When I read about the suggestion that South Dakota build a fence around the governor's residence, I pictured the executive mansion in Albany, New York.
I hasten to say that while preliminary steps were taken to study the fence idea for the Pierre residence of the governor, Gov. Kristi Noem made it clear a fence isn't going to happen anytime soon.
OK, I'm a status quo kind of guy. My family and I lived across the street from eight different governors over a span of 40 years and neither my property nor theirs was fenced. My initial reaction, then, to the idea of putting a fence, a physical barrier, around the mansion was as negative as that of several social-media posters, although my language was maybe less ferocious.
The executive residence in Albany, New York, does have a fence. At least it did when I spent several days in that city a number of years ago. That was one of several jarring things about Albany. I had a Saturday off and walked around town a bit. A friend told me how to get to the mansion, and I knew I'd arrived when I saw a low brick wall topped by black iron spindles and sturdy black gates. When Nancy went to the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul for her nursing degree, the campus was protected by a tall fence and forbidding gates, but the gates stood open, until at least 8 p.m. and maybe 10:30 p.m. on weekends.
"Well,'' I thought to myself as I walked along the sidewalk outside the Albany mansion. "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in South Dakota anymore."
The feeling turned to certainty when I saw a uniformed man walking along the inside of the fence with a pretty fierce looking dog at his side. When Mike Rounds was governor of South Dakota, you'd sometimes see him out on the lawn of the residence with a hunting dog or two, but he didn't wearing a uniform and the dogs didn't look like they'd be happy to tear you limb from limb if you took a step in their direction.
I don't remember the year I visited Albany, but I haven't flown on a commercial airliner since they started seriously checking luggage and patting people down, so it was well before 2001. I can't imagine security at the New York governor's place has gotten anything but more intense.
South Dakota, meanwhile, well we're another story, aren't we?
When we moved into the corner house across from the mansion in late October of 1972, Dick Kneip was governor. He was about to become the first Democrat to win a second term in that office since Tom Berry back in the 1930s. He had eight lively kids, and they all played baseball and tag and touch football and all sorts of other games all over the sprawling lawn of the residence. Some late afternoons when I looked out my west window, I'd see a whole neighborhood of young boys and girls playing on the grass over there. As my kids grew a little older, they'd be right there in the mix.
The mansion lawn was the biggest and best playground in the whole neighborhood. Nancy and I liked the idea of the kids playing over there where we could keep an eye on them any time we wished, simply by looking out the window or sitting on our front porch in the swing and following the action. It's hard to imagine kids in Albany cavorting over the lawn of the governor's residence.
Carefree as it sounds, over the years I did hear rumors of an incident or two where people wandered onto the patio behind the governor's residence to peer in the windows. I heard but couldn't confirm a tale of a guy getting inside and sitting a spell in the front room. Harmless enough, I guess, for its day.
I hate to think those days are gone, but every morning the news tells me otherwise. I'm not keen on seeing a fence around our governor's residence, but I sure can't criticize the security people who wanted to study the idea.