Art Jones was a Marshall County farmer whose last year in the South Dakota Senate coincided with my first year as a legislative reporter. Art was a Democrat and a staunch supporter of the rural electric cooperatives. I met him during that 1970 session, but I didn't have regular contact with him. My boss with The Associated Press, Jim Wilson, covered the Senate most days. That left me with the House of Representatives.
The whole social media thing has me pretty much baffled. I understand texting, I guess, although I tend to write too long and don't find the abbreviations that are in vogue to be particularly helpful. I work better on a full-sized, normal keyboard with normal functions and operations, but I can adapt -- if at a snail's pace -- to the three-and four-letter keys on my cell phone and the quirks of my Blackberry.
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.