Sunday, April 16, 2006

Those who left

by Larry Gabriel

Not everyone is strong enough to live in South Dakota. Many have tried and left for an easier life.

I recently read an obituary in a California newspaper about a man who left his "Dakota farm" when bitter cold, drought, and grasshoppers drove him off the land during the great depression.

The Californian was not alone. Many followed him. As I read about this man's life, it became clear to me that such people are a great tribute to our state. That may sound like a contradiction, but it is not.

These were not soft people. Many like the man who went to California worked hard and long all their life. He worked in Civilian Conservation Corps camps until he landed a job with the railroad, where he worked his way up from flagman to yardmaster.

For those of you who know little about rail business, the yardmaster is a position of power and authority. Nothing happens in that yard without his approval.

These were tough and intelligent people, yet the obituary claimed that farm life in South Dakota was simply an impossible task.

Therein lies the tribute: in the face of impossible challenges, somebody stayed; in the face of impossible hardship, somebody not only did the impossible, they did it well.

They covered the prairie with farms, ranches, towns and infrastructure. They built everything we now take for granted, even when some very good people found it impossible.

We should occasionally look back at such things. However, being grateful for what our forefathers gave us is not enough. We owe it to them to make good use of their works.

Sometimes our problems (such as rural decline) may appear unsolvable. However, compared to the problems faced by South Dakotans during settlement or the dry periods of the 1930s and 1950s, today's "problems" are insignificant.

Perhaps we have grown soft, but I believe it is only a superficial softness. We come from the best of stock, and there is almost nothing we cannot accomplish if we put our minds and hearts into it.

Actually, many of the "problems" of rural America are only viewed as such because some sociologist calls them "problems".

New technology is not a problem. Disagreements over development are not a problem. World markets are not a problem. Those are all challenges, not problems.

Those who left are proof that the rest of us need not worry.

If our ancestors could do the impossible, we can certainly handle these challenges.

Mr. Gabriel is the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture

What a difference 30 years makes

By Julie Carter

As the front line of baby boomers hit the wall at 60 this year, there are a few million more right behind them by a decade or less who are singing the tune "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."

Beside the automatic delivery of vitamins every month, the switch from acid rock to acid reflux, and the acceptance that instead of going to a new hip joint they will be receiving a new hip joint, the absolute worst reality comes from the workforce that is now employed by that generation.

Those young 20-some-things ask questions that should get their head knocked off and say things that probably will.

They have no idea that the Rolling Stones is no relation to kidney stones or that Willie Nelson didn't always have a braid.

"Waylon who? Didja know Johnny Cash only wore black? Rad huh? When I listen to your music it makes me want to find some polyester to wear. Who was Wolfman Jack?

Okay, like, when you were my age it was embarrassing to wear clothes with rips in them? Like WHAT? You didn't buy them like that?"

No, but I did rip out the neck and sleeves of my sweatshirts ala Flash Dance craze and added a twisted bandana headband to my curls.

"Eight tracks? What are eight tracks? An album is what? So did you guys, like dance, in high school?

So when you were a kid, did you, like, have any fun?

You had a pen pal? What exactly is a pen pal?

So if you didn't have a cell phone, real phone, TV or electricity, how DID you live?

So, if someone wanted to leave a message, how exactly would they have done that? Like how old were you when you had a microwave?

Wadda-ya-mean no Victoria's Secret? Like where did you get your underwear? You sat in a car to watch a movie? Why?"

The 70s was a time of long hair that progressed to today's basic longing for hair.

Weekend disco has become weekend Costco.

The decade of taking acid turned to a new millennium of taking antacid.

Passing the driver's test is now challenged only by passing the vision test.

We have come from trying to look like Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor to trying NOT to look like Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor.

The focus on "seeds and stems" of the 70s has become simply about fiber and roughage.

Hoping for a BMW evolved to hope for a BM. A KEG was for the life of the party and now it is EKG for life.

The predominate color in my childhood photos was plaid and usually in corduroy. Anybody wear corduroy anymore?

We typed on typewriters that had ribbons and most were not yet electric. We had super-sized bell bottoms, platform shoes, pet rocks and the first "Earth Day."

We wore bubble gum lip gloss, Heaven Scent perfume, halter tops, tube tops and mirrored sunglasses. Farrah Fawcett's winged hair style was all the rage.

Today we look for senior discounts, get AARP Magazine in the mail and hope we can last a few more years before the first knee replacement. We cover the gray, soften the lines, hide the lumps and wonder where our eyelashes went.

"I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." As long as I get to pick when that once is.

© Julie Carter 2006

No comments: