Because I came late to keeping a file of contacts on my phone, the names, addresses, phone numbers and email on that list are incomplete, sometimes out-of-date and often inaccurate. I'm not organized that way. If you saw my desk, either during my working years or now in retirement, you'd think I wasn't organized in any other way, either. But my contact file is particularly sloppy. I look at it now and then, but if I'm going to make a call or send a message, I tend to do it from memory. I don't trust my own file.
Making laws in South Dakota is serious business, but the Legislature itself can be pretty funny every now and then. I'm convinced that part of the reason I managed to cover 40 sessions of the Legislature as a news reporter was because of the quirky happenings, the out-sized personalities, the odd-ball situations and the unexpected moments that occur when a cross-section of South Dakota gathers in close proximity for eight or 10 weeks. It's like stepping through the looking glass, falling down the rabbit hole.
I never thought I'd live to see the South Dakota Legislature seriously consider a law giving news reporters protection against being forced to reveal confidential sources. A bill proposing such a law, commonly called a reporter shield law, passed the House earlier this week. Gov. Kristi Noem says she supports such a law, so if the Senate approves the bill, she'll get to sign her name and make it official. I worked 40 years in news, nearly always as a grunt reporter. I don't recall being threatened with jail for failing to divulge a source, but two things about that:
City folks might struggle to believe this, but I once interviewed a guy who grew up on an island in the middle of the Missouri River. I sometimes have trouble believing it, and I was there. The guy I interviewed grew up to be a musician who played steel guitar for several dance bands in central South Dakota. Music is how I happened to hear of him. A friend of mine who also played dances mentioned a childhood buddy from the Onida area who told great stories about growing up on the river. I was researching river stories at the time. This one seemed like a natural. It was, too.
So now it's February, past the January thaw and the first polar vortex, and whether or not the groundhog sees a shadow today, we're probably looking at six more weeks of winter.
If our Legislature had a lick of sense, the members would pass a law prohibiting this kind of weather. I'm writing this at mid-day on Tuesday, so it isn't really that cold — yet. It's below zero with some wind, sure, but we've seen that before. That keeps the Californians away. For several days, though, the meteorologists have been so excited about an approaching cold snap they can hardly catch their breath. They get that way when they have a chance to say "polar vortex,'' and they've been saying it a lot.
I grew up with a father whose idea of preparation for winter travel meant throwing a bag of salt, a set of jumper cables, tire chains and a sturdy scoop shovel into the trunk.
If the world hadn't given us all social media, I might never have heard of Marie Kondo and her book about decluttering one's life. I've always been good at cluttering, but the only time in the last 40 years I've tried to de-clutter was three years ago. That's when we moved from a 10-room house (with basement and crawl-space attic) to a home less than half that size. Maybe it would have been easier if I'd known decluttering has its own book.
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.