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Thursday, July 28th, 2016

You look great from up above
Published: Thursday, July 28th, 2016

How many of you have attended the annual Gold Discovery Days Saturday morning parade and watched the six or seven helicopters come flying from the east to the west and then back again over Mt. Rushmore Road to help kick off the big parade? Did you ever wonder what it would be like to fly over and wave to the crowd below? I sure have thought about that for the past several years. 

A few months ago when Mike and Shelly Jacob at Black Hills Aerial Adventures were hosting a Custer Area Chamber of Commerce social mixer at their place just north of Crazy Horse, I asked Mike if it would be possible for me to ride in the lead helicopter when he led his string of rotary aircraft over Mt. Rushmore Road in Custer. He does this precisely at 10 a.m. to add a little excitement to the annual GDD parade.



Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Air conditioners said to be a bigger threat
Published: Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Sometimes you just can’t make things up. Speaking in Vienna last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that air conditioners and refrigerators are as big of a threat to life on this planet as the threat of terrorism posed by groups like the Islamic State. It kind of reminds you when Sen. Bernie Sanders said climate change was “directly related” to the growth of terrorism in the world when he was at a Democrat debate in Iowa.

We can sort of understand how Sanders came up with his questionable conclusion, but have to really wonder about Kerry’s threat analysis from Vienna. We actually have not seen any particular brands of refrigerators or air conditioners shooting at people or blowing things up.



Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Memories are made at GDD
Published: Thursday, July 21st, 2016

In my nine years of living in Custer, I’ve always enjoyed Gold Discovery Days. The arts and crafts, the games and races and the parade — who doesn’t love a parade?! There really is something for everyone. 

Even though I didn’t grow up here, Gold Discovery Days and the community’s support always reminds me of back home in Michigan, where every town had a festival. 

Seriously. Every. Single. Town. 

In Coloma, where I lived, it was the Glad Peach Festival, because we were known for our peaches. In South Haven, there’s the blueberry festival, filled with the big “Ps” — pies, parades and polka. Yes, in that order. 



Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Gold Discovery Days will be as good as ever
Published: Thursday, July 21st, 2016

A few weeks ago we reported that the big annual Gold Discovery Days celebration in Custer was on life support and may not recover in time to be pulled off with the usual flair this year due to a lack of volunteer committee help. We’re more than glad to report that the patient has made a full recovery and is now healthy enough to run a marathon. Look out for this weekend!

If you think the town has been busy so far this summer, you will really be impressed by the number of people in here for all the festivities and high school class reunions this coming weekend. Thanks to the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce staff and willing volunteers, we will have a celebration worthy of being one of the best.



Thursday, July 14th, 2016

On the hunt for Poet’s Table
Published: Thursday, July 14th, 2016

I have several personality traits that those close to me don’t like. I talk a lot sometimes. I can be a bit of a pessimist. And I’m incredibly impatient. I want what I want when I want it. Sometimes I do a good job of controlling it, and sometimes I don’t. Never was that more obvious than July 4 weekend, when my girlfriend and I set out on a hike to find Poet’s Table in Custer State Park.

Since neither of us had ever been to Poet’s Table, we already had our work cut out for us. Since it’s 2016, we both figured directions to the table would be readily available online. Wrong. The directions we found were vague, and most people who wrote about Poet’s Table online only wrote about how great it is, intentionally leaving out directions on how to get there. One even wrote that it was “only for the worthy to find.”



Thursday, July 14th, 2016

We are a county at war with ourselves
Published: Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Never before have we seen such a division in our country. We are a divided nation. We are divided racially, economically, politically and, most of all spiritually. We seem to be a country at war with itself.

On a regular basis we hear and see of public shootings that end up with calls for more gun control.

We see law enforcement officers being shot by snipers as the police attempt to monitor and protect protestors.



Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Welcome new Forest supervisor
Published: Thursday, July 7th, 2016

There’s a new Forest supervisor coming to town.  He was just a kid when I first met him. Now he has 33 years in the Forest Service under his belt and he’ll do just fine. I hope he’s excited. He’s coming here from Texas, so it’s a foregone conclusion he’s excited, of course. 

Mark Van Every is walking into a big office where big things happened over the last 10 years. There were all the usual fires and calamities, deaths and triumphs, relationships built and alliances made. And it all happened against a backdrop of our manageable timber lands diminishing in productivity under the relentless, ruthless, merciless attack of wave after wave of bark beetles.



Thursday, July 7th, 2016

District 30 results were not surprising
Published: Thursday, July 7th, 2016

For the most part, District 30 Republican primary results were not surprising as it seemed to be a race of who was the most conservative candidate for the state senate and State House. If there was a surprise, it was the margin of victory in the Senate race that saw incumbent Bruce Rampelberg fall to former House member Lance Russell. Another surprise was the close margin of victory for the top two vote-getters in the House race. After a recount, there were only 14 votes separating second and third places.

Russell took 59 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Rampelberg in the Senate race. One obvious difference in the candidates, and highlighted by Russell in his campaign mailing pieces, was his opposition to the half cent sales tax increase that was favored and supported by Rampelberg, who said he did what he thought was right to increase pay so we could keep quality teachers in the state.



Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Staying home may be a good idea
Published: Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Many years ago, when my children were young, I complained to my mother that our family never got to go on vacation. She responded that people come to the Black Hills from hundreds and even thousands of miles away because it’s a vacation spot and that I should appreciate it as such because I get to live in this vacation paradise all year.

She was right, of course, and I’ve never looked at a vacation in the same way since. Still, I sometimes take for granted this beautiful place we are blessed to call home.



Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Brits celebrate their freedom from the EU
Published: Thursday, June 30th, 2016

In just a few days, we Americans will celebrate the annual anniversary of declaring  our independence from Great Britain. Last week, the citizens of that same country declared their independence from the European Union by a 52-48 percent margin at the voting polls. This seemed to be a surprise outcome, according to most media outlets and political pundits who never thought the vote would go that way. They thought citizens would vote for the status quo.

In voting to leave the EU, the Brits rejected membership in this organization which hasn’t seemed to benefit them much at all. They didn’t agree with being part of this new globalism and didn’t like being told what to do by officials in Brussels, Belgium, the EU’s unofficial capital. In essence, the Brits wanted their old country back. They wanted their freedom from the EU.



Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

We have a prairie dog problem
Published: Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

We received an email and a copy of a letter from Custer realtor Ramona Flaig last week warning of an established prairie dog town just outside the city limits at the east edge of town. Her fear is that these critters may move into Custer itself. Fear not, it has already happened as she pointed out in a letter to the Custer County Commission,  County States Attorney, County Sheriff’s Department and her fellow realtors.

Last Thursday I believe it was, we were alerted to some excited activity in front of the building next to us to the west. Visitors were pointing and laughing at a prairie dog, of all things, sitting next to a parked car. A prairie dog in downtown Custer! How did it get here?



Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Immigration insanity has got to end now
Published: Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

We don’t go along with those who are calling Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a bigot and a racist, among other things, because he wants to temporarily suspend refugees coming into this country from mostly Muslim countries. After the killing of 49 people and wounding of 53 others at an Orlando nightclub last week by an avowed follower of ISIS, it is time we get a grip on this entire refugee immigration mess.

The U.S.-born shooter in this case appeared to be self-radicalized, but also had made two recent trips to Saudi Arabia. He was not a recent refugee, but he was a Muslim, apparently following the teachings in the Koran. Most people would say he was a radical Muslim, but actually he was merely following the teachings in the Koran. He was a Muslim carrying out the dictates of Muhammad.



Thursday, June 16th, 2016

My father, my partner-in-crime
Published: Thursday, June 16th, 2016

While randomly searching the Internet one night, I read a quote saying something to the effect that a child’s parents are the first friends they will have in their life. While I don’t know if “friend” is the most accurate word for the first relationship bond a child will have, it got me thinking about my own parents, mainly my father. 

My father has had many roles in my 26 years of life. He’s been a teacher — showing me the ways of riding a bike, camping in the great outdoors (OK, our backyard) and how to write a good term paper. He’s been an encourager, mentor, therapist and even tutor, sitting down with me many a night at the kitchen table, going over math homework. Lots and lots of math homework. 



Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Common sense needed with bathroom issue
Published: Thursday, June 16th, 2016

During this past legislative session in Pierre, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed, a bill that would require students to use the bathroom and shower facilities of their birth gender. This seemed to be a no-brainer piece of legislation. The governor apparently caved to those in the business world who believed such a bill would give the state a bad rap for being intolerant of this small group of people.

In this relatively new (to us at least) transgender world we appear to be living in, some strange societal changes are taking place, thanks in no small part to the Obama administration. We didn’t know the transgender issue was such a big deal in our schools. 



Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Graduation memories are foggy
Published: Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Take it from one like me who sometimes can’t remember why he walked upstairs or why he went to the supermarket. Recalling details of one’s own high school graduation 60 years after the fact is a challenge.

But there are a few facts about Onida High School's commencement on that night in May 1956 of which I am certain.

1. There were no eardrum-shattering air horns piercing the dignity of the occasion. 

2.  Nobody in the crowd was “dressed” in blue jeans. In fact, most of our dads were in shirts, ties and jackets and moms were certainly in dresses.



Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Pot calling the kettle black
Published: Thursday, June 9th, 2016

We find it ironic when people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton criticize people for lack of this or that experience. Obama is still on the campaign trail after about seven and a half years in office. He has never stopped making partisan comments about anything, which has greatly contributed to the deep divide this country has experienced in the past nearly eight years.

Obama’s latest criticism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is that the candidate lacks foreign policy experience. It’s almost as if Obama is criticizing himself eight years ago when he ran for president on the Democrat ticket as a freshman senator from Illinois. Pray tell, what foreign policy experience did Obama have to qualify him for the highest office in the land?



Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Will GDD go the way of the Edsel?
Published: Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Every July, thousands upon thousands of tourists, family, friends and local citizenry gather in Custer for the fun and pageantry that is Gold Discovery Days (GDD). However, if a recent trend continues, that may not be the case much longer.

The fact of the matter is, volunteers to help with GDD are dwindling. There are fewer and fewer volunteers every year, putting more and more stress on the remaining volunteers. A handful of people spend an entire year planning and then executing GDD weekend, with little to no fanfare. They do it because they love Custer, love GDD and want to see it continue and thrive. Most everyone loves GDD and participates in it in some form or fashion. But is there enough love to help keep it alive? That remains to be seen.



Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

The memory shall be ours
Published: Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

The birth of Memorial Day is much like the birth of America. It is a story of people from different backgrounds uniting as Americans under one flag.

Following the Civil War, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed that “the 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” Gen. Logan asked that the people cherish the “memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe.”



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. 



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