Sales people almost always try to learn your name, so they can use it again and again in their pitches. Politicians do it a lot, too. The goal is to make things a little less formal, as if the person who just interrupted your evening or Saturday afternoon is a long-lost friend whose only reason for showing up at your door is to show you a product or service that you simply can't live another day without. I can be cynical about the personal approach as a sales technique, but I know it sometimes works.
Look, I've admitted that I never used to be all that fond of volleyball. I only started watching it 10 or 12 years ago because some Pierre girls that Nancy and I knew were playing. Even then, we'd see maybe a couple of matches a year. When we did, I'd mostly talk with other spectators and look at the court only to see why people were clapping and shouting. It wasn't until one of the granddaughters started playing for Chamberlain that I really started to get interested in the game.
One of the most memorably touching moments from my four decades of reporting news in South Dakota took place on the main street of Eagle Butte on a chilly late-November afternoon during a memorial service for Pfc. Sheldon Hawk Eagle. Hawk Eagle was 21 when he died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. He was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, a descendant of Crazy Horse and a soldier in the 101st Airborne at the time of his death. The memorial service began with a walk from the veterans' center at the west edge of town, along U.S.
It's been 40 years now since we lived in a rented house on the first block of North Conklin on the east side of Sioux Falls. I hadn't thought of that place for some time, but during a visit to Chamberlain last week, we noticed that one of our granddaughters had her mattress on the floor, no bed frame. Shades of North Conklin. Nancy was pregnant with our second child that winter. I worked for the newspaper. She didn't work during that pregnancy, what with a year-old daughter at home. We had little money, and we didn't want to waste it on a bedroom set. We slept on a mattress.
Twenty years ago this week, legal gambling came to Deadwood. Local folks had circulated petitions to put the issue of limited gambling in Deadwood to a public vote. South Dakotans approved the measure, and Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane rode again. I worked for the Sioux Falls newspaper then. The paper gave me $100 and sent me out to Deadwood Gulch to do some gambling on that opening day. The rules of my game were, I could lose up to $100. Anything I lost beyond that was my money, and nobody was wiring extra cash so I could buy gas for the trip home.
The first year we had Halloween at our current home in Pierre, I came back from a trip to the old neighborhood to find Nancy madly popping popcorn and pawing through the cupboards in search of any loose candy that might be given to the next kid to ring the doorbell and shout "trick or treat." Nobody warned us what to expect when we moved from way up on North Grand down to a neighborhood next to the governor's mansion.
I started wearing a seat belt in my vehicle because of Sue Schuurmans. That was before the law required adults drivers and front-seat passengers to buckle up, but it was several years later than I should have made the practice a habit. I used a belt sporadically, quite a bit on the highway, not so often around town or for short jaunts. I guess I thought safety lay in brevity. Sue was a young woman from the Tyndall area. She worked for the state Health Department for several years and did emergency medical service, too. We called it ambulance work back then.
When I was just beginning to hunt pheasants, the federal government offered a program called Soil Bank. This was back when I was 12 years old or so, so it must have been about 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied the White House and a guy named Ezra Taft Benson was U.S. secretary of agriculture. From what I could gather listening to chatter at the Co-op in Reliance, Benson was to blame for every problem facing American agriculture in the 1950s.
During my senior year in high school, I ran several times against a Mitchell kid who was about two steps slower than I was in the 440-yard dash. We were quarter-milers, he and I, so we found ourselves on the track in the same races at four or five meets that senior season. We each ran legs of the medley relay and the mile relay, but our basic competition came in the open 440.
When I left the Sioux Falls Argus Leader for the first time back in 1969 to take a job in Pierre with The Associated Press, the boss for the wire service was a guy named Jim Wilson. I had only two years of newspaper experience at the time, and all of that was either in photography or sports writing. I knew nothing about state politics or legislative procedure, and the closest I'd come to hanging around with a South Dakota governor was taking a photograph of Gov.