Bits & Pieces

The State Fair- An excerpt from the novel, Flyover County

 

The State Fair looked like something Hollywood Director Frank Capra would have made for a Hollywood epic. Though the equipment might be newer, the scene could have easily fit into Bedford Falls with Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey taking Mary and the kids to the Fair. There were rides near the front and animal exhibits along the sides and back. Down the Midway were display booths and food carts. Cotton candy and kettle corn abounded.

The rides were no comparison to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania or Great Adventure in New Jersey. Bill had taken the kids to those parks the summer before they moved. The rides in use here were not permanent. The had to be transported by truck from event to event. Bill didn’t expect to see any big rides but he was surprised at the rides that were here. He looked at some of them and tried to figure out how they ‘transformed’ back into a semi trailer.

“I wanna go on the rides!” Cory said.

“I want to see the horses.” Jessie said.

“We are going to do our best to see and do everything today. The rides and the animals will come. Right now I want to ride on the wagon. We are going to take a tour of the fair.”

The Weber family got on the tram wagon that was being pulled by a farm tractor and took a ride around the fairgrounds. Bill was surprised at the size and layout. It took them almost 45 minutes to go around once. He and June started putting a plan together on how to get the most out of the day. The day would start with the 4H exhibits then to the horses and farm animals. Back over for some rides and then a walk down the Midway and through some of the exhibition buildings. A stop for lunch would happen somewhere along the way. That was enough of a plan. The rest they would take in as they saw it.

They jumped off at the 4H section and toured the exhibits. Bill was amazed at what the young kids were doing. He talked to one fourteen year old girl who knew more about raising cattle then he had learned in his lifetime. It was the same with the other exhibits. The youngsters knew their craft and were more than happy to share what they knew. Bill thought this part of the Fair would be boring and he would tolerate it for the kid’s sake. As it turned out the Weber family had to keep waiting for dad.

They continued the livestock tour with the poultry and rabbit building, then the cows. “I had no idea they were so big!” June said as she stood in the huge cow barn looking up at a bull ten feet away. “From the road they don’t look that big.”

Bill got talking to one of the exhibitors. He had a ranch ‘west river’ and brought animals to the fair every year. This year his grandson was the prime exhibitor. He was just along to help. Bill figured out a while ago, that the state was divided east and west by the Missouri River. Folks ‘west river’ were ranchers with cowboy hats and boots while folks ‘east’ were farmers with ball caps and bib overalls. There was a geographical and a school rivalry that played into their daily lives.

 From there they went on to the Hippodrome so Jessie could see the horses. They stopped there to watch a group practicing for the barrel racing scheduled for later that day. Jessie led the family to the paddocks to try to find her friend. They looked around but didn’t see her friend or her horse. They walked away from the horses and stumbled onto an exotic animal display and petting zoo.

Then it was Cory’s turn. Bill bought a handful of ride tickets and he and June watched the kids get thrown, shaken and spun for a while. Bill was still trying to figure out how they got the things packed into or onto a trailer.

A walk down the midway is an experience missed by many who do not live in the Midwest. It is a wonder just how many foods can be served on a stick.

They walked a while wandering into some of the buildings and tents that had displays. “Bill,” June tugged his shirt sleeve, “isn’t that the Governor?”

“Where?”

“In front of the building with the rounded roof.”

“It sure looks like him.” Bill discounted what he saw. “It can’t be. There’s no security, no state police around him. He must just be a guy that looks like the governor.”

“Well, it could be his twin.” June was not convinced. “Let’s go over that way. If it is him, I want the kids to meet him.”

“Okay,” Bill said, “but I don’t think it could be the governor.” On the way across the midway Bill passed a white marble statue. He did a double take when he thought the statue winked at him. He didn’t stop. He figured his eyes were playing tricks on him.

June interrupted his thought. “Well if it isn’t, who’s that standing next to him? The twin of the Lt. Governor?”

“You know the Lt. Governor?”

“He cut the ribbon for the clinic’s Grand Opening.” June continued to walk toward the two men. As she got closer she saw the big REPUBLICAN sign over the wide building entrance. “That makes sense,” she thought to herself.

She was about twenty five feet away when the Lt. Governor saw her. “June! How are you? How’s that new clinic?”

“It’s going great, thank you.”

He turned to the governor, “Here is someone I want you to meet, Governor, this is June Weber. She runs the new Helen Clinic.”

The Governor turned and put out his hand, not in a politician’s handshake but an honest greeting, “It’s a pleasure to meet you June. You’re the one who saved that boy’s life?”

“Well, the doctor did,” June said, deflecting any sure to come praise. “I would like to introduce my family. This is my husband Bill and our daughter Jessie and son Cory.

Its good to meet all of you.” He shook hands all around almost kneeling to get to Cory’s level. “June, that clinic of yours is a true blessing to the Helen area. I was at a dinner two weeks ago with the board of St. Agnes. John Franklin gave a presentation on the clinics. The work they are doing for the rural parts of the state is truly wonderful. Mark tells me that you and you’re family moved here from back east?”

“That’s right Governor…”

“Call me Donald.”

June suppressed a girlish chuckle, “Okay Donald. We moved from what I used to call a small town between Philadelphia and Baltimore.”

“Now you live in Helen, South Dakota?”

“That’s right,” June answered. “I have the clinic and Bill works in Kent.”

“And what do you do, Bill?”

“I’m in real estate.”

“I’ll bet that trade is a little different here.”

“I’m still getting used to it, but I have a good mentor.”

“That wouldn’t be Jack Huber, would it?”

Bill was startled. It was a question he was not prepared for. After a second he recovered. “Jack and I became friends while I was looking for property out here. Eventually he offered me a job.”

“You couldn’t have a better teacher. He was Kent County Chairman for the Republican Party for years. I met him when I was in the legislature. He was President of the South Dakota Association of Realtors. That was years ago. We’ve been friends since.”

“Governor,” an aide walked up, “you have the presentation at the Woman’s building at two.”

The Governor looked at his watch, “That’s twenty minutes. I’d better get going. It’s only a hundred yards, but at the fair it can take me fifteen minutes to get one hundred yards. If you’ll excuse me, if I start now I can walk to the presentation. If I wait I’ll have to go by golf cart.”

“Thanks for saying hello, Governor,” June said.

The pleasure was mine,” Donald said and walked off with his aide.

“I think your state Senator is inside if you would like to meet her,” the Lt. Governor said.

“Certainly,” Bill answered.

Mark took them into the building and found a middle aged woman sitting at a large spool table bedecked with a round red and white checkered tablecloth. “Mary, these are the Webers. They just moved into your district. I thought you would like to say hello.”

Hello Webers. My name is Mary Larson. I am your State Senator.”

“Can I get you some coffee or a cup of water?” Mark asked.

“Oh,” June was surprised that the Lt. Governor was offering to fetch for them. “no thanks.”

Mark didn’t stop. “Jessie, Cory, would you like a cookie? We have cookies over by the water jug.”

“Yes please,” Jessie answered for both of them.

“Why don’t you come pick out what you want,” Mark, said, “if Mom doesn’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind.” June was thinking the Lt. Governor of the state of South Dakota wants to give my children cookies. Why should I mind?

“So, when did you move to Helen?” Mary asked.

“We got here last June,” Bill answered.

“How do you like it?”

“We love it,” June said. “We are enjoying a summer without stifling humidity and have met some of the friendliest people in the world.”

“The summers here are nice but you haven’t seen a winter yet.”

They laughed politely.

Mark came back with Jessie and Cory and pulled up a chair. While June continued her conversation with Mary, he asked Bill about moving from the east.

“So, why the move Bill? You have family here?”

“No, actually we really didn’t know anyone out here a year ago. I sold a house for a client who moved out here. In the course of the sale we got to be friends. He told us about the area and it intrigued me.”

“That was enough to move your family?”

“No.” Bill went on, “It was a combination of many things. The economy back east was very bad, the housing market was, and still is, in the tank. Crime was creeping out of the cities and into the suburbs. Traffic and congestion was getting out of control. I couldn’t drive a half mile without having to stop at a traffic light. I-95 was a nightmare. I didn’t like where I was. I didn’t think it was safe for my family but I didn’t know of anything better.”

“Then you found Helen?”

“Then I found Tom Ogden. I sold his house in Fairview and he sold me on Helen. We came out to look for ourselves and I knew moving here was the right thing to do, not only for me, but for June and the kids.”

“That’s an amazing story. Thanks for telling me about that.”

“People who have lived here all their lives have no idea what they have here,” Bill said.

“I know what you mean.” Mark said. “I spent six years in the Navy and I couldn’t wait to get back home. Not that I didn’t like the Navy, they took good care of me. I just missed South Dakota.”

“Spoken like a true Lt. Governor,” Bill said and they both laughed.

Bill was starting to like Mark. He was another down to earth regular guy. “This is just what I mean.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m walking around the State Fair with my family one minute, next minute I’m sitting at a table telling jokes with the Lt. Governor. You can’t do that back east. Not unless you pay for a seat at a one thousand dollar a plate dinner. Here it’s commonplace. People from here don’t find it unusual. People from Fairview would never believe it.”

“One of the things I’m trying to do as Lt. Governor is to find a way of broadcasting what you just said. If more people knew what we had here in our state, it would be more attractive to families and businesses. I’m trying to reach people who are fed up with the taxes and regulations in their home states. Did you know that we have been designated the most business friendly state by Forbes two years in a row?”

“No, I didn’t, but I can see why,” Bill answered.

“Can I call you? I would like to talk more about this.”

“Sure,” Bill reached into his pocket, “here’s my card.”

Thanks Bill. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some politickin’ to do.”

“Thank you Mark.”

They shook hands again. Mark shook June’s hand and moved off toward the front of the building.

June stood up when Bill did and the kids stood too. She said her goodbyes to Mary and assured her they would meet soon.

“You had quite a conversation with Mark,” June said.

“He’s a great guy. He’s easy to talk to. Not like those blowhards we had to deal with back east. He’s real folks.”

“So is Mary. She asked me to give a presentation on allergic reactions to her woman’s club.”

She is our State Senator?” Bill asked.

“That’s right.” Then June stopped, “What is that music?”

“Sounds like it’s coming from down that way,” Bill answered. “Let’s go check it out.”

As they walked toward the music they passed several other exhibit buildings. They came around a corner to find a large stage with a tall backdrop to shade the audience from the afternoon sun. In front of the stage was row upon row of single bleacher seats. On stage was a group of young musicians calling themselves Pure Corn. They were doing more than simply playing older contemporary music, they would stop mid song and tell a joke. It was in the format of the old Laugh-In or He Haw TV shows. Play a song for thirty seconds, tell a joke then play again. Some of the jokes were old, some were just silly. That’s why they called themselves “Pure Corn”.

They played “How Dry I Am” and told “Guy walks into a Bar…” jokes, then they played Turkey in the Straw and told farm jokes. Everybody in the audience was laughing even though most had heard the jokes before. The talent of the players made the whole thing funny. Bill and June laughed at the old jokes too. He had to explain a couple to Jessie. By the time they were done Cory was starting to fidget.

Bill saw the cookies had stayed down so he was fairly sure the after effects of the rides had passed. It was time for the food court. Here was offered several selections from both local and chain restaurants. They chose roast beef sandwiches made from local South Dakota Certified Beef. They sat down at one of the many picnic tables placed in the center of the food court. Across from them at the table was an older couple.

“What a beautiful day for the Fair,” the large balding man said.

Yes it is,” Bill agreed.

“My name is Mike and this is my wife Betsy.”

Betsy was also on the heavier side and had a grandmother look about her.

“Nice to meet you,” Bill answered. “I’m Bill Weber and this is my wife June. Here is our daughter Jessie and our son Cory.”

“How do you like the Fair?” Betsy asked Jessie.

“I liked watching the horses.” Jessie said. “They were practicing for the barrel racing later. I hope we can go see it.”

“We went on the rides and I touched a camel,” Cory added to the conversation.

“Not many camels here in South Dakota, Cory. That makes it special.” Mike turned to June, “You folks live near here?”

“No, we came over from Helen.” June said. “We moved there last spring.”

“Nice town, Helen,” Betsy said. “I have a cousin who lives there. Do you know Fred Parks?”

“That name isn’t familiar,” June shook her head. “But we have only been there a few months.”

Fred doesn’t live in town. He has a farm outside of town. His daughter has a horse in the show later.”

“Oh, you mean Candy Parks?” Jessie jumped in. “She a friend of mine. Me and Frank….

“Frank and I,” June corrected.

“Frank and I go to her house all the time to help with the horses.”

Bill laughed. “Only in South Dakota.”

“What dear?” June asked.

“Only in South Dakota can we sit down with our lunch and meet someone who is related to our daughter's friend. That’s one of the things I love about living here. We strike up a conversation with two strangers and find that we have something in common.”

“It happens to us all the time,” Betsy said, “we are both from a big family and we are also very active in FFA, so we meet a lot of people.”

“What is the FFA?” June asked. “I have heard it before and I know it has something to do with kids and farming.”

It was Mike’s turn. “FFA used to be Future Farmers of America. They changed it to FFA back in the eighties. We are an organization that works with youngsters interested in agri-business as a career.”

“So it’s like 4H?”

“Not really, many people think so. Four H is run by the USDA and we are a private organization.” Mike continued. “We focus more on education for middle and high school children while the Four H programs start much younger. Four H is more focused on hands on learning while FFA has a more academic consideration. Both are good organizations, both allow children to experience agriculture. They just go about it with different approaches.”

“Didn’t I read something about Helen in the paper. Something about the clinic there saving a kid’s life on the first day it was opened?” Betsy asked.

“That’s right. June is…” Bill felt a mild kick under the table.

“We’re really proud of our new clinic,” June said. “The family was from Nebraska. The boy was stung by a bee and went into shock. If the clinic was not there, he could have died before they got him to a hospital.”

“I’ll bet the parents of that boy were glad they found Helen, South Dakota and your new clinic,” Mike said. “Well, Betsy, we’ve got to get going. We have that talk to give.”

“It was really great meeting you folks. Jessie when you see Candy you tell her you had dinner with Aunt Betsy and Uncle Mike.”

“I will.”

“Enjoy the rest of the Fair.”

“Sure will.”

Once they were gone, Bill turned to his wife, “Why did you stop me? I’m proud of what you did.”

“I know you are dear, but you don’t have to go shouting it from the roof tops every time someone brings it up.” June closed the subject.

The Webers left the food court and turned to walk back up the Midway. Bill realized that the marble statue was no longer there. He looked at the empty pedestal and laughed.

“What?” June asked.

“Nothing.”

They continued their walk around the fairgrounds and happened upon a large pen. There were bleachers set up on one side. “I wonder what that’s about,” June asked.

“I’m not sure,” Bill answered, “but there’s a crowd gathering. Want to wait and see?”

“It’s a lion tamer Dad,” Jessie said pointing to a sign. “Let’s watch.”

“Sure,” Bill agreed and they found a spot in the stands.

There were large areas that the Webers skipped. The farm machinery was one and the RV’s for sale was another. They did stop for a while to watch trained Border Collies herd sheep from one pen to another. Bill stopped at a building sponsored by the local GM dealer and looked at the new Escalade. He didn’t linger, the family was getting tired. He took a brochure and the salesman’s card and kept moving.

By early evening, the family had experienced all they could do in one day. It was about six when they decided to head for home. It had been a full day. Bill was glad he had taken Lonny’s advice. By the time the day was done the last thing Bill wanted to do was walk a long way to the car. They were out the gate of the fairgrounds and across the street to the Escalade. “I’m not up to cooking supper, Bill. My feet are shot.”

“I understand and already thought of that. We’ll stop at the Helen House before we go home. We’ll let Darla do the cooking tonight.”

“You’re on.” June said.

The drive back was quiet. The kids both fell asleep in the back and the adults didn’t talk. It was the kind of silence that comes with being comfortable with the one you are with. There was no need to carry on a conversation or to try to impress. They were happy and nothing more need be said.

Bill stopped in front of the Helen house and looked in the mirror. “Do you think we should wake them up?”

“No, let’s just go home,” June replied.

They pulled into the driveway and got the kids out. June got Jessie out and moving while Bill carried Cory, who was the imitation of a rag doll. He took him in an laid him on his bed. Then met June back in the kitchen.

“This is one of those times I wish we could order pizza delivery,” June said.

“I know what you mean,” Bill answered. “Are your feet as tired as mine?”

“My feet haven’t hurt like this since I left Community Hospital.”

“Think the kids will sleep all night?”

“Probably not.”

“Let’s get out some lamburger patties and I’ll grill ‘em when they get up.” Bill said.

“Sounds good.” They had discovered ‘lamburgers’ at a cookout with the Ogdens earlier that summer. They were so sold on the flavor, they never went back to hamburgers. “Right now, I just want to get off my feet.”

“I’ll take Freckles out.”

June sighed, “Thank you.”

The State Fair had been all they had expected, and more. The part they hadn’t expected was tired feet.

Bill went over the day in his mind. He talked to a fourteen year old girl about how to raise beef cattle, to a couple who were helping others do the same, to the Governor who knows his business partner, to joking with the Lt. Governor and a lion tamer act. It was a full day.

Life on the High Plains

The Harvest

This appeared on the Flyover County Blog October first.

I have had the privilege of living in the middle of farm country for the past twelve years. I have learned a good deal since moving here. Much of it to do with farming. When I grew up the US Central Plains were called the “The World’s Breadbasket” because of the acres upon acres upon more acres of wheat grown around here. Today it is called “The Corn Belt” or “The Grain Belt”. 

Life on the High Plains takes on a whole different flavor this time of year. Everyone who can be is involved in the harvest. There are pre teen boys and girls coming home from grammar school and climbing into six figure equipment to spell mom or dad. There are great grandfathers in the eighties running combines and semi tractor trailers. The “Family Farm” takes on an entirely different meaning during these weeks. I have a neighbor (a young man today) who has been driving tractors hauling grain carts since he was six years old. I worked with a great grandpa who pulled a one hundred twenty thousand pound twin trailer semi truck at the age of eighty nine.

At home, things are different too. Mom may be cooking, but not for the table. Everything she prepares is packed and taken out to the folks in the field. There is no sit down supper. Everyone eats on the fly. Local restaurants set records for take out orders in October. This happens when mom is in the field too.

Each year during this time I come out of my retirement and drive a semi tractor-trailer for a neighbor. That’s right, for six weeks I am semi-retired. (Okay I had to do it - sorry). I drive loads of grain to the local elevator or the farm for on-farm storage. I get to travel across the two lane roads of Middle America and see the great ballet in action. Large green and red combines are moving in slow motion across the fields. To me they look like modern day prairie schooners cleaning and gleaning the fields. I watch the grain disappear into large tractor towed carts then to hopper bottom semi trucks. I see the fields, bright green just weeks ago, give up their bounty to the men and women who labored to get the best possible results.

Day after day for the next four to six weeks I will watch the food come out of the fields. I will watch as people, young and old, work to feed not only America, but the world. When it is over, the fields will be bare and ready for snow cover.

Life is cyclic almost everywhere, but here, in farm country, the cycles are much more defined. Thank you, neighbors, for allowing this not so country boy to become a part of feeding the world. 

I have had the privilege of living in the middle of farm country for a past twelve years. I have learned a good deal since moving here. Much of it to do with farming. When I grew up the US Central Plains were called the “The World’s Breadbasket” because of the acres upon acres upon more acres of wheat grown around here. Today it is called “The Corn Belt” or “The Grain Belt”. 

Life on the High Plains takes on a whole different flavor this time of year. Everyone who can be is involved in the harvest. There are pre-teen boys and girls coming home from grammar school and climbing into six figure equipment to spell mom or dad. There are great grandfathers in their eighties running combines and semi tractor trailers. The “Family Farm” takes on an entirely different meaning during these weeks. I have a neighbor (a young man today) who has been driving tractors hauling grain carts since he was six years old. I worked with a great grandpa who pulled a one hundred twenty thousand pound twin trailer semi truck at the age of eighty-nine.

At home, things are different too. Mom may be cooking, but not for the table. Everything she prepares is packed and taken out to the folks in the field. There is no sit-down supper. Everyone eats on the fly. Local restaurants set records for take out orders in October. This happens when mom is in the field too.

Each year during this time I come out of my retirement and drive a semi tractor-trailer for a neighbor. That’s right, for six weeks I am semi-retired. (Okay I had to do it - sorry). I drive loads of grain to the local elevator or the farm for on-farm storage. I get to travel across the two lane roads of Middle America and see the great ballet in action. Large green and red combines are moving in slow motion across the fields. To me they look like modern-day, prairie schooners cleaning and gleaning the fields. I watch the grain disappear into large tractor towed carts then to hopper bottom semi trucks. I see the fields, bright green just weeks ago, give up their bounty to the men and women who labored to get the best possible results.

Day after day for the next four to six weeks I will watch the food come out of the fields. I will watch as people, young and old, work to feed not only America, but the world. When it is over, the fields will be bare and ready for snow cover.

Life is cyclic almost everywhere, but here, in farm country, the cycles are much more defined. Thank you, neighbors, for allowing this not so country boy to become a part of feeding the world.
 

The Post Office Walk

 

An incident similar to this actually happened to me when I was visiting a friend in rural Iowa back in the eighties. It typifies life in small town America.

 

To set the stage, Bill Weber is a suburban transplant and new to small town living. Henry is the mayor of Helen, SD (pop 295). Henry owns a small engine repair shop and Bill is a realtor in the county seat.

 

Henry's home is less than one hundred yards from the post office, yet Henry would drive to get his mail each morning. When Bill challenged Henry about driving such a short distance, Henry replied it took too long to walk.

 

Bill bet Henry a cup of coffee at the Helen House Cafe they could walk to the post office from Henry's home in under five minutes. Here's what happened.

 

* * *

 

Bill walked up to Henry’s door at eight fifteen Friday morning. He didn’t get the chance to knock. Henry greeted him with a coffee in a ‘to go’ cup. “Good morning, Bill.”

“Good morning, Henry.”

“Nice morning for a walk. Didn’t you bring a jacket?”

“I have one in the car. I don’t think I’ll need it just to go a couple hundred feet.”

“Bill, please take my advice, get your jacket.”

Bill laughed, “You’re going to play this to the bitter end. All right, I’ll play along.” Bill went back to the Escalade and got his replica Navy Leather Flying Jacket from the front seat.

“Nice jacket,” Henry said. “Well, ready to walk?”

“Sure thing. Let me start the timer in my phone, just to keep things honest.”

“Go ahead, but you won’t need it.”

As they walked down the driveway, Bill told him the story about the jacket. “I had a neighbor back east who was a Navy Veteran. He used to fly in those big submarine hunter airplanes. He had a jacket like this. When he retired, they let him keep it. I liked the looks of it so I found this replica on line.”

They got to the sidewalk and turned toward the corner. Bill was thinking this was an easy bet in about one minute they would arrive at the Post Office. A pickup truck pulled up and the window came down.

“Good morning Bill, Henry.” Oscar Richlind was sitting in the driver’s seat. “You folks in cahoots trying to figure out how to sell the town this morning?”

“Actually we are working on a bet,” Henry said.

“A bet?”

“Bill bet me I could walk to the Post Office in under five minutes.”

“That’s funny Henry. I’d better get going then or I’ll screw up the bet for Bill. I’ll stop by the shop later. I want to talk to you about the zoning change I need.”

“Do that Oscar.”

“How’s that house, Bill?”

“Couldn’t be better.”

“Good. We’ll, see-ya.”

“Have a good day Oscar,” Bill said as the window went up. “One of the best things I ever did was buy his house. June and I really love it.”

“I see you sold Wendell’s place.”

“That was easy. The couple…..”

Ka… Bang!

“What the…..”

“Oh, sorry about that.” A man on an antique tractor said as he pulled to a stop. “I just can’t get the backfire out of this thing.”

“Good morning, Terry. You know Bill Weber?”

“You’re that Real Estate man that moved into the parsonage, right?”

“That’s right,” Bill said. “And you are?”

“Terry Falcon, I’m the Parts manager at Helen Case.”

“So, what’s this? You folks are doing ‘take your tractor to work day?’” Henry asked.

“Oh no, we do that in August when things are a bit slower,” Terry replied, not realizing it was a joke. “I can’t get the backfire out of this engine. Every time I pull back the throttle quickly, it backfires. I’m taking it to the shop so Larry can look at it at dinnertime. I saw you walking so I figured I’d ask you about it, too.”

“I know a little about those old magneto ignitions,” Henry said. “If Larry can’t figure it out, bring it by the shop and I’ll give it a look.”

“Sure thing. Well, I’d better get going. Those parts won’t sell themselves.” With that, Terry spooled up the engine rpm again and drove off toward Helen Case IH Implement and Supply.

“That’s a beautiful antique,” Bill said.

“Terry has about six of them. He restores them for a hobby. He says he does it to make money, but he has never sold one after he got it done.”

As they got to the corner another car pulled up. “I thought it was you.”

“Good morning Harvey,” Bill said. “How are you?”

“I’m doing fine. I need to talk to you about Uncle Alan’s house. We moved him to Lazy Acres last month and we want to sell the place. Can you handle it?”

“Sure,” Bill answered. “Let’s find a time when we can get together and walk through it.” Bill reached for his card and handed it to Harvey. “Here, this card has all my numbers on it. Give me a call and we’ll set it up.”

“We’re holding the household and furniture auction in two weeks so the place will be cleaned out. You think I should hold back the appliances?”

“Let’s take a look before the auction. I want to see for myself before I give you any advice.”

“Good enough. Look, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you early next week.”

“I’ll call you if you want,” Bill replied.

“Please do that,” Harvey said with a nod. “We’ll see ya Bill, Henry.”

“So long Harvey,” Henry said.

They got to the corner and crossed the street. A man was walking the other direction and stopped. “Good morning Henry, Bill.”

“Good morning Dan,” Henry said, smiling. “How you feeling?”

“Feeling good now. Doc says I need to walk at least a mile a day to build up my stamina.”

“That’s going to be difficult here in a couple months,” Bill said out loud what he was thinking, “I don’t think I’d want to walk a mile or more on a cold South Dakota winter morning.”

“I got a treadmill at an auction sale the other week. I have it in the basement for when it gets really cold. I don’t think I’ll like it as much. I like to get outside and see things as I walk. Did you see the Lesterton’s are getting a new roof?”

“No,” Henry said. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“They aren’t shingling, they are going with a steel roof.”

“Steel?” Henry said. “That’s kind of spendy, isn’t it?”

“Earnest told me it was about the same, or a bit less.”

“That’s surprising,” Bill said. “I always thought the steel roofs were more money than the standard shingle roof.”

“Me too, until Ernest set me straight.” Dan looked down the road, “Well, I’d better keep moving. I’m not getting my exercise standing here.”

“Have a good day Dan,” Henry said for both of them.

Bill and Henry walked up the sidewalk to the Post Office as they reached the front of the building, a woman walked out. “Henry, I thought you were inside. I saw your Jeep here.”

It was at that point that Bill noticed Henry’s jeep in the parking lot.

“No, I put it there last night. I walked over with Bill this morning.”

The answer satisfied the woman. She didn’t ask for any further explanation. “Are you and Grace coming to the Ladies Auxiliary social this Saturday?”

“Grace mentioned it last week. I sure intend to be there. Is Agnes going to bring her rhubarb pies?” Henry turned to Bill, “Agnes Higgins, that’s Alice’s mother in law, makes the best rhubarb pie in the world. I’m not partial to rhubarb, but I love her pies. They auction them off as part of the fundraiser. The pies will go for over fifty dollars each.”

“They’re that good?”

“They’re that good, plus it's a donation to the Legion Auxiliary,” Henry said.

“Agnes has been baking pies this whole week. She’ll have plenty,” the woman said.

“Then I’m sure we’ll be there,” Henry replied.

“Wonderful, well I’d best get on my way.”

“See you at the social,” Henry said.

“You bet.”

They walked into the Post Office and Henry said, “Think you need to check your timer?”

Bill looked at his phone. Nineteen minutes had passed since they left Henry’s driveway. “Nineteen minutes. But you can’t count the last encounter. You would have seen Alicia anyway when you drove over.”

“Not necessarily, I could have been over and back before she got here.”

“How about the time with Harvey? He stopped to talk to me.”

“You know Harvey, he would have stopped even if I had been alone. He would have had a question about the sale, or something else.”

“Point taken. You win. I’ll buy the coffee,” Bill said.

“I’ll drive. I want to get there before dinner.” They both laughed.

“Good morning Beverly,” Henry said.

“That’s a cheery voice, I guess you won the bet.”

“Hands down,” Henry said.

“I learned another lesson in country living this morning,” Bill agreed.

 

* * *

 

You can find this story and others like it in Flyover County.

 

I got a nice letter from a fellow author I met at the Doland Book Signing. He writes a weekly column for the Brookings Register. 
Here is his note:


Hi Richard
We visited a bit in the library at the book signing. You were kind enough to buy a couple of my books, Postcards from SD and the one about SD prohibition. I write a weekly column for the Brookiings Register. Have written the column Stubble Mulch (look it up under soil conservation) for forty years.
I used some of your comments in my column for next week, and thought you'd like to see it. So I hope you can pick it up.
Cheers
Chuck Cecil

 

And Now - with the permission of the columnist, here's the article:

 

Stubble-South Dakota Nicer

For July 15, 2015

By Chuck Cecil

611 words


 

   I met a man in Doland with a message for us.

   He’s an East Coast transplant who writes enthusiastically about life in South Dakota.

  “You people don’t realize what you have here,” Richard Skorupski mentioned as we visited through an Independence Day afternoon at a book signing in the Lilliputian but well-stocked Doland Public Library.

  He grew up among the hustle, bustle and get-out-of-my-way south central New Jersey. He spent a career in the Navy, retired in 1993 and returned home.

  Along the way he visited a Navy buddy in rural Iowa, spending several days with his friend traveling to neighboring farmsteads hawking animal feed supplements.

   Skorupski enjoyed that Iowa visit so much, and was so taken by the rural lifestyle and the friendliness of the people, that he decided to leave his native state he calls “The Peoples Republic of New Jersey.”

 He and his wife Cheryl now live on a hobby farm near Doland where he spends his days writing about what he finds here, and during harvest, driving a truck for his neighbors.

  The Skorupskis love their prairie life and their newfound neighbors. He’s convinced that we who live out our days in flyover country often fail to realize just how good we have it.

  In fact, he’s written a book about flyover “county” that he calls “Kent County” but as every Superman fan knows, it’s actually about the S.D. county of Clark east of Skorupski’s Spink County.

  “It’s wonderful out here,” he says.

   “I just met a lady just a few minutes ago who had been viewing the Doland All-School Reunion Fourth of July parade from a lawn chair on Main Street,” he told me as we chatted in the library.        

   “After the parade she became engaged in meeting old friends as she strolled about, reminiscing with former classmates. A half-hour later she realized she didn’t have her purse with her.”

   She hurried back to her parade spot, found the lawn chair still there and her purse still in it.

  “Now try that in New York City or New Jersey,” he said.

  And he’s right. Just recently I noticed similar instances of South Dakota life.

   While helping move a piece of antique farm machinery to the Brookings County Museum in Volga, we passed the Phil and Tara VanderWal place just north of Highway 14 through Volga.

  As we lumbered by at two miles an hour, an inconsequential piece of iron about six inches long fell from the old binder we were escorting to its new museum home.

   We didn’t see it break loose. But Tara was looking out her window as we rattled noisily by, and saw it fall on the highway. She retrieved it, jumped in her car and brought it to the museum a mile away just as we were pulling into the place.      

     What a nice thing to do.

    Then a few days ago, leaving Volga with a trailer loaded with another heavy museum item, we discovered one trailer tire gasping, and brake and blinker lights that were also on the fritz.

   We stopped at the AgFirst Farmers Coop in Volga and explained our dilemma to Manager Brad Mitchell. He dropped what he was doing to lend a hand.

   Twenty minutes later we were on our way.

   We tried to pay him. But Brad shook his head. “Forget it. It’s on the house,” he said.

    Minnesotans call their state “Minnesota Nice” and I’m sure it is.

    I’m calling our state “South Dakota Nicer.”

    That’s because it is, and sometimes, it takes good folks like Richard Skorupski, Tara VanderWal, and Brad Mitchell to remind us how lucky we are to live out here among such kind and caring folks.

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