Two of my favorite histories of South Dakota -- books I've used countless times over the years -- were written during the 1970s. I'm not saying they are the best histories of the state. In the past, there have been some fine histories of South Dakota, although not enough of them have been updated to detail the last couple of decades. But history books aren't supposed to be current events.
In one of our upstairs bedrooms, a soft blanket thrown across the bedspread has images of a Teddy bear and the words, "It takes a long time to grow an old friend." I do most of my personal writing in that room, so I see the blanket often. It doesn't attract my attention most evenings when I'm up there working. Last weekend was different. We had just returned from a cruise on Lake Oahe with the two Pierre couples who have been our close friends for nearly all of the last four decades.
The first bicycle I ever owned didn't come from a store. Wait. That isn't true. The tubes and tires came from a second-hand store, and I suppose most of the rest of the bike came from a store at one time or another, just not at the time I got it. My dad put the bicycle together from a frame and a couple of wheels he found somewhere in Reliance, the second-hand tires and tubes and a few welded pieces he pretty much hand-made from scraps of metal he dug out of the pile of junk between the garage-bunkhouse and the machine shed.
I finally got my boat out on the river this past weekend and burned through most of my first tank of gas since late August. A boat, for those who have never owned one, is a peculiar sort of thing to have. In its way, a boat is a lot like a saddle horse on a spread where all of the cattle herding is done with pickups and four-wheelers. The boat, like the horse, sits idle for long periods of time. Unlike a horse, a boat -- if properly prepared -- can sit idle for long periods without needing to be exercised and without needing to be fed.
One Fourth of July as we visited family in Chamberlain, our younger son started a fire that burned a wide swath across the west slope of the gulch across the street from his grandmother's house. From the time we moved to Chamberlain when I was starting third grade, we lived in a modest home on the west edge of the gulch near the community swimming pool. The floor of the gulch was covered with tall weeds and volunteer trees, and it was a great place to explore and kill an afternoon for a 12-year-old boy.
By the time this is published, and if all goes according to plan, I'll be back from a trip to the Twin Cities and a concert by the Dark Star Orchestra. It isn't really an orchestra, at least not in the sense of horns and strings and all that. It's a group of young musicians who recreate entire concerts done previously by the Grateful Dead. Nancy and I received tickets to the show for Mother's Day and Father's Day, and we decided to go. When's the last time you saw anybody recreate a Grateful Dead show? Thought so. I don't get to the Cities very often these days.
Back in high school, I drove a 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne that looked a lot like an Impala without the ton of chrome or romping V-8 engine. The Biscayne was a four-door model, with a six-cylinder engine and a stick shift -- "three on the tree," the car nuts called that model. My dad had a thing about six-cylinder engines, and the Chevy got good gas mileage. Ron Ballou and I could pool our pocket change, pump in a buck-ten's worth of gas and drag main all night long. The Chevy wasn't mine. It was a family car we paired with a 1956 Pontiac three-seat station wagon.
Sometimes it's good for me to be reminded that I have it pretty good. I have an old friend who always, when asked how he is doing, replies, "Best day of my life." I was around him on some days that weren't all that great, but I never heard him say anything but "best day of my life" when asked the question. I've developed a similar reply when people ask how things are going. "Couldn't be better," I like to say, whether I'm knee-deep in clover or up to my ears in quicksand.
One thing I should never do on Father's Day is start thinking about the mistakes I made trying to raise my kids. They turned out great. That is largely their mother's doing, and I have written in a half-serious way that the three children should send me a card on Mother's Day. If I hadn't asked her to dance that evening back in 1961 at the post-game sock hop, we might not have gotten together, and the kids would have ended up with a different mother. (I know.
As I mowed my lawn the other day, it occurred to me that I was engaged in a really foolish activity. It was Sunday afternoon, warm and breezy. I hadn't been out of the office for quite a stretch of days. I wore faded shorts and my old "Every Day Is Saturday" T-shirt (given to me by a retired friend during the few months I was retired back in 2009). The simple pleasure I was taking from pushing a mower through scraggly grass bordered on sinful. Then the question of what I was doing popped into my head, and I lost some of my enthusiasm. Sure, the lawn needed mowing.