The first time I visited Minneapolis, I got hopelessly lost on a dark Sunday night driving back to my college in South Dakota. I didn’t even know which direction I was going.
The first time a dentist prepared to fill a cavity in one of my teeth, I turned down his offer of Novacaine. I didn’t know if the family could afford it.
As a high school kid who grew up in a time of packed dirt or cinder running tracks and unpredictable spring weather, I envied the California track athletes their fine facilities and sunshine.
When I was growing up and telling the world I’d never become a farmer, my dad used to caution me, “You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.’’
I never attended a one-room country school, but it wasn’t until I started third grade that I was placed in a classroom that only had kids of the same grade.
When I was a kid, even before rural electricity arrived and enabled us to play a phonograph any time we wished, music filled our small farm house nearly every evening.
"My dad took a nut that I couldn’t budge with a box-end wrench and twisted it free with his bare hand. That’s a guy who was cut out for farming."
"They wheedled and questioned and kicked tires and looked under the hood, bad-mouthed the prospective purchase and poor-mouthed their financial situations."
I always thought the John Deere 720 we used on the farm was a giant tractor, but when I went on a newspaper assignment to a massive farm in the central part of South Dakota, I realized I’d been wrong my whole life.
The first year I remember staying awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve was when we moved from the farm into town for our school years.
"My mom had many Christmas ornaments and decorations. The Santa and elves are pretty much all I wanted."
"Dad looked at good fortune and bad luck as just two ends of the same stick."
"Thanksgiving way back when is hazy. Maybe that’s because my mom made four- and five-course meals every single day."
"I haven’t a clue who dreamed up the slogan 'Spring ahead, fall back,' but it’s about the handiest four words in the English language."
“South Dakota is the sixth best state to start a farm or ranch.’’ The headline popped up on an unsolicited email, and while I figured it was spam, I couldn’t keep myself from reading more about the topic.
A friend of mine, another newspaper guy, absolutely loves duck hunting. He is about ducks the way my dad was about geese, which was “plumb loco,’’ as my mom used to say.
I grew up on a South Dakota farm, working the land and the cattle but never intending to become an actual farmer as an adult.
"My kids ... never had the chance to ride with him in the old blue pickup, bouncing over the west pasture looking for newborn calves."
"Farming was what my dad was, as much a part of him as was singing in the choir on Sundays or reading the Saturday Evening Post after supper."
Back on the farm, when day after identical steamy August day rolled past like sheets of paper from a photocopy machine, the work continued but the pace tensions eased.
"I never minded being the one mowing lakebeds and ditches and stray pieces of pasture where the grazing cattle had missed the grass in a few spots."
"On the farm, a person almost always felt good about the rain, even when it messed up some plans, turned the feedlot into a muddy mess and put us a couple of days behind on the haying."
My dad liked to shoot a few fireworks, mostly those adult-sized skyrockets, on the Fourth of July, while my mom thought every last Roman candle, Gorilla, Ladyfinger and sparkler should be banished from the planet.
"I think the thing I miss most about Dad not being around isn’t the additional time I might have had with him. It’s the time my kids might have had, and my grandkids, too."
"To someone who grew up in a big city, who never worked the land, that story probably makes farming sound awful. I never thought of it that way."