Something like 30 years ago, when Johnny Cash was headlining the State Fair in Huron, I tried to track him down at a motel in Mitchell. I was doing public relations stuff for River Park, the Pierre-based alcohol treatment program. We hoped to persuade the country superstar to tell his story of addiction and recovery on tape. Cash had an inspirational story, and he could really hold an audience. Trouble was, it wasn't easy getting to Johnny Cash to make our pitch.
I've become fairly adept at reading online newspapers and periodicals. That's a significant statement for a guy who vowed they would pry the printed page from his cold, arthritic hands. For a long while after "online" became a catch phrase in the news business, I tried to ignore it in my personal time. In my professional life, I accepted electronic news.
A problem with a long life well-lived is you run out of some of your oldest friends when it comes time to mourn your passing. That thought came to me earlier this week during the funeral service for Sarah Vehle. She lived more than 94 years, and until the very end, she was active and independent. She and her late husband, Ab, moved to Reliance in 1948 and to Chamberlain 10 years later. They began making friends the day they moved to Reliance, and they never stopped.
One nice thing about being a newspaper reporter covering the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was being able to quote people with names like "Snake" and "Miss Kitty." In the news business, we usually wanted first and last names, hometowns and sometimes age. During the years I worked in news, I sometimes had the feeling during rally week that even people who volunteered their names might be putting me on. How would I know if Jimmy Joe Sullivan was from Little Rock?
When I was a kid, I used to take a library book, climb the tree in the south yard of our home in Chamberlain and read for hours. What kind of tree it was, I don't know. My little brother Kevin could tell you. He grew up asking the name of every plant and animal he encountered on the farm, along the Missouri River breaks and across western South Dakota. I can tell you the names of a bunch of the books I read in the tree out in our yard.
I looked in the mirror the other evening and saw why the cost of medical care is climbing. I'm becoming a case study in the many ways living longer increases health-care costs. I read somewhere what percentage of the cost of health care in the United States is because of older folks like me. I can't remember the number, but it was higher than I would have imagined. I'm higher maintenance than I was five or 10 years ago. I see no indication I will become less expensive any time soon. Time was I went to the doctor once a year, if that.
For more than 35 years, the Woster family in Pierre has spent summers on the Missouri River. This year, we missed the Fourth of July weekend, and that wasn't the half of it. We went Oh-for-July because of mechanical issues. It's pretty amazing to realize how much of our summer life involves being on the water. The problem that surfaced on Father's Day weekend took us off the water for what we had every reason to expect would be a short time. We were disappointed that day, sure.
I finally found something of enormous value on Facebook. As some of you know, I have a Facebook account, or presence or whatever it's called. My place on the book is a bit monastic, lacking in decoration and color and, you know, vigor, as President Kennedy used to say in the days before that word became synonymous with harder high-school courses. My daughter occasionally offers to help me brighten up the place. She's pretty subtle about it, no high-pressure sales pitches or criticism of the bare walls and threadbare carpet.
Billy Woster was the Kansas City cousin closest to me in age, but when he told me last weekend that the last time we'd seen each other was 1962, I didn't have a clue where that would have been. A bunch of Wosters gathered in the southern Black Hills for a few days last weekend. I didn't see any warning signs posted in the area. Thirty or 40 years ago, there would have been when that many of this clan congregated in a spot. We've mellowed, for the most part. We come from three brothers, George, Frank and Henry.
I'm coming to the conclusion that highway accident reports should be required reading for anyone who is driving on South Dakota roads. I just finished four days on the road, traveling with Nancy, our daughter and her husband and their daughter. We went to the Black Hills for an extended family reunion and managed to get in a couple of days of sight-seeing, too.