If you had seen my granddaughter Frankie play her first varsity basketball game four years ago, you wouldn't have thought she'd stick around long enough to walk off the floor of the gym in Stephan last Tuesday after the final game of her senior season. You probably wouldn't have bet a quarter that she'd survive her freshman season of basketball. She was so tiny out there that first start. I hope that doesn't offend her, because perhaps it is just the faulty memory of an old grandpa.
One Christmas break back in Chamberlain, a bunch of high-school kids went on a skating party in the sheltered cove across the Missouri River from town. No, this wasn't the Christmas break when Coach Vance warned his basketball players not to go ice skating during the holiday because he didn't want anyone coming back with a sprained ankle. That was my junior year, and I wasn't getting much playing time, anyway.
Some years back, I spent quite a bit of time talking with Myron Lee about his years as the leader of a much-traveled rock 'n' roll band. Myron dropped out of Washington High School in Sioux Falls during the spring of his senior year in 1959 to hit the road as Myron Lee and the Caddies. We older folks remember that as a time when live music meant simple, clean lyrics and a beat that invited couples onto the dance floor (to dance, you know, together but without slithering all over each other). Myron had some of the best musicians of his time.
The other day, when I wrote a piece about the late Republican Rep. Joe Barnett, of Aberdeen, I left out a rather startling historical fact about the man's service. Barnett is the only Republican in the last 75 years to serve as minority leader of the South Dakota House of Representatives (unless someone can prove otherwise -- that's a qualifier for relying on memory, not research).
Nancy and I had our first actual date -- the kind where a guy calls a girl's house, talks his way past her mother and then stammers out an invitation to a movie while the girl waits patiently for a pause in the halting monologue so she can say "sure" -- on March 12, 1961. I mention that today because I was just thinking how lucky I've been. Well, of course because she said she'd go with me, but also because it was March 12, not Feb. 12. Had it been Feb. 12, it would have been two days before Valentine's Day.
The most complete legislator I knew in four decades of covering state government was Republican Rep. Joe Barnett, of Aberdeen. I met many, many lawmakers I liked and admired. Barnett, though, was something else. He was highly intelligent and nearly always personable, and his work ethic was a thing to behold. He had an Old World charm about him, and a barking laugh that shook his whole body.
I'll say this about social media: If I hadn't created a Twitter account, I would never have known that other people think it's cool to work in the state Capitol building. I know a young man who grew up in Pierre, went off to college and then returned to work in state government. I knew him when he was a high school kid. I knew his parents before him and at least one set of grandparents before that.
Sometimes a cigar may just be a cigar, as Freud may or may not have said, but when I was growing up, my pals and I used cigars to demonstrate our maturity. If you're thinking we schoolboys were demonstrating a pretty low level of maturity, sure, you're right. These days, you wouldn't expect to see four or five laughing, clowning high-school guys lighting up cigars. Back then, we didn't know any better, and we sure didn't know anything about surgeons general or tobacco warnings. I suppose I was like a lot of kids back in the 1950s.
Having been away from reporting on the South Dakota Legislature for a couple of sessions now, I know two things for sure. I managed to cover 40 lawmaking sessions before I retired because I knew how to mark time, tread water, kick back or whatever you want to call hanging around waiting for action. One of the long-standing jokes in the Capitol press room went like this: "Hey, the senior government class from (insert any South Dakota school district) is here to watch the Legislature in action.'' "That's nice. In action? Inaction?
We hosted our Brookings granddaughter for the holiday weekend -- driving through a localized little snowstorm between Highmore and Wessington to pick her up -- and one of the things we did for fun was watch a movie called "The Green Hornet." I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite the Britt Reid and Kato who showed up in the movie. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the film. It's always fun to have the granddaughter around sharing some low-key time in the family room.