Just Friday morning, I figured out that I live not only in flyover country but also in sweep across land. You know what flyover country is, right? Sure, and so do I. Because I'm still an old newspaper reporter at heart, though, I thought I should check what I think I know. I looked to Wikipedia and found that "Flyover country thus refers to the part of the country that some Americans only view by air and never actually see in person at ground level.''
When I reflect on how elected officials should act, I think of a couple of South Dakota legislators I first met back in 1971. I reflect on the behavior of elected officials often these days. It's my opinion that things are too partisan, too uncivil and too loud for the sort of measured, clear-minded governance the state and nation deserve and require. That's only my opinion, but it's formed by decades of observing politics, elected officials and legislative bodies.
The last poem written by my favorite poet among writers of the Romantic Period is titled "On this day I complete my 36th year.'' Lord Byron wrote the piece in January of 1824. He was in Greece at the time, trying to join the fight for that nation's independence from the Ottoman Empire. He died of a fever, not battle wounds, three months later. Byron was the last of three young, creative poets of the Romantic Period. Percy Shelley died before his 30th birthday. John Keats was not quite 26 when he died.
Back on the farm, we didn't have much opportunity for ice fishing. We had several small stock dams. A few of them even had bullheads now and then. But we didn't fish those dams in winter. When we went onto the ice, we carried an axe, not a fishing pole. We were on the ice just long enough to chop a hole so the cattle could drink. It was cold, wet work. I tried to finish and get back to where it was warm and dry as quickly as possible.
One year when I was still part of the workforce, the last staff meeting of the year ended with a go-around-the-table so each of us could share at least one New Year's resolution. People spoke of going to the gym, losing 20 pounds, learning to hang-glide and on and on. We came to a senior member of the group who said his resolution would be to communicate less with email and have more face-to-face meetings. When my turn came, I said I would resolve to meet less and use email more.
Christmas Day is behind us, and in my book that means winter is really here. I know, I know. Christmas isn't completely over. As the song says, Christmas has 12 days, and since the counting starts on Christmas Day, there are 11 days to go before it's over. Or at least before the purists, those sticklers for detail, say it's over.
Our mother, so the story goes, ordered a tea set through the mail one year for my big sister's Christmas present and when she walked into the bedroom where she'd hidden the gift, there sat my sister and brother having a rollicking tea party. My recollection is that she heard my sister ask my brother, "Would you like another cup of tea?'' That piqued her curiosity, naturally, because the question came from the closed door of the bedroom where the only tea set in the house had been hidden.
Back in high school, I thought I wanted to grow up to be a sports reporter. I knew for sure I wanted to write for a newspaper. I decided that in ninth grade, when I took a journalism class from Mrs. Adams. Just before the Christmas break, she read "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,'' the moving response by a New York Sun editor to an 8-year-old girl's letter asking if Santa existed. I was struck by the ability of simple words to create such a powerful message, and I knew I wanted to be in that business.
That bit of news video the other evening of President Trump and the top two Democrats in Congress discussing a border wall with a gaggle of reporters looking on reminded me of the first time I saw the South Dakota Legislature do pretty much the same thing. I saw legislators do the opposite a time or two, also, but let me tell you about the time they took openness to a high level.
When I went to my most recent medical check-up, the nurse weighed and measured me and said I was 5-foot-11 and 184 pounds. "Whoa,'' I said. "Wait a minute. I played high school basketball for the Chamberlain Cubs. I was the starting center most of the season. I was just a touch over 6-foot-1." And quietly, "My weight's wrong, too.''