One of the things I really enjoyed as a daily newspaper reporter was digging into history and writing about events from the past, especially South Dakota's past. In his unorthodox history book, "South Dakota: A Bicentennial History," the late John Milton, of Vermillion, remarked on how "new" is the history of this state. We became a state in 1889, and Milton's book was published in 1976 or perhaps 1977.
Not many times does a kid -- an old, gray-haired kid, to be sure, but a kid, nonetheless -- not want his mother to still be around, but the other day might have been one of those rare times. I was reading the Rapid City newspaper (hey, my little brother works there.
A little more than three years ago, just after I retired from a reporting job with the Sioux Falls newspaper, I got such stiffness and pain in most of the joints in my body that I thought I might end up unable to walk. The condition, which eventually was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, developed more quickly than I'd have imagined possible. I'm no rheumatologist, not even a little bit of a medical expert. My layperson's awareness -- more properly described as unawareness, I suppose -- was that arthritis developed slowly, over decades and mostly in old people.
In a forum elsewhere, I mentioned the possibility of South Dakota university campuses allowing alcohol in the dormitories. My take on it: Booze? They wouldn't even let us stay up late when I was in school. Students drank alcohol back in my day. I suppose it has always been so, for a number of the young men and women who attend college. Those of us who chose to drink generally went downtown, to one of the taverns that served low-point beer. In my day, if you were 18, you were old enough for 3.2 beer, but not for high-point beer, wine or hard liquor.
When I was a kid, I had a classmate who was born on Feb. 29. That made him a Leap Year baby. He celebrated a birthday every year, but he celebrated his birth date just once every four years. One year, a Leap Year during which his actual number came up at the end of February, I was invited to a party for the kid. Grade school parties were mostly ice cream and layer cake from the birthday boy's mom and home-made cards from the invitees, along with maybe a $1 gift. (Come on, now. Let's not be laughing at the idea of a $1 gift.
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.