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Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Two fires with different outcomes
Published: Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The wildfire season has begun with a couple of relatively large fires burning in similar circumstances with completely different outcomes. The Storm Hill Fire at Hill City, burning on very steep slopes, killed lots of trees, but didn’t do much to reduce the tonnage of dead logs scattered across the ridges from the mountain pine beetle attacks. It did demonstrate that Black Hills firefighters are second to none. It was a long, tough fight for this time of year.  Had it been August the fire likely would have caused the evacuation of Hill City or worse.

The Cold Fire east of Pringle was a horse of a different color altogether. It burned under similar conditions, but did very little damage and was easily controlled by initial attack firefighters by the evening of the first day. There were a couple of days of mopping up and patrolling the line to make sure the fire was out.



Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Government oversteps its bounds again
Published: Thursday, May 26th, 2016

In a recent newspaper column, Sen. Mike Rounds points out that once again the Obama administration has overstepped its bounds in mandating another harmful regulation. This time Obama and his Department of Labor wants to more than double the salary requirements that qualify employees for overtime pay of time and a half.

The current guideline is that employees earning $23,660 or less automatically qualify for overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a week. DOL initially wanted to raise this figure to over $53,000 a year, but recently settled on $47,476 that would become effective Dec. 1 this year. Where they came up with this figure and why is anybody’s guess. Why does this administration do this and other things unilaterally without going through Congress?



Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Just who am I, really?
Published: Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Someone recently turned to me and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re Charley’s wife!”

When I told Charley about it later, I noted that I have no identity of my own. I seem to have relevance only in my relationship to another person. 

I started out in life as “Lois’ little sister,” a title that stuck with me through college.

I then progressed to “Charley’s wife.”



Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Some accidents are preventable
Published: Thursday, May 19th, 2016

When we heard about the tragic death of little 2-year-old Evelyn Ferraro Friday, May 6, the collective hearts of this community were broken. We couldn’t help but ask, how could this happen? How could a toddler like Evelyn wind up dying in such a horrible manner? Why did the nearby septic tank not have a secured lid on it?

Custer County planning director Rex Harris says that according to state codes, a septic tank should have a concrete lid and be covered with six to 12 inches of dirt. This one, obviously, did not meet code, but there are no county ordinances requiring approved, child-proof lids. Therefore, no charges will be filed, according to Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler.



Thursday, May 12th, 2016

We get what we deserve
Published: Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Some time ago in this column I asked the question, “Where are all the good candidates?” I think members of both political parties are probably still asking themselves that question, in spite of the fact both have chosen their presidential candidates, flawed though they may be. It all comes down to, we get what we deserve.

The Democrats have trotted out the old political hack, the embodiment of a Washington political insider, Hillary Clinton, to be their standard bearer in the next presidential election. That is, if she survives the current 150-plus FBI agents looking  into her emails on a private server and some questionable foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation.



Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Awesome new visitor center in Custer Park
Published: Thursday, May 12th, 2016

You have to see what $6 million will build in the form of the new, awesome, first class visitor center in Custer State Park. A dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony was held last Friday noon with a bevy of dignitaries in attendance.

It’s not just the building and new displays that are awesome. The introductory 20-minute movie narrated by Kevin Costner will blow away visitors as they learn about all aspects of the park they will want to explore. It should entice visitors to stay longer and experience more of all the park has to offer.



Thursday, May 5th, 2016

A woman on the $20 is a long-time coming
Published: Thursday, May 5th, 2016

If you haven’t yet heard, the face of money is going to look different in a few years, thanks to a massive grassroots effort led by women. 

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, after Women on 20s successfully petitioned the President and the Department of the Treasury. Tubman beat out 15 other historic women, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony, in a landslide.

 For the most part, I feel like people in general are fine with the decision. Frankly, as long as the money still spends the same, a lot of people don’t even care. 



Thursday, May 5th, 2016

We’re No. 1, thanks to you
Published: Thursday, May 5th, 2016

In this issue you will read that this newspaper has won the Sweepstakes Award in its weekly circulation category once again in the S.D. Better Newspaper Contest for 2015. This may not mean much to some people, but it is quite a remarkable accomplishment considering the size of our staff and the many great weekly newspapers we have in South Dakota.

Points are accumulated for first, second and third places  in various categories in advertising and editorial content. To win first place means that your Custer County Chronicle tallied enough points in all categories to be awarded the coveted Sweepstakes Award in the circulation class of 1,151-2,000. 



Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Discovering stars through grandsons’ eyes
Published: Thursday, April 28th, 2016

“You never enjoy the world aright . . . till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world.”—Thomas Traheme in “Century of Meditations”

Ten years ago this month when I was still writing columns and doing other things at the Custer County Chronicle, I wrote a column congratulating a former Pierre friend who had written that she and her husband were about to become grandparents for the first time.

“Everyone says grandchildren are such a blessing,” she had written. “We are anxious to begin that chapter in our lives.”



Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Don't thank Obama for low gas prices
Published: Thursday, April 28th, 2016

The price of gasoline is at a record low—and President Obama wants to take credit. At a recent speech the president told the crowd “you’re welcome” for the fact that “a lot of families are saving a lot of money at the gas pump.”

That’s a slick move. President Obama is like a mayor who ignored years of pleas to repair giant potholes and then shows up at the auto repair shop to say “you’re welcome” after you pay for the new suspension and rims because of those potholes. 



Thursday, April 21st, 2016

The Progress Edition is no small feat
Published: Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Whew.

That large exhale you heard coming from Mt. Rushmore Road was emanating from the Custer County Chronicle building, as our staff is more than happy to see the final product of the Progress Edition in mailboxes and on newsstands as opposed to on a computer screen in front of our faces. We have been writing stories, taking pictures, selling ads, building ads, proofreading and doing layout for it for the better part of three months, so you’ll have to excuse us if we are sick of looking at it.



Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Custer County continues its annual progress
Published: Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Welcome to our 16th annual Progress Edition of the Custer County Chronicle. Just when you thought there was little or no good news to go around, along comes our annual “Good News Edition” highlighting everything that is going on in and around Custer County.

We’ve had more of our share of bad news lately, so its time for some good news. There have been a lot of positive things going on in the area and we want you to know what they are. From Custer to Custer State Park and on into Hermosa, good things are happening.



Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Burning Beetle needs your support
Published: Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The Burning Beetle this past January was a huge success. The torch light parade and minor riot went better than ever, with lots of participants and more fireworks. The variety show was a blast and Craig Bobzien and Dave Thom, as the Fabulous Blues Brothers, hit it out of the park, again, and the talent did us proud, again. The only thing missing was, well, the business community. The fact that the people with the most to gain didn’t show up was troubling. And it doesn’t make sense.

National Geographic magazine covered the beetle in the April 15 issue, not once but twice, with the lead article photo and the final photo taken by Peter Essick in full, international blazing color for all the world to see. 



Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Chicago 1968 speaks to 2016
Published: Thursday, April 14th, 2016

In late August 1968, two months after an assassin killed presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy and shortly after Republicans nominated Richard Nixon for president, the Democrats gathered in Chicago to pick their candidate.

The Democratic Party “establishment” supported vice president Hubert Humphrey, who was opposed by antiwar contenders Sens. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. The culminating point occurred Aug. 28 when delegates debated two rival Vietnam policy planks. The Johnson administration supported the continued, if also limited, bombing of North Vietnam. The opposing “dove plank” called for suspending the bombing of North Vietnam and vigorous negotiations. A raucous three-hour debate, punctuated with shouts of “stop the war” and the New York delegation singing “We Shall Overcome,” ended when the convention voted 1,567 to 1,041 to support the Johnson administration’s plank. 



Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Tangling with the TSA, or how I saved the peanut butter
Published: Thursday, April 7th, 2016

I knew I was in trouble when the TSA agent at the Rapid City airport threw both my bags off the rolling bag escalator as she eyed them through her x-ray machine.

What was it, I wondered? Do I look like a terrorist? Is it my bottles of essential oil? My egg salad? My homemade sauerkraut? There was nothing in my bags that I hadn’t taken on an airplane multiple times before. I’ve always been whisked through the line and been free to go on my merry way.

“Whose bags are these?” another TSA agent demanded. “Are there explosives in here,” she asked as she donned plastic gloves, grabbed what looked like a round piece of felt and swabbed the inside of my bags. 



Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Way too early for fire season
Published: Thursday, April 7th, 2016

This weekend saw the first major wildfire of the season start sometime late Saturday afternoon on Flynn Creek Road near the Cold Springs Schoolhouse about eight miles southeast of Custer. Thankfully, no structures have been burned, but significant damage has been done to fences on private land.

The Cold Fire is believed to have been started on Forest Service land and is still of undetermined origin. The area  burned was about 1,900 acres as of Tuesday and was about 30 percent contained. The concern is the high winds which were set to blow again Tuesday.



Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Challenges bring opportunities
Published: Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Recent news events would make you wonder if there is any good news coming out of our area lately. We already know that STAR Academy is closing next month with the loss of well over a hundred good jobs, not just the recently announced 64 job losses. Then we learn that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe will in all probability be shutting down the Edgemont office sometime in the near future and run fewer trains between Gillette, Wyo, and Alliance, Neb.

There are a lot of area residents who have relied on STAR Academy and BNSF railroad for their livlihoods, and these jobs are going away. We know the reason for STAR shutting down. The state is taking a different approach to handling juvenile offenders by offering programs in their own communities and counties instead of shipping them out here to STAR Academy. We’ll see how that works out.



Thursday, March 31st, 2016

New plates are less attractive
Published: Thursday, March 31st, 2016

For a state that prides itself on having the one-and-only Shrine of Democracy carved in the Black Hills, the new South Dakota vehicle license plates certainly do not do it justice. The big, bold, blue numbers and letters overshadow and cover the less conspicuous gray depiction of the famous four faces of Mount Rushmore. The one thing we can be thankful for is that the designers still left the slogan “Great Faces Great Places” on the plates.

We are not the only ones who believe the state could have done better than this. Minnehaha County treasurer Pam Nelson told the Associated Press that she has heard nothing positive about the new plates. Custer County treasurer Dawn McLaughlin said some people are excited about the new plates and some people not so much. Vehicle owners are issued the new plates at the time of their annual registration renewals.



Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Finding the humor after a stroke
Published: Thursday, March 24th, 2016

In a year’s time, about 795,000 people will have a stroke, with three quarters of those people being 65 or older. Sadly, my family has become part of that statistic. 

On March 7, around dinner time, both my dad and I received a phone call from my mom, asking where we were. While that’s not technically out of the norm — we both have crazy schedules — it was followed up with a “I don’t know what I’m doing.” That was alarming. 



Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Closing STAR was difficult
Published: Thursday, March 24th, 2016

In the corrections field, the one constant is change. Offenders enter and leave the system every day. Programming needs change and staff adapt to revised procedures and new training methods. 

The decision to close the state-run juvenile corrections programs at STAR Academy was difficult. The facility is a national leader in the field; South Dakota is the only state to have all of their correctional programs reach the highest level in the Performance-based Standards (PbS) project, and we’ve done so an unprecedented six times.     



Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Let’s bestow the Parkies again
Published: Thursday, March 17th, 2016

A year ago at this time this writer hinted that he was passing out the coveted Parkie Awards for perhaps the last time. Alas, I’m still here, and because 2015 produced so many crazies, wackos, idiots, nuts and dimwits, as well as a few heroes, the Parkies are crying out to be bestowed yet again.

Without further ado, the Parkies go to:

• I Can Read It Myself award: To the majority of TV sportscasters who can’t resist the temptation to read to me everything that appears in graphics on the screen.

• Athlete Whom We Must Watch award: To the Warriors’ guard Steph Curry, who is following his MVP year with another one and who provides one of the few good reasons to watch the NBA.



Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Closing STAR is big blow to community
Published: Thursday, March 17th, 2016

We saw the writing on the wall, but it is still a bitter pill to swallow. The announced closing of STAR Academy five miles south of Custer last Wednesday by the governor’s office and loss of 64 jobs hit hard on our community of 2,000. After all, these are our friends and neighbors we are talking about, not just some nameless, faceless entities. They have children in school and do business in our community. This is big hit to our local economy.

Let’s apply a comparative ratio to Rapid City, which has a population of 68,000 and is 34 times as large as Custer. Those 64 jobs being lost at STAR Academy may not be a big deal in the state of South Dakota and hardly anyone will take notice. But if 2,176 jobs would be lost in Rapid City in one fell swoop, you would think the entire economy of the Black Hills was going to pot. That is the equivalent of lost jobs we are talking about in Custer vs. Rapid City and is a big  concern to Custer City and Custer County officials and residents.



Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Why I won’t be voting for President
Published: Thursday, March 10th, 2016

I have dutifully gone to the polls and voted for a President of the United States every election since I turned 18. My first presidential vote was for the first term of George W. Bush (something that in retrospect I’m not overly proud of) and I remember how proud I was that I was finally able to cast a ballot. Every election since I have cast a ballot. I’m one of those cheesy people who think voting is a duty in a republic such as ours.

That was until this year.



Thursday, March 10th, 2016

A victory for South Dakota
Published: Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Last week, the South Dakota State Legislature gave final passage to House Bill 1182. This important legislation directs approximately $70 million to significant pay increases for our public school teachers, as well as instructors at the state’s technical institutes. The bill also directs nearly $40 million to property tax relief.

I proposed this bill in response to the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Over the past year, the task force undertook an extensive process of seeking public input, analyzing data and crafting policy proposals. The task force concluded that South Dakota needed to take bold action, this year, to avoid a teacher shortage. That required new money to increase teacher pay.



Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

A job well done, Sheriff Wheeler
Published: Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

There were more torches at the Burning Beetle festival in January than ever.  It’s still thrilling to watch them coming over the hill from Custer High School and in to the burn site at Pageant Hill. If you’re watching you see the tops of the flaming torches before any bobbing heads appear, then the crowd, then the rush of feelings, maybe excitement, maybe fear. It is, after all, a mob coming to a lynching of sorts.

It’s a thin line between law and order and anarchy or tyranny and chaos. Left to our own devices, we can easily turn into mobs with torches and ropes and guns.  It’s what the Founders knew. It’s what we know.  It’s why we set up a system of checks and balances so power could be used for our common good. It’s why we have a sheriff.



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