Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Moving Day

    Yesterday was moving day for our friends Stacey and Andre, and I helped move their few belongings into a big beautiful new (to them) house on Egan Avenue, one certainly over a century old. It went pretty smoothly except for a box spring that didn't want to go up the stairs into the bedroom, but a little minor carpentry, furniture repair work on the box spring, it squeezed up the stairs and we put it back together in the bedroom. 
     I got good news on the Toyota Tacoma that I bought from Tammy after Steve died and left it sitting in the driveway. It had a very bad miss, and Travis at Roger's Service was not hopeful about what it might be, but it turned out to be a failed injector, which they were able to replace yesterday. So I'll sell the Ranger and the Jeep and we'll be back to having just two vehicles here over the winter. That's the way we like it. 
    The Tacoma comes with a nice topper, and I still have to put tires on it, since the ones that are on it are virtually bald.  People say that not not knowing how bald we used to be willing to drive on tires, but these are bald bald.  
    Yesterday also included a walk to Tammy's to pick up the Tacoma, driving the rig to Roger's, walking home.  Then moving assistance.  Then a trip to Sioux Falls and grocery shopping for us and Mom at Costco and HyVee.  Then picking up chicken tikki masala for us and the JordanBerry's at Shahi Palace, and a drive home.  Then supper, and then a visit to Mom and my brother Jim, visiting on his way to St. Louis.  
    So it continues with the COVID-19 situation.  Trying to find balance between life as we once knew it and staying safe, especially from those who call the whole thing a hoax, a way to sell a lot of masks and destroy the planet by throwing masks on the ground, where they stay because nobody wants to pick them up.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020


I got my notice today that my results were in, and it's good to see that COVID-19 test came back negative. The wife (who hasn't been notified yet) and I have been careful, masking and keeping distance, holing up in the house and avoiding traveling and unnecessary contact with other people. We have a few friends who also keep a tight leash on their activities, and it's good to have them to share and meet with, helping to keep us all sane. Yesterday Dale and I planted 10 trees at four different houses, trees I got from the Arbor Day Foundation. Here's our list: At our house, a white pine and a white flowering dogwood. At Dale's house, a pin oak and river birch. At Angela's house, a silver maple, a redbud, and a sugar maple. At my rental house, a red oak and a red maple. In 20 years, we'll be rocking some cool trees!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Virus Testing

We've stayed at home and avoided crowds for months now, but today we'll get in the car and drive across the street to the Baughman Park parking lot where vans are waiting to offer coronavirus testing. The wife and I are signed up, but we are assuming that our diligence will have paid off and we will get clean bills of health. Then, this afternoon, I'll pick my mother up at Bethel Lutheran Home and take her to an appointment at the clinic. Such a small world we live in today.

Monday, June 01, 2020

A Week for the History Books

This week gave us a lot to think about and worry over as all across the United States protests against the blatant killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police erupted and often turned violent, not only in Minneapolis, but Sioux Falls and Duluth too saw violence and destruction. 
It's frustrating to see the legitimate protests against racial profiling and systemic racism become sidelined by violence and destruction and looting.  Opportunists see the disruption and extend it for their own gain, whether it be to subvert the nonviolent message of the protests or simply to get material gain from looting businesses. 
Deana and I were happy in Sioux Falls yesterday to see a huge crowd moving north along Minnesota Avenue, so many that they were disrupting traffic and extending their planned march through downtown.  Starting at 5:00 Sunday afternoon, by 6:00 the crowd, mostly of young people, were chanting the name of George Floyd and calling for justice and the end of racist practices. 
But when we returned to our home in Madison later that evening and saw the news that violence had erupted at the Empire Mall, and that the city was under curfew and the guard had been called out, the story was then a different one.  Teargas and rock-throwing youths and troops with their weapons drawn and lights flashing while drivers honked or zoomed past.  It's not the thing we imagine for South Dakota. 
And to see our Governor, Kristi Noem, appear last night to send a message to the people of Sioux Falls and South Dakota, and the first thing I see is her with her baseball cap pulled low over her eyes, I can't even look, and I turn off the television.  That cap is a signal of the disregard she has for the job she holds, to appear on camera at a microphone with her face half shrouded.  It is as though she's a football coach who has to face the media after her much vaunted team has just lost a big game, and she's out on the field with the glare of cameras on her.  I can't stand it.  So I don't know what she said except that violence has no place in South Dakota.
But one thing she can claim is that unlike the elected Democratic leaders who Donald Trump was railing against as he hid away in the bunker at the White House, she had called out the National Guard at the first sign of violence.  So some of this, at least, is fodder for the President as he campaigns for re-election. 
Meanwhile, what comfort can he give to a country that has seen violence escalate from coast to coast?  There won't be any.  He'll rail against his enemies and point the fingers at anyone he can think of to take the blame. 

Friday, May 22, 2020


Today the apple trees are dropping their petals and the lilacs are coming in to their full bloom, filling our back yard with their fragrance.  We have such an abundance that we've delivered a bouquet of lilacs to two homes--Kristina Adams and Jack Walters and his wife Sirje Kiin.  We could do more, but today it rains, helping to give a good start to the vegetables we planted and the flowers and bushes we moved yesterday in anticipation of a good soaking from the sky. 
Last night we watched an episode of Hoarders, where a couple in Washington state had filled their back yard and their home with so much trash it rose to the ceiling and all the floors were covered so that they were walking and sleeping on trash. 
It's not a program I plan to return to--the vivid images of that trash, and the reluctance to part with it by the man and woman will be hard to forget, and there's no reason to remember it, only keep in mind for myself that the accumulation of bicycles or books or records or pens does nothing but tie you to objects.  And the objects give little, if not nothing, in return. 
Let us be like the lilacs, offering our gifts freely and preparing for the fade. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Last Day

May 21, 2020, today, is the last day of my contract with DSU, where I have been working since 1996.  My teaching career goes back to 1984, when that spring I finished my M.A. in English at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and took a one-year temporary job at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. 
I discovered when I was there that my grandfather, Sidney Clifford Nelson, had gone there when it was still Billings Polytechnic Institute, but I couldn't find evidence beyond a single mention in a yearbook. 
From there I took a job at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, Kansas, a Catholic school with liberal leanings operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita.  Many of the faculty there were women, sisters with the PhD's and masters degrees who, given the choice between marriage and motherhood and an independent, educated religious life, chose education and good works and chastity. 
That school ran afoul of the law, wracking up unpaid student loans in a mistaken alliance with a truck-driving school that scammed its students. 
When it closed in 1992, I took a year to try and finish my PhD at the University of Kansas, but I was undisciplined and depressed and when I was offered a job at Sisseton Wahpeton Community College in South Dakota, I took it. 
There the tiny faculty team struggled to bring our courses to a poverty-stricken Native population and others in that far north region, and the politics finally consumed it, and in 1996, our college president, a wildly unpredictable and petty man from a tribe in Minnesota, called me a racist and let me and other white people go. 
That brought me to DSU, a phone call I remember taking, standing in my kitchen at the phone and moving to the porch where it was more quiet and I could hear a lifeline being thrown to me that would carry me the next 25 years. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tentatively, Beginning Again

I'm retired.  I hope that means I will turn more to writing as an outlet, that I'll finally tell a story about growing up in the way that I did, not that it's all that dramatic or angst-ridden, but that it was unusual, that it was western.  Not what many people face today or even remember.  Even then, in the 60s, it was a little strange.  Even in Fort Pierre, our experiences were different: while my classmates might be playing baseball and riding bikes around town or working at a drive-in ice cream shop, my brothers and I disappeared on to ranches to be ranch hands.  To be cowboys.