Jim Woster

Jim Woster

It is often said that the hardest aspect of writing a column such as this is getting started. Over the years, in conversations about this column and writing in general, I have said that most anyone can write if they choose a topic about which they are passionate. In the case of the old stockyards guy, that relative ease of writing most often involves family, South Dakota and my wonderful years in the business of marketing – especially marketing as it pertains to the Sioux Falls Stockyards. This column is entirely different. Allow me to explain why.

As of this writing, we are in the middle of the third week of a very strict restrictions on social and business activity. The only word I can conjure to describe the setting is weird. OK, perhaps “surreal” would work, but regardless of the wording, we are living in a totally different world. No one, at least not at this point in time, can predict the overall impact on our local, state and national economies, but my hope is we can avoid devastation.

I worry especially about the small business owners and the world in which I have lived my life, agriculture. We can only hope that Dad’s old adage, “Usually what we worry about the most doesn’t happen,” becomes a reality. However, at this point and based on what is happening, it is hard to assume an attitude involving that much optimism. One thing I wish is that we could advance enough in our understanding and control of the virus to allow our churches to open their doors. Perhaps by this writing that will have happened.

Speaking of church, in the absence of a regular Sunday service, a televised Mass was offered by the Bishop from St. Joe’s Cathedral, which I decided to “attend.” I was reminded during the service that I would be a terrible online student at any level. I think it was Nell Labidee, my high school English teacher at Chamberlain, who commented to Mother one time, “Jimmy is very good at English. What he’s not good at is sitting still.” Some things never change.

I’m still not certain as to what the word “quarantine” represents, but I know how it works in our city. I can’t begin to imagine how it would be implemented in Midtown Manhattan or Los Angeles, but according to our children, who live in those cities, for the most part it’s beginning to work.

I remember while growing up, several periods of Mother Marie-imposed quarantine: whooping cough, the “hard measles,” a vicious flu epidemic, and most importantly that period in the late 1940s and early 1950s when polio was woven through our nation.

People were scared – really scared – and that included Mother Marie. Her youngsters have visited about our Saturday evening “trip to town” and our total confinement to the car – confined, I might add, with the windows rolled up. So much for Ed Sorenson’s 35-cent weekend movie, complete with a large bag of popcorn for a dime. Certainly, no standing around with a few friends on the corner by Casey’s Drug Store. The fear of that horrible disease makes understandable most any course of preventive action, but a slow death due to heat stroke might also have been a consideration!

With any situation there is always an upside, and this one happens to be the technology available in the field of communication.

A couple weekends ago, Penny received a call from our daughter in Minneapolis, complete with the directions to join something called Zoom. Five minutes later, our entire family, Jimmy in L.A., Michelle’s clan in Minneapolis and Sara’s family in Brooklyn, New York, were visiting as if we were all sitting in our back yard in Sioux Falls. The video and audio connection offered amazing sound and clarity. What a day-brightening break in a rather gloomy Sunday afternoon! Can you imagine if those serving our military in World War II, for example, would have had a similar technology?!

All would agree that our current situation is different, complex and poses a hardship on most families and very importantly on agriculture and our many small businesses. We should also agree that things will get better and the reason is simple, it must.

Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.