Hey, it's Groundhog Day. I'm guessing winter will last about six more weeks. I haven't heard whether the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil over there on Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania, has emerged from his burrow and seen his shadow or not. I didn't catch the news from Punxsatawney this morning. I could go to Weather.com and check out the forecast for the Punxsatawney region of the Keystone State, but I'd as soon let nature's course play out as is intended in the legend of the groundhog and his shadow.
I think I've figured out why, as I grow older, I think the old days were so great. It's because most of the memories I have of my younger years are either pretty good or kind of funny. Even the miserable times -- times when I must have really struggled with some misfortune or challenge -- seem, I don't know, noble somehow. I look back on farm labor as mostly a good time. I'm pretty realistic. I know July and August were usually hot and miserable. I know dust from the chaff blowing out the back of the combine in the middle of an oats field caused a person to itch something fierce.
Way back when, my father-in-law's family bought him a snow blower. It was one of the first I'd ever seen, and Paul was more than a little pleased with the new-fangled piece of winter maintenance machinery. I can still picture him in a winter coat and porkpie hat, grinning like crazy as he putt-putted across the L-shaped sidewalk of his big corner lot. Snow sprayed in every direction, including all over his face and glasses, as he learned the tricks of directing the blowing snow harmlessly onto lawns and boulevards.
The other day, a co-worker asked a question about whether one project or another we had going would turn out to be a happy success. For no particular reason, I asked, "Can a girl from a small mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?" The co-worker looked at me and edged toward the door. "What?" I asked. "You never listened to 'Our Gal Sunday' on the radio when you were a kid? You didn't wonder about the future of the orphan girl from Silver Creek, Colorado, who married Lord Henry Brinthrope?
The sign-in sheet at the back door, blue tiles tucked here and there and George Mickelson. Those are some of the things that caught the attention of the Brookings girls who visited the state Capitol building during the holiday weekend. Nancy and I took advantage of the long weekend to invite our teenage granddaughter to visit.
We traveled to Presho from Pierre the other evening for the hotly contested Chamberlain Cubs vs. Lyman Raiders girls' basketball game. The temperature outside was, well, frightful, and Highway 83 had a few small drifts decorating its shoulders.
From my earliest writing classes, I was told never to start a story with a question, but do you know how hard it is to find a good pair of saddle shoes these days? This may be the first time I've broken that no-question rule, but the issue demands special treatment. I'm talking saddle shoes here. I've been wearing saddle shoes for a long while. My birthday is today. I'm not going to say how old I am, but if I tell you I was born six months before Eisenhower directed the D-Day invasion, you can do the math.
If Elvis Presley were alive, he'd be 76 years old today. Instead, they say he died in 1977, barely into his 40s and missing a lot of years to play reunion tours and second-tier nightclubs and casinos. Now, not everyone accepts the death certificate. There are those who continue to believe the King is living today, lumberjacking in the woods of Wisconsin, catfish-farming along the river in Mississippi or skydiving over Las Vegas. I was one of the biggest Elvis fans you'll ever meet. What am I saying? I mean, I am one of the biggest Elvis fans you'll ever meet.
Being a political operative and being a fan of the Chicago Bears are a lot alike, when you think about it. In each case, one of the keys is making sure expectations are low enough to cause people to be astounded when you achieve a bit of success. Political operatives know if they rent a giant hall for a public meeting, with a tiled flood the size of the deck of an aircraft carrier, the rally will look like a flop if 80 people in folding chairs are scattered around the room.
Several years ago, another newspaper reporter remarked that then-Gov. George Mickelson liked to pound stakes into the ground to measure progress. The former governor didn't really pound stakes into the ground, but when he was looking ahead and gauging how far he had to go, he did like to look back now and then to see how far he had come. It occurred to me the other day that I sometimes do that with photographs. While making New Year's resolutions might help me see how far I need to travel to make my life better, the photographs are like stakes in the ground.