Getting older. Kids have been gone from home for years and years. Things should be pretty quiet for Nancy and me these days. I guess that's why we took off last Friday for Brookings, met our daughter and her husband and our younger son, climbed in a car together, picked up our granddaughter Lara from high school and drove to Vermillion to attend a hooding ceremony for graduates of the law school.
I guess I can thank the paper carrier. I opened the front door this morning and looked for the daily newspaper. I wasn't surprised that it wasn't on the porch. (The carrier is often challenged to hit the porch, even though when I stand at the curb and look at our house, the front porch seems like a pretty big target.) I was surprised when I couldn't see it on the steps or in the grass by the sidewalk or somewhere down toward the street. I found my paper around the side of the porch, nestled in the rocks under the dogwood plant.
It's Mother's Day weekend. Naturally enough, that starts me thinking of Cub Scouts. It's a straightforward connection. Cub Scouts is the last time in my life when I was able to give my mother a really cheesy home-made present that she had to pretend to really like. It's been a while since Cub Scouts for me. I participated in the program as a dad when our son Scott was a Cub, but I don't have particularly upbeat memories of the weekend camping trip a bunch of Cub Scouts and their dads endured down on the White River bottom south of Presho one spring.
Ten years ago at this time, I don't think I'd ever heard of Osama bin Laden. Now the entire world knows he is dead. His name was on numerous intelligence reports a decade ago, months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I didn't have a need to know that sort of intelligence before the terrorist attacks.
Most years by the end of April, I'd have seen at least a half-dozen track meets, maybe more. Know how many I've seen this spring? None. If I'd known April was going to be mostly winter, I'd have tried harder to make the Winner meet, the first of the season for Chamberlain's Cubs and several other area schools. We went to Winner to start our season when I was in track in the 1960s. It was early and chilly, but it was always a fun meet. I had a conflict the day of the Winner meet this year. No big deal. Plenty of other meets.
Years and years ago -- and when I say that I'm taking a trip not only to the 1970s but also to the season of winter in those far gone times -- a strong and stubborn cold snap grabbed South Dakota by the throat in early January and didn't let go until the last few days of February. I don't remember the year. It might have been 1975, when the Legislature adjourned into the teeth of a blizzard and those who weren't out of town early in the morning of the last day were around Pierre for an extended weekend.
The Easter egg hunt on the lawn of the governor's residence in Pierre is a mad scramble by a horde of prize-seeking youngsters, and if you blink, most years you miss it. Even so, it's more controlled than it was when we first moved to the Capital City. A couple of the first hunts we watched were cage fights, minus the cage. We've lived across from the governor's place for nearly 40 years. We've seen enough egg hunts to judge the relative level of control exerted by the organizers. Nothing they can do entirely rids the event of a few moments of chaos.
Once in a while, a person should do something totally unexpected, just to keep other folks guessing. Maybe that's why Nancy and I were in the crowd at the Swiftel Center last weekend to see Willie Nelson in concert. We never go to concerts unless we have kids or grandkids in them, but there we were. We were in Brookings last weekend. Willie was in Brookings. It was Nancy's birthday. She's always liked Willie, whether for the songs he sings or the way he sings the songs. A month or more earlier, we read in the paper that Willie was planning a show in Brookings on her birthday.
I spent most of my professional career as a state-government news reporter. I don't miss the work, but I sometimes miss the people. This time of year, one of the people I miss is Gov. George Mickelson. The anniversary of the airplane crash that killed him is next Tuesday, April 19. It will have been 18 years since Mickelson, three Sioux Falls economic development officials, two state administrators and two state pilots died in the crash in an Iowa farmyard.
Time was, an eagle's nest rested high in the thick branches of a massive old cottonwood tree down near the spot where the White River empties into the Missouri River south of Oacoma. The place was off the beaten path, over a twisting, curving set of tracks worn into the dirt of the river breaks. At some point, a visitor had to park the truck and hike -- through trees, shrubs and vines, over and around downed logs and quite a lot of scratchy, sticky vegetation. A solid pickup would get you pretty close to the spot.