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.
My sophomore year at Chamberlain High School, I had no prom date. Hard to believe, I know, but I wasn't always this hip cat, often mistaken for Charlie Sheen down on Main Street. Many schools these days limit the prom to seniors and juniors. Chamberlain must not have done that, because my freshman year I took Mary Jane Chaussee. The relationship didn't bloom, but her big brother married my big sister, so there is still, you know, a relationship. Anyway, sophomore year, I was dateless and didn't attend the prom. It still was the most humiliating prom-evening experience ever.
Not long before we moved to Pierre in the fall of 1969, we bought a mid-sized American Motors station wagon, the model known as the Rebel. The thing was deep green and brand new. We bought it right off the showroom floor (financed the entire thing) at a dealership in downtown Sioux Falls. The third seat faced the rear, so passengers got there from the back end of the wagon. One of the selling points for us (other than the fact that it seemed to run well, which was more than we could say for the Oldsmobile sedan we'd been driving) was that the second and third seats could be folded flat.
When my brother Kevin was a kid, he broke his arm one afternoon while we were throwing rocks at some ducks down by the stock dam north of our farmyard. At first, no one could believe it was broken, and I don't mean just me. I was there with him, his big brother. As I think about it, we probably were throwing dirt clods, not rocks. We didn't have many rocks on that part of the farm, but clods of dirt were everywhere, and some of them were thick and firm. They'd have done some damage if they'd hit something, but the ducks were alert and fairly agile, and we were mostly passing time, anyway.