When I was just beginning to hunt pheasants, the federal government offered a program called Soil Bank. This was back when I was 12 years old or so, so it must have been about 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied the White House and a guy named Ezra Taft Benson was U.S. secretary of agriculture. From what I could gather listening to chatter at the Co-op in Reliance, Benson was to blame for every problem facing American agriculture in the 1950s.
During my senior year in high school, I ran several times against a Mitchell kid who was about two steps slower than I was in the 440-yard dash. We were quarter-milers, he and I, so we found ourselves on the track in the same races at four or five meets that senior season. We each ran legs of the medley relay and the mile relay, but our basic competition came in the open 440.
When I left the Sioux Falls Argus Leader for the first time back in 1969 to take a job in Pierre with The Associated Press, the boss for the wire service was a guy named Jim Wilson. I had only two years of newspaper experience at the time, and all of that was either in photography or sports writing. I knew nothing about state politics or legislative procedure, and the closest I'd come to hanging around with a South Dakota governor was taking a photograph of Gov.
The Missouri River is pretty much back to normal, recent news stories say. The stories cite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers numbers that show a lot of water being stored in the dams that run from Yankton to Fort Peck, Mont.
I didn't get to see all of the schools perform last weekend at the Festival of Bands in Sioux Falls, but I saw several. Nancy and I were on the street for the morning parade and in the stands at Howard Wood Field for some of the field competition. We traveled to the event to watch two granddaughters perform with the Chamberlain High School band.
I have a friend named Jim Carrier who grew up fascinated by the West. I capitalize the word because it's a region, of the mind, if not of the land. Jim grew up in upstate New York, and he said in something he wrote once -- or at least a draft of something he was writing -- that the bedroom window in his childhood home faced west. That explained much, he suggested. I met Jim when he moved to South Dakota in 1975 to work for The Associated Press.
Everybody in the world has read "The Catcher in the Rye," right? I got to Creighton University in the fall of 1962, and I'd never heard of the book. I'd never heard of the author, J.D. Salinger, although I had a hazy sort of notion that he might be related to the Kennedy family somehow. I was thinking of Pierre Salinger, of course, but I was also scrambling to keep up. All I knew during those first, hectic days on the Omaha campus was I had never heard of half of the books the other kids in my literature course claimed to have read. Now, mostly, Chamberlain prepared me well.
John Wooley, a former Associated Press news reporter with whom I later worked at the Pierre Times, once told me that he'd learned the priorities of the citizens of his community during an interview with a mayor about to leave office. John asked the city official to name the question most frequently asked by citizens during his tenure. "Easy," the mayor said.
I play rhythm guitar with a 20-piece big band. I'd never have gotten the chance but for a guy named Juell Johnson. It's been a marvelous experience with the Over Forte Orchestra, playing some great old standards with a bunch of really decent people whose day jobs range from heavy equipment operator to medical doctor. Juell was the inspiration for what has become a late-winter or early-spring fixture in Pierre, the Juell Johnson Jazz Festival. He started playing music when he was just a kid and taught himself pretty much everything there is to know about a keyboard.
Once upon a time, when I was 15 years old and a know-it-all sophomore at Chamberlain High School, I led a student walk-out of English class. Well, it wasn't all students. None of the girls walked out, and a few of the boys changed their minds and stayed in their seats, which turned out to be a pretty good decision. But a bunch of us walked out, even with the teacher yelling at us to get back in our places. We hadn't been getting dismissed exactly when the bell rang, see? It happened three or four times.