On the farm, we had a back porch where we stored odds and ends and oddities that didn't belong in the kitchen, living room, pantry, bedroom or bathroom. The washing machine, a white beast of a tub with black agitator blades and a wicked-looking wringer, sat on the porch. My mom spent hours wringing moisture out of shirts and pants and socks and underwear before heading to the clothesline with a heavy basket of damp laundry and a bag of wooden clothespins. The clothesline was a convenient 20 steps from the porch door.
Some years ago, as I approached the back door of the state Capitol building at the start of a legislative day, Don Rounds motioned to me from the west corner of the building's annex.
If you peeked at the calendar on our kitchen wall, you'd see a small note on this date: Dodger '91. Similar notations are scattered throughout the months of the year. They generally mark the birth day and year of various members of our family. I'm there, Nancy is there, the kids, the grandkids, parents, nieces and nephews, siblings, the whole lot are there. When we finish a year, the notes are transferred to the next year's calendar.
The other evening, as I sat in bed reading, our youngest granddaughter came in, sat next to me and began to read a story aloud. We were staying with our son and his wife. When we do that, our granddaughter likes to sleep with her grandma. I had a bed to myself until Sage dropped in to read. The story she picked, from a collection of columns my brothers and I published years ago, was a piece I wrote about my dad and how strong his memory remained years after his death.
We were sitting around the other evening, reading and watching the Olympics, when Nancy said something about knocking off the quads. Last Christmas, our daughter gave me the new Robert Kennedy biography. I'm at the part where he starts running for president, and I guess I was focused more on that than the Olympics. When Nancy spoke, I looked up to see a young guy gliding across the glistening surface of the ice rink, doing a few spins and, you know, bends and leans. "Bends and leans'' are the only technical terms I know from figure skating.
Ever since I learned South Dakota was the first state to give its people the right to initiate and repeal laws, I've been awfully proud of us. I probably learned that in a school government class, but I really became aware of and interested in citizen initiative and referendum as a young reporter covering meetings of the South Dakota Constitutional Revision Commission.
I don't shop often, so I don't know where to find these things today, but back in my youth Valentine's Day was incomplete without little candy hearts with mushy sayings. I remember them being a bit larger than a pea, if peas grew in the shape of hearts. They came in various pastel colors, and a growing boy could probably eat 600 of them and go into sugar shock before he ever started to feel full. That's all they were, little sugar bombs. Some enterprising soul had the notion of writing catchy slogans on them, and a Valentine's Day tradition came to be.
Dean Byrnes, the last original member of the all-Lakota rock and roll band, "The Byrnes Boys,'' died recently at age 76. He and his two big brothers, who formed the band in the mid-1950s, were inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. They were in the Hall's first class of inductees, along with Bobby Vee, Myron Lee and the Caddies and Sherwin Linton. Dean, who had just finished eighth grade when he started playing drums in the band, was the only one of the three brothers still alive to receive the honor nine years ago.
I didn't mind when Walter Cronkite choked up on the air on Nov. 22, 1963, as he announced that President Kennedy had died in Dallas. It surprised me, because Cronkite never showed emotion. News anchors simply didn't. But the Kennedy assassination wasn't just any story. Across America, people were showing raw, honest emotion that day and in the dark days after. The nation's Uncle Walter could be forgiven for letting his emotions show, too, for a few moments.
I didn't hear anyone at the Grammy awards mention Buddy Holly, but I thought about the Texas singer and songwriter during a segment of the show that honored two other pioneers of rock and roll.