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Thursday, July 24th, 2014

You don’t know what you got...
Published: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

There is a ballad by the metal band Cinderella released in 1988 that goes something like, “You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” I would say that pretty much sums up the situation with the retirement of long-time city-county animal control officer Geney Ziolkowski the first of this year.

For some 20 years Geney took care of all kinds of stray animals on her North 8th Street property near the Mickelson Trail. She lived right there on the premises with her husband, Mark, and the dogs and cats and other critters that were brought to her for safekeeping until their owners claimed them.



Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Gold Discovery Days has events for everyone
Published: Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Residents and visitors alike seem to really enjoy all the events offered by the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce and Gold Discovery Days Committee members this coming weekend. After all, this is the grandaddy of them all when it comes to annual community celebrations in Custer County.

Besides all the activities going on, topped by the big parade Saturday morning through downtown Custer, there are all the various Custer High School class reunions happening throughout the town. It’s a time for renewing old acquaintances and making new ones.



Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Getting used to ‘home’
Published: Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Before I made the Big Move out here to join Josh, my husband, he kept saying, “It’s different here. You’ll just have to see for yourself.” No matter how many times he tried to prepare me for those differences, it just was not sinking in 

At a recent interview, we chatted about some of those differences here in Custer. The interviewees, both also transplants to the area, said they developed a little saying: “T.I.C ” — “This is Custer,” their quick and cute way of saying yes, things are different here! I want to steal it and use it myself.



Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Lack of foresight led to animal control mess
Published: Thursday, July 17th, 2014

As the county and city continue to slog through what to do with the animal control situation in Custer County, one thing has been made clear—both entities were woefully unprepared for the day when former animal control officer Geney Ziolkowski retired.

Ziolkowski, like all of us, grew old and decided it’s time to retire. When she retired, she took the only place in the county that is set up to house stray animals, and also took the rug out from under both the city and the county, which since her retirement have been scrambling to decide what to do in her absence. At times it has been a mess and a circular discussion and, much to his chagrin, Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler’s certified law enforcement officers have been spending a lot of time playing dog catcher instead of working on real crime. It’s a situation that all parties need to resolve quickly. This has dragged on long enough. It was mid-November when Ziolkowski sent emails to both the city and the county, letting them know that, for health reasons, she was retiring as animal control officer as of the new year. That was eight months ago.



Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The show must always go on
Published: Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Kudos to all involved in making last weekend’s Independence Day celebration the biggest and best in the history of Custer and, in our opinion, the best Independence Day weekend in the Black Hills, and possibly in the state. From the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce staff to the city staff, from the Custer Area Arts Council to the scores of volunteers who worked at the children’s fair, Custer once again proved it comes together like no other to roll out the red carpet for guests and locals alike. There was something for everybody to do for three solid days in Custer, and that’s in no small part due to the dedication and work of too many people to name in this space.



Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The return of the native son
Published: Thursday, July 10th, 2014

One of my brothers recently said that the most stressful thing a man can do is start a new career. I wholeheartedly agree. Add to that: moving 1,300 miles away, selling your house and buying another house. My wife, Kate, has recently joined me in Custer.  Everything is new for her as well, and she’s pregnant with our first child.

I asked Kate to keep an eye on me for a few days after I drove across the country. I thought the trip in the Uhaul™ truck may have had some negative consequences. Yes, 1,300 miles in a 34-foot-long, noisy and vibrating moving truck ladened with a houseful of belongings, with no air conditioning, no cruise control (and no horn) can certainly change a man. 



Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Celebrate the 4th in style in Custer County
Published: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

You won’t have to go far to celebrate the July 4th weekend in Custer County. Downtown Custer will play host to the annual Old Time Country Fourth Celebration sponsored by the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce.

Events kick off at 10 a.m. to 6 pm. for the Arts and Crafts Fair on the grounds of the 1881 Courthouse Museum Thursday, July 3. Also on July 3 from noon to 3 p.m. there will be the Children’s Fair which is free and open to the public.

From noon to 3 p.m. there will be live music on stage at Way Park.  A hot dog eating contest is set for 2 p.m. in Way Park.



Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

July 4 is all about making memories
Published: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The Fourth of July is one of the best holidays, if not my all-time favorite. The food, the fireworks, the history — it’s all great. But for me and my family, it’s our memories that make the holiday so wonderful.

I don’t remember the first time my family and I celebrated Independence Day, obviously since I was only a 9 month old, but I assume we had a cookout. (And I’m sure those Gerber smashed peas were lovely, Mom.) I do, however, remember, the first time I saw fireworks. 



Thursday, June 26th, 2014

How dumb do they think we are?
Published: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

So, let’s get this straight. Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner refused to answer questions from a Congressional committee looking into her tax exempt division’s alleged foot-dragging for tax exempt approval for certain conservative groups, especially those affiliated with the Tea Party. After saying she had done nothing wrong, Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment before the committee and refused to testify. If she had nothing to hide, why did she not testify?

Now we have learned that Lerner’s emails requested by the committee are not available because the hard drive on her computer has been recycled, along with many others in her department. “We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away, said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee.



Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Rainbows among my clouds
Published: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

There are days when the first mistake I make in the morning is turning on the television set. That can be depressing, even on a gorgeous summer morning.

The same is undoubtedly true when it comes to Facebook and any other social media to which one is addicted. Many of the things some of my “friends” post are downright sickening, if not incorrect, stupid, disheartening and irresponsible.

But I might be missing something, you know?



Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Eerie similarities between Vietnam and Iraq wars
Published: Thursday, June 19th, 2014

News coming out of Iraq is not good. Islamic Sunni extremists are taking over cities that U.S. troops fought and died to secure. Reports are that this same group of extremists is heading for the nation’s capital city of Baghdad, also liberated by U.S. troops years ago. There doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do to stop them.

Members of the Iraqi army are taking off their uniforms and hiding them and getting rid of their rifles, lest they be identified and gathered up by the oncoming militants and summarily executed. In the process, much of the $14 billion in military equipment left in Iraq when the last of American troops pulled out Dec. 18, 2011, has been taken over by the advancing rebel forces.



Thursday, June 19th, 2014

With summer comes fire season
Published: Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The Forest Service budget for firefighting is already $470 million over the target for the year and we haven’t even really gotten started. Senior fire planners in Custer say the Black Hills National Forest is going to treat 3,000 acres this year with fuels money, money used to fight fire in advance. At that rate it will be 400 years before we can treat the forest to thin the forest and reduce fuels. 

Timber sales take care of the bigger trees on 30,000 acres each year, meaning we can do things in four decades if we can figure out how to manage the new growth after timber sales.  Ten thousand new trees per acre is not extraordinary.  What a marvelous place we live. This island in the plains grows trees so fast you can almost watch it happen.



Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Let’s secure U.S.-Mexican border
Published: Thursday, June 12th, 2014

We can’t be the only ones wondering why in the world the U.S. is not securing its southern border with Mexico. Recent events in the Obama administration’s lengthy list of scandals and controversies have caused us to take our eye off the important immigration-problem ball.

In just the last few weeks, there has been an influx of young, unaccompanied minors crossing the Texas border illegally, pushing the U.S. immigration system to its breaking point. 



Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Love the hugs, but I’m not 40
Published: Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The chickens finally came home to roost.

After years of torturing my coworkers with an endless spree of practical jokes and pranks, a few of them got me back in a big way a couple of weeks ago, by putting an ad in the paper. For those of you who didn’t see it (and judging by the responses it got, there aren’t many out there who haven’t), the ad contained a picture of me looking forlorn (I don’t recall having this taken) with the declaration that I needed a hug, because I was turning 40 Sunday, May 25, which actually is my birthday.



Thursday, June 5th, 2014

I’m learning to never say never
Published: Thursday, June 5th, 2014

It was a dark day for Charley and I when our youngest son, Joshua, left home for Bowling Green, Ohio. It was Dec. 24, 1997. He had met a girl on the internet and said he was in love with her and wanted to be with her. 

He had spent one year in college at McCook, Neb., with the intent of going into graphic design and journalism. He had already taken college classes in art and writing while in high school and had gotten A’s in both subjects. Nevertheless, when he moved to Ohio, he worked in the food service industry for 16 years, which I suppose is reasonable since he likes food and is a great cook.

He and Kate were married 10 years ago under the trees in our yard just outside of Custer on a perfect July day. The reception was held on our deck with a full moon shining down on them.



Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Is released soldier a hero or a traitor?
Published: Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Questions surround the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over the weekend. The last known American POW was freed by the Taliban in western Afghanistan near the Pakistan border last Saturday morning after being missing for five years. He was turned over to a team of U.S. special forces in exchange for five notorious Islamic militants who had been held at Guantanamo Bay. Under the terms of the exchange, the five terrorists are supposed to stay at Qatar for a year.

It all began when members of Bergdahl’s unit say the 23-year-old PFC left his camp after finishing a guard-duty shift, taking with him a knife, water, his diary and a camera. He left his weapon and body armor behind. In the days before his departure he detailed his disillusionment with the Afghanistan campaign in emails to his parents and by complaining about his fellow soldiers. He wrote, “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools. I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.”



Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Be like Ruth, follow your dreams
Published: Thursday, May 29th, 2014

I hate to admit it now, but when I first started working at Crazy Horse Memorial I didn’t know much about the Ziolkowski family or even why a monument was being dedicated to the Native Americans. Fast forward six years, I now know the family, the reason behind the monument and their future hopes and goals. And in my four full summers of working at Crazy Horse, I learned about the importance, dedication and hard work of following your dreams, all from Mrs. Z.

I first met Mrs. Z, which is what all of us employees call her, in May 2008. I had just finished my first year at South Dakota State University and applied to work in Laughing Water Restaurant. Apart from babysitting in high school, this was my first job, so I was pretty nervous. After meeting some people in the restaurant, I was taken to a small office so I could clock in. As I walked to leave the restaurant, an older woman came in the door. She smiled to me and said hello, asking my name since she had never seen me before.



Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Matron gone, but the dream will live on
Published: Thursday, May 29th, 2014

The Matron of the Mountain, Mrs. Z, is gone, but the legacy built by Ruth and Korczak Ziolkowski and their family will long endure. Our condolences are extended to the family on the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Since the sculptor’s death in 1982, Ruth has been the driving force behind the largest sculpture in the round in the world. She died late last Wednesday night, just a month shy of her 88th birthday.

It all began when Korczak started his career as a professional artist at West Hartford, Conn. He traveled to the Black Hills assisting Gutzon Borglum with the carving of Mt. Rushmore during the summer of 1939.



Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

A fool and his money are parted
Published: Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

All the hubbub about National Basketball Association team owner Donald Sterling seems to have died down with his  LA Clippers ownership fate ultimately left up to the courts. By now everyone is familiar with the Sterling story. He was secretly recorded by his “gal pal” V. Stiviano, whom he says “baited” him into making racist statements.

If you listen to their conversation, you can almost sense that Stiviano is leading the 80-year-old Sterling into making some pretty outrageous statements. Sterling was upset that she had posted a photo of her and former NBA star Magic Johnson on her Instagram account. He told her not to take photos with black people or take black people to Clippers games. That was dumb.



Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Don't paint all VA clinics with a broad brush
Published: Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Political pundits made fun of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for her comments several years ago that Obamacare will lead to the establishment of “death panels” where unelected bureaucrats would make important health care decisions for patients in distant cities. Well, apparently that's exactly what has been happening at some of our Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics around the country.



Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Beating up the coal industry
Published: Thursday, May 15th, 2014

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin didn’t mince any words last week after White House adviser John Pedesta told reporters that Congress could not derail the administration’s efforts to unilaterally enact policies to fight global warming. Podesta said the president is committed to using executive orders to pass regulations under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions that they say cause global warming, according to an article in The Daily Caller.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have urged the Obama administration to scale back their climate goals because of the adverse effects of new regulations on the coal industry. Coal supporters have called the administration’s actions the “war on coal” due to huge job losses in coal states like West Virginia and Kentucky, which is bound to have an effect at the polls in November.



Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Pass-o-apocalypse is coming
Published: Thursday, May 15th, 2014

“Hey, man this is like, police brutality or something. These aren’t even my pants!” 

My old pal, Officer Lumpy was propelling a handcuffed tweaker past me on his way out of the big-box retail store. 



Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Don’t count chickens yet
Published: Thursday, May 8th, 2014

It will be a most interesting Republican primary election for the next U.S. Senate candidate to emerge from a crowded field of contenders. On June 3, which is less than a month from now, Republicans will choose the person they believe has the best chance to beat Democrat Rick Weiland and three other Independent candidates in the November general election.

Interested area Republicans had the opportunity to meet and hear the five contenders for the job at a candidate forum Saturday, April 26, in Custer. Mike Rounds is a former two-term governor of the state who has the most name recognition. State lawmakers Larry Rhoden and Stace Nelson have some experience in the Legislature, with Rhoden being the more senior with the most years.



Thursday, May 8th, 2014

The hunt for the perfect gift
Published: Thursday, May 8th, 2014

I don’t like Mother’s Day.

There. I said it.

Now, before you put down the paper and pick up the phone to call my mother and tell her how much I hate her, hear me out.

I love my mom. We spend a lot of time together doing what we love — shopping, going to the movies and traveling. She does a lot for me, without even thinking of getting anything in return. Like, a lot! So to me, it’s not fair that she and all the busy, hard-working mothers out there get only one day of honor. Every day should be Mother’s Day! 



Thursday, May 1st, 2014

I could learn to like it there
Published: Thursday, May 1st, 2014

My first glance through the picture window on a recent Saturday morning took my breath away.

The howling wind that had accompanied a gray, bone-chilling Friday had created a never-ending roar through the pine trees, somewhat akin to the sound of the motorcycles in town in August. But on this morning the wind was gone. There was not even a hint of a breeze.

I stood at the window, probably with mouth agape, at the beauty that lay before me on the other side of the glass.

It was what one of those tiny snow globes looks like before one shakes it to make the make-believe snow swirl around.



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