I suppose it might seem somewhat out of the comfort zone for an old, retired newspaper guy, but there I was at the South Dakota Festival of Books, sitting in the audience listening to a presentation called "You Go, Girl! Writing Strong Female Characters." The festival gives attendees eight or 10 choices every hour on the hour, all day long. If there's a criticism, it's the one my friend Jill Callison voiced on Twitter or somewhere last Friday or Saturday. Jill writes features and columns and all sorts of other stories and essays for the Argus Leader.
Back at the end of spring in 1993, our older son Scott finished his graduate work at North Dakota State University, turned in his thesis, hopped in a GMC Jimmy with something more than 140,000 miles on the odometer and headed to California for a Grateful Dead concert. He followed the Dead more or less ("together, more or less in line," as the song says) across the southern border of the United States from California to Florida and up the Atlantic Coast to New Jersey, then across to the Midwest with a final concert somewhere in Indiana.
I read in one of these online news services recently that more than 5 million copies of the new iPhone 5 by Apple sold in three days, and sales might have been even higher except that the product violated a basic principle of warfare -- never outrun your supply line. That's the principle I learned in ROTC back on campus, anyway. The instructor was a grizzled Army noncom. It never occurred to me to think that he was stating anything but the truth. I didn't have quite the same confidence in the online news service where I read the story about the iPhone 5.
I talked somewhere recently about stopping at a roadside cider stand in some small town between Sioux City and Omaha on my first trip to Creighton University as a freshman. My dad was driving me and my big sister to college. There are many things I've forgotten about that trip, but I still remember the smell of the cherry cider and the coolness of the glass of the gallon jug.
"Sometimes a Great Notion'' is the title of a marvelous novel by Ken Kesey, but it's also the theme of my long-running, just ended relationship with a patio full of flagstone. In the novel, which was turned into an awfully decent movie starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman, the story is about a family of independent loggers led by the old man, Henry Stamper. The novel has little to do with my flagstone story except the title. Flagstone: Sometimes a Great Notion. Flagstone is heavy, pinkish, flat rock. It's a commitment, not a notion.
I won't do any more South Dakota Hall of Fame inductee stories for a while, I promise, but Jim Abourezk joined the group last weekend, and some attention should be paid to that. Abourezk grew up in the Wood area. That's Daily Republic country, or was back in the days when the Mitchell newspaper's western coverage area reached about as far as Wall.
Before today is over, in a ceremony at Cedar Shore near Oacoma, a mild-mannered lawyer from Rapid City will take his place in the South Dakota Hall of Fame. I guarantee Gene Lebrun will be honored by his selection to the hall. I assure you, the hall is honored by his presence. Gene Lebrun is a remarkable and decent South Dakotan. He's also the only Democrat in decades to have been speaker of the South Dakota House of Representatives.
This is a recurring theme for old guys, maybe, but I just had another example of what a wimp I've become since I left the farm and discovered air conditioning. We did some serious boating over the Labor Day weekend about 15 miles above the dam on Lake Oahe. When we put the boat into the water, the wind was something in the 25 mph range, blowing sideways across the ramps. We set out looking for a sheltered spot somewhere along the downstream side of Okobojo Point, and we plowed through heavy swells all the way out from the Cow Creek launch area.
I have a friend who always used to say at some point during the Fourth of July holiday, "Well, boys, summer's about done." That was back in the days when he would water ski several times a summer. There was a time, many years ago now, when the group of us who boated together religiously started our ski season on Mother's Day weekend and didn't finish until sometime after Labor Day, unless a way-early or way-late blizzard shut us down. In those days, my older friend skied a lot. He tapered off a bit as years went by, but he managed to get in a few runs each summer.
I slept much of the way from Chamberlain to Omaha that late-summer day 50 years ago when Dad drove me and my big sister to enroll for fall-semester classes at Creighton University. It was pretty easy to sleep in the old 1956 Pontiac station wagon. It was packed with the belongings of two kids, one a college freshman, the other a nursing-school graduate on her way to get a bachelor's degree in her chosen profession. Jeanne and Dad spent a lot of the trip talking. He loved to talk, and she was a good listener. Me? I tuned out as soon as we hit the highway headed east.