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Remembering the past without regret

This time of year when I'm not thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, I sometimes think back to the fall of 1969 when we left Sioux Falls and made our home in Pierre.

Terry Woster

This time of year when I'm not thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, I sometimes think back to the fall of 1969 when we left Sioux Falls and made our home in Pierre.

Even though we planned to stay only year or two before we returned to a big city somewhere else in the Midwest, we ended up finding a pretty decent community and a marvelous lifestyle out here in the middle. Some say the middle of nowhere. I prefer to say the middle of everywhere.

One of the things I always remember when I think back to the fall of 1969 (besides the sneers and the pitying looks when we said we were moving to Pierre) is our insane decision - a joint decision, so we were together in not thinking straight - to repaint all of the woodwork in a two-bedroom, stucco-sided house we rented in our new town. What couple with any amount of time together can say they never went crazy together on what seemed a simple thing?

Our rented house wasn't fancy. The single-stall garage door came off its tracks daily. The rooms were all tiny, the kitchen barely an aisle. The basement stairs creaked and shuddered, shadows moved in the gloom, cobwebs clung to your eyebrows when you approached the fuse box and things crawled in the dark corners. The attic could have been the set of a horror movie. I looked up there once, never again.

The west wall of the living room had a fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases, though. A cool little breakfast nook behind French doors caught the morning sun. And the place was a block from the governor's residence and just around the corner from the home where we would later spend 40 years of our Pierre existence. It had a certain charm, in other words, especially when rental housing in the city in those days was non-existent.

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We wanted to brighten things up, so we painted the walls and repainted every last stick of woodwork and trim. We used a sparkling, high-gloss enamel paint for the woodwork. The choice was wonderful for bringing a splash of color to the place. But it was the first time I'd worked with enamel paint, and back in those days, working with that stuff took skill, great care and patience - lots of patience. It dripped. It ran. It showed every last bristle that came loose from the paint brush and stuck to the surface. I never could figure out why a single strand from the paint brush stuck and dried instantly, but a long, smooth brush stroke down a vertical door frame left rivulets to run down the wood.

The only good thing about the painting was that I had driven the rental truck with our furniture by myself. By the time I reached Pierre, Nancy, her dad and her Uncle Leroy from Seattle had a good start on the job. I watched them work with that paint, and I volunteered to unload the truck while they kept doing what they were doing.

Eventually, since we had little furniture, my job was done and I was forced to grab a paintbrush. The three old hands took turns, and great pleasure, in pointing out where I'd let paint drop and dry, where bristles from the paintbrush had dried into the window sill and where a river of paint had left a track 10 inches down the side of the door.

When we finished, I recommended that we simply throw away the brushes. Nancy's dad vetoed that idea. He had brought a couple of his very favorite brushes. They were only 10 or 15 years old, barely broken in, he said. So we cleaned them with turpentine. I went along with it because he was Nancy's dad, but when we had our own home around the corner, I often threw away brushes rather than clean them. A waste of material, I know, but think of how much it saved me in frustration.

A few short weeks after we finished painting and settling in, we hosted my mom and my big brother's family for Thanksgiving. Not a soul remarked on the woodwork.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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