Because my little brother was asking a question about Miss Arp, director of the public library in Chamberlain when we were kids, I thought of Philip Nolan. The transition isn't as odd as it may seem. Miss Arp -- Katie, we called her behind her back but never to her face -- ran the public library on the top floor of City Hall when two or three generations of Chamberlain people were kids. My brother, Kevin, wanted to know something more about her for a talk he was giving about reading. I did a lot of reading in the Chamberlain city library. I think everyone in our family did.
Midway through my first year of school, the teacher recommended I have my vision checked. I was 6 years old. I learned many years later the teacher who made the suggestion was in her first teaching assignment. I don't know if it was something she learned in teaching school, but she seemed to pick up quickly on the fact that I struggled to see the blackboard. I'm sure the suggestion came as no surprise to my folks. My dad wore glasses. My mom wore glasses. My big brother and big sister wear glasses, and I think they started about as early as I did.
Longtime Sioux Falls lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy died recently, and from some of the comments about him, you'd think the guy was superhuman. Well, he was, in a way. And yet, to describe him in that way diminishes the essential human spirit of the man, and Jeremiah was an essentially human creature of God. Jeremiah D. Murphy was 80 when he died after a lifetime as a lawyer and lobbyist. When his son Jeremiah M. Murphy began to lobby, the elder began to use his middle initial, as did the younger.
Not so long ago, when news reports carried stories about bonuses for people who work in the financial markets, a friend asked me if I didn't think those people had way more than they needed already. I told him it was funny he should ask that, because I used to ask the same thing about my folks back on the farm. His question, in fact, triggered memories of me as a kid, using those very same words. That isn't to say we really had way more than we needed or that I thought we were rich or anything like that. I knew we bought used machinery and inexpensive clothing.
My friend Donna Fjelstad called one day last February or March and asked if I'd be interested in running for the Legislature. Probably not in this lifetime, I said. Maybe not in the next. "Well, I'm going to," she said, with just enough edge in her voice to make me bite back the opinion I was thinking of sharing about the likely outcome of the excellent adventure she was planning. She asked what I thought she should do when she filed her petitions. I said she should register Republican.
My personal experiment with Facebook is on hold. I still have an account. I haven't figured out how to de-activate it. It wasn't that long ago, you'll recall, I became part of the social networking set. I created an account largely because my brothers-in-law had accounts. I didn't want to seem less cool than those guys. (So the record is clear, I am not less cool than those guys. That's a given in any conversation about cool. I'm way cool, if the way is 1950s.
During the last regular-season game of Chamberlain High School's 1962 basketball season, I caught a pass in the lane about 10 feet from the basket, pivoted and tossed up a soft, left-handed hook shot. The move surprised the kid playing defense. The sight of the basketball kissing the glass and spinning through the net surprised me. I'd never made a left-handed hook shot in a game. In fact, that was the first one I'd ever tried in a game. Coach Byre had worked with me all season on using my left hand.
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.