October's cool nights bring some of the best sleeping weather of the year, but if a couple of windows are left open and the temperature dips into the 30s, the result can be a tug-of-war for the blankets. That happened the other night when the forecast low temperature was off by about 10 degrees. Maybe the meteorologists were counting on more clouds, or perhaps a sneaky front slid in under the radar. Whatever the reason, I awoke in the dead of night and wondered for a moment if some trickster had transported me to a meat locker.
Charlie Starkweather began a headline-grabbing murder spree not long after my 14th birthday in January of 1958. He'd killed one person, a gas-station attendant, late the previous year, but his final 10 victims were attacked within a matter of weeks that January. His foul acts filled the newspapers and radio broadcasts of the day. He was still a teenager, not quite 20, and his girlfriend was 14 when they drove through the region, terrorizing us all. He was the first mass killer I remember reading about.
When I recall growing up with access to the public library in Chamberlain, I remember the thimblettes the librarian wore when she turned pages. I thought about that a week ago when my two brothers and my kid sister reminisced publicly about libraries. The Hilton M. Briggs Library on the campus of South Dakota State University turned 40 this year. My generation of SDSU Wosters received an invitation to share memories of and experiences with libraries and the books they hold.
I'm watching from out here in the middle of the state the "nine shows in six days'' phenomenon of Garth Brooks in Sioux Falls and wondering what to make of it. At some point, doesn't even a superstar of Brooks' magnitude run out of people to buy tickets? I guess not. The shows sold out faster than turtle sundaes at the Pierre Zesto on the last day of the season. I'm just imagining they sold that quickly. I've never been to a Brooks concert or tried to buy tickets, but I saw the media reports. The best frame of reference I have is the way local folks buy those Zesto sundaes.
This is the time of year when many college students, most of them juniors and seniors, begin to experience the consequences of their positive responses last spring when a friend or two said, "Hey, let's go together with a couple of other guys and rent a place off-campus for next year.''
My mom, just like every other farm-family mom in the neighborhood, cooked up a storm, day after hard-work day. She didn't seem to think she was a particularly gifted cook even as she filled the kitchen table, three or four times a day, with enough food to make the legs wobble — both the table's and mine. That was just what she did. My dad went to the field. My mom cooked, cleaned, canned and so many other things. A hard existence, maybe, but I don't remember either of them saying, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do.''
Back in the Dark Ages of open government, when transparency meant opaqueness, I once testified on the open meetings law. It was a favor for the South Dakota Newspaper Association. A legislative committee, as I recall, was considering changes in the law. The association had a statement for the record, but the guy who was to have read it had to cancel. Since I lived in Pierre, he asked if I'd stand in.
The second half of one of a dynamic, friendly leadership rivalry in the South Dakota Senate is gone. Roger McKellips, long-time Alcester banker, 16-year Senate veteran and unsuccessful 1978 candidate for governor, died last weekend. The silver-haired senator carried himself as a gentleman, always well-groomed, well-spoken and well-dressed. In my dealings with him as a reporter, I found him to be courteous and thoughtful, and his barking laugh carried across the room when something tickled him.
This time of August back on the farm, we had pretty much polished off the major work of summer and my dad cast about for ways to keep me out of mischief.
One of the simple, if slightly guilty, pleasures in my life is wandering through the vendors at a powwow or fair, deciding what to eat.