbelt and a few isolated cottonwood trees hadn't been in the way, I could have looked a mile or more in all directions. That's pretty flat. The only time the landscape became an issue was in the winter when I wanted to try out a new Flexible Flyer sled that came under the tree at Christmas.
If you are like me, you probably don't get too deep into New Year's resolutions. I used to be pretty fired up over resolutions, but I found out I was setting myself up for failure, usually within five or six weeks of the last strains of "Auld Lang Syne." If you're thinking to yourself, "That sounds like a classic example of a cop-out," you're probably right.
Several of the fields I was passing at 75 mph had combines in them, and long, powerful grain trucks, too. That's a familiar sight along that stretch of South Dakota highway, of course, but something was different about the scene this trip. The fields, while they held some corn and other crops, had snow in them. The furrows were covered with snow, and so were the weed patches along the fencerows. That's what had been bothering me subconsciously.
When I was a kid, my dad took the family to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. His big brother lived there with a large, loud family, and when we got together with them in one house, it was chaos, but enjoyably so for the most part. One of the things I remember about that visit to Kansas City was that the day after Thanksgiving, the city's stores and shops began their Christmas decorating and merchandising. Until that Friday, Thanksgiving dominated. After that holiday had been properly observed, attention turned toward Christmas.
The first year we were married, I worked in the newsroom on Christmas Day. I think Nancy had the whole day off. She was working at the hospital, and I was a photographer for the newspaper. Our first child, a daughter, was two and one-half weeks old, and we couldn't make it home to Chamberlain. Now that I've been a grandparent for quite a while, I know how difficult that must have been for my folks and Nancy's folks. At the time, I just thought it was a bad deal for us, and especially me, because I had to work in the newsroom. It was a short shift, I have to admit.
Way back in the 1970s, Bob Karolevitz wrote a history book called "Challenge: The South Dakota Story." The reason for the title was obvious then and now. South Dakota offers many challenges to the people who would live, work and raise families here. It isn't always for the faint at heart. The notion of challenges struck me the other day as I read the front page of The Daily Republic.