Archive for May 2007

The retirement party is over.

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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“So, how’s retirement going there then?”  Are you “enjoyin’ all that free time you have now-ah days?”
“Do you wish you were still on the TV? Bet you’re glad to be done with those crazy hours, huh?”
“Retirement must be treatin’ you right..looks like you haven’t been missing any meals..ha, ha, ha.”
It’s nice to know that after nearly six months out of the public eye, people still recognize yours truly when I’m out and about and are curious to know how things are going.
I always answer “yes” to the question about enjoying retirement and “yes” to sometimes missing the job and quick to point out that I really never had a problem with the hours required to do it.
What I don’t tell people, though, is that after nearly 23 years of marriage, Linda is on the verge of kicking me out of the house.
Don’t worry. It’s not a divorce or anything like that. (trust me I know the warning signs)
But she “is” ready to get me out of her hair and doing something besides watching television and playing on the computer.
She’s so nice she’d probably say’s not true. But it is and she’s right.
You see, Linda had a year head start on me in this retirement thing and I was sort of jealous when she talked about how much she loved it and how much fun it was to have every day be like Saturday.
So, I’ve been stacking up the Saturdays too and, with the exception of golf two days a week, staying pretty close to home.
But the house party is about over and it’s time to get busy finding better uses for my abundance of free time.
I always loved finding and reporting on interesting people and places in this in the days and weeks ahead, I intend to do a little traveling…no place special just out  looking for some stories I can share with you here on
If you have any suggestions, click on the comments.
I wonder if Linda will want to ride along?

Memorial Day musical memories

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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When it was first conceived after the Civil War, Memorial Day..or Decoration Day as it was called for the next 100 years, was supposed to be a time for paying tribute to Americans killed in war.
In my lifetime, though, it’s come to mean honoring “all” who have died by making trips to the cemetery to decorate the graves of family members or friends.
So, with that somber background, I suppose it’s sort of unpatriotic to think of Memorial Day as “party time”..but I do.
Oh, come on. I’m not the only one. Even the federal government made it a Monday holiday so folks could have a three day weekend to enjoy a ballgame, camping trip, backyard barbeque, car races or the lake.
For over 20 years, Lake Madison was my Memorial Day destination…not to go boating, fishing or playing in the water but to be an honored member of the Smith Park big band.
For as long as anyone can remember, Frank and Marlys Johnson operated Smith Park Resort. Located on the East side of the lake, it consisted of a few dozen trailer houses, a boat landing and, of course, the tavern.
Inside the narrow long structure was a bar, several booths, a pool table, an old piano, a Hammond organ and a juke box.
Frank Johnson loved music and lots of the people that spent their summers at his park were musicians. On special occasions, like Memorial Day, they’d bring their instruments over and jam.
The pool table would be pushed aside and the place would be packed as the music and dancing went on late into the night. (L to R: Maxine Smith, Marion (Smitty) Smith, Kenny Rahn, me, Frannie Peckham, Orcella Peckham)I got my first chance to play with the band in the late 70’s becoming a full fledged regular a few years later.
Usually about 8 to 10 musicians would show up but once I counted 16.. all crammed into the back playing familiar big band songs just for the fun of it and the free beers Frank provided to everyone who sat in.
(Playing and singing the day and night away on Memorial Day)At 5 O’Clock, everybody took a break and headed outside for a pot luck picnic..the food provided by anyone and everyone. There was always plenty.
In the spring of 1997, the fun came to a soggy stop as high water flooded the old tavern.
The hardwood floor was ruined and it looked like the Memorial Day tradition was over.
But the lake people would have none of that and joined together to rebuild the place for Frank and Marlys.
The shaky structure was stabilized, a new floor was poured and indoor rest rooms were installed. (Women no longer had to grab a few sheets of toilet paper from the roll by the back door before heading out to the biff)
Smith’s Park had been saved.
But all good things eventually come to an end and after Frank Johnson passed away, it was hard for his family to keep the place going. So after one final Memorial Day big band jam session the doors were locked forever three years ago. New homes and condominiums now surround the little hall.
There’s been some talk of organizing a Smith Park Big Band reunion at some other location near the lake but I’m not so sure it will happen.
 So many of the wonderful people who threw the original party are gone.

A Blustery Blog

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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(Two Norwegians on their first visit to South Dakota)
  “Doss da vind alvays blow dis vay?”
“No, I hear dat sometimes it blows da odder vay.”
I know, I know, windy days are all part of the great South Dakota living experience but, like me, it’s getting old.
I’m tired of worring about the huge maple trees in our yard bending to the breaking point as they sway back and forth like a hula dancer on crack.
 I’m tired of it blowing so hard that you have to yell at the person next to you outside in order to be heard.
Oh, wait..that might just mean it’s time for Linda to change her hearing aid battery. (Yes, I’ll pay for that one.)
I’m tired of pulling out the driver to have a chance of reaching a short par three at the Brandon Golf Course when the wind is howling out of the South or a sand wedge on the same hole when it’s blasting from the North.
When people were saying nice things about me in the days and weeks leading up to my retirement last winter, one of the most common comments was that I always seemed to have an optimistic view of the world.  I even helped perpetuate that perception. But it was a least where the wind is concerned.
The real optimists are those who experience two weeks of gale-force winds and say things like “well, it’ll help dry up the flood areas.” Or, “It keeps the gnats and mosquitoes off.” Or, “Instead of golfing, boating or fishing, these prairie hurricanes give me a chance to catch up on those indoor projects I’ve been putting off.”
Prolonged windy days also get people talking again about all the money South Dakota is blowing by not building wind generators by the thousands to harness this abundant resource we have.
Nearly everybody from politicians (of both parties) to environmentalists to farmers have jumped aboard the wind power bandwagon.
Just last week I heard a report on MPR that said South Dakota has the potential to generate enough wind energy to supply half of the nation’s electrical needs.
Trouble is, according to the report, the state lacks policies that encourage wind power and doesn’t have transmission lines to get the energy where it’s needed most and building them would be a very expensive proposition.
I just wonder if we’ve really thought this thing through.
Do we really want thousands and thousands of those 300 foot tall whirligigs cluttering up our landscape so South Dakota can be the electrical outlet for the country?
I know…wind generators are fascinating to look at..for a while anyway.. and they would provide a badly needed source of income for farmers who are already raising corn for "fuel" instead of food. But what about long-term? Who is really in charge of construction, maintenance, distribution and control of costs?
Why is the environmental crowd so in favor of this passive energy source here in South Dakota but is fighting tooth and nail against construction of proposed giant wind turbines off the shores of Cape Cod because wealthy sea side homeowners don’t want their pristine ocean panorama spoiled?
What makes their panorama any more precious than ours?
I’m just askin’.

Oh My Gosh, It’s Garth

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Taylor.. Dale.. Smith.
They called out the name of our oldest grandson and in a matter of seconds he walked across the stage, received his high school diploma and turned his tassel over all as Linda and I sat in the crowd at the West Central gym sort of stunned wondering where in the world the time had gone. 
Taylor is a great kid who is going to make us proud again, and worried too, when he leaves in July for the Marine Corps.
He and four of his classmates, including Kelsey Hoffman, wanted to have their reception together so their parents rented the American Legion Hall in Hartford.

As Linda and I were sitting at one of the tables visiting with my nephew and his family, I noticed a guy wearing a big black hat entering the building."That looks like Garth Brooks," I said.  
(Who is that man in the black hat?)Seven years ago, the world couldn’t have looked much bleaker for Anita Hoffman of Hartford. Her husband, Dale, was sick and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
He was eventually diagnosed with Antiphospholipid Syndrome..a rare type of blood disorder that required treatment at the Mayo Clinic. The prognosis wasn’t good. 
While still reeling from the possibility of losing Dale, the couple’s ten year old daughter, Kelsey, started complaining of headaches. 
A trip to the doctor confirmed she had brain cancer and needed to begin treatments right away.
For several months, Anita and her other daughter, Robin, were making trips between hospitals in Rochester, Minnesota for Dale and Sioux Falls for Kelsey.
Amid this sea of despair came a single bright spot. Kelsey’s dream of meeting country music superstar, Garth Brooks, was going to come true through the Make a Wish foundation. So the whole family, including Dale, were flown to the New York Mets Spring training camp where Brooks was working out with the team. 
It turned out to they say..the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Brooks was so touched by little Kelsey’s smile and the whole family’s strength in facing their ordeal, he vowed to keep in touch. 
He’s been true to his word. 
When Dale Hoffman died, Garth Brooks dropped everything and, without any fanfare, quietly slipped into Hartford to attend the funeral and be with the family.
Kelsey has since been his invited guest to several events..including being Garth’s date for a country music award show in California.
Saturday, a limousine showed up at the Hoffman house to take Kelsey to her high school graduation. She burst into tears when out stepped her friend from Oklahoma wearing his trademark big cowboy hat.
Garth had come to be there for her special day.
(Kelsey Hoffman with her special graduation guest, Garth Brooks)At the graduation reception, people first couldn’t believe their eyes.
Could this actually be the same Garth Brooks, who has won every major award in country music, standing there smiling and greeting people?
 The same Garth Brooks who, ten years ago, set an attendance record at the Sioux Falls Arena..selling out six performances in three days. 
I finally got the nerve to go up and say howdy and ask him about his relationship with the Hoffman family. He just said, “I’ve never met three more powerful women in my life than Anita, Kelsey and Robin and I’ve found strength through them.”
People at the reception who initially rushed over to get an autograph and picture, need not have been in a hurry. Brooks hung around for  two hours making sure to say hello and have a photo with the other four graduates, their families and guests.(Garth poses with Grandson Taylor and Taylor’s girlfriend Melissa)
Then as unobtrusively as he entered, he quietly exited to his waiting private jet to fly back home in time to make one of his own daughter’s ballgames.
It’s easy to see why Garth was so taken with Kelsey. She is a sweetheart who has been through more in her 17 years than anyone should have to endure in a lifetime. Yet there’s a spirit about her which is both endearing and inspirational.
“Garth has sort of been like a second dad to Kelsey,” Anita Hoffman told me.
“Whenever she needs encouragement or advice, she’ll call him and he’ll often call her out of the blue just to see how she’s doing.”“Do you think that has helped Kelsey beat the cancer that now appears to be gone?” I asked.
Anita didn’t have an answer. She just smiled and brushed back a tear.

Hagar.. not so horrible.

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Happy Independence Day!
I know, it sounds like I’m posting this a little (several weeks) early but if you happen to have a few pints of Norwegian blood running through your veins, you know that the 17th of May is Syttende Mai..celebrating the day in 1814 when Norwegians drew up a constitution and declaration of independence from Sweden.
Trouble is, Sweden said no and Norway remained under Swedish rule for nearly 100 more years.
No matter, it just proves that we are a patient bunch and will wear our oppressors down.. eventually.
The early Norwegians, though, the “they” were a force to be reckoned with.
A thousand years ago they  pretty much ran the show in Europe.
Oh, they probably did a little pillaging and plundering to get what they wanted but boys will be boys.
They also proved their mettle and seamanship by making the first Atlantic cruise to North America in their long ships..even setting up a government in Iceland that’s still around today.
A couple years ago, I actually met the best known Viking since Erik the Red.
Hagar the Horrible.
Chris Browne, who carries on the popular comic strip created by his father, was in Sioux Falls for a cartoonist conclave at Augustana College.
One of the great benefits of working at Keloland was the chance to meet famous people like him.
It was a fun interview in which this enormous and jovial man confessed he wasn’t Norwegian but after all the years around Hagar, Helga and the rest of the characters, he feels like one.
I asked Browne if he ever catches flak from readers or publishers for Hagar’s drinking habits.
He hasn’ least not yet.
As we talked, Browne said he and his wife were fed up with living in Sarasota, Florida and “really” loved Sioux Falls.
Later, Ken Alvine..local head of the National Cartoonists Society..told me Browne had actually made plans to move here but so far, we haven’t seen him. Look for a big guy with a red beard and funny metal hat.
After our visit, Chris Browne drew me a personal picture of the friendly Viking seen each day by millions in over 1900 newspapers around the world.
Speaking of big loveable Vikings, drop over to Hemmingsen’s blog and wish him a happy birthday. Or just honk when you seem him outside the Social Security office.

Help, I’m on a fixed income now!

Posted: Monday, May 14, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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That’s what it cost to fill-up yesterday and it made me so angry that I wanted to lash out at somebody.
 Linda was in the car but…it was Mother’s Day.
There was the young girl working at the Canton convenience store (where the crime took place) who obviously had been hearing the grumblings from gas-gouged customers all day. She looked ready to scream “IT’S NOT MY FAULT, DAMMIT” and burst into tears if I’d have said a word so I bit my tongue as she gave me $3.44 change for my fifty and I schlumped out the door.
So who can we yell at? (To whom can we yell?)
Apparently OPEC isn’t even the big villain this time. The head honcho from Shell Oil, on one of the Sunday TV news shows, said it’s simply the law of supply and demand.
He said there is plenty of oil in the world to meet our needs now and in the future but environmental regulations prevents the big companies from going after it.
In the meantime, their profits from our pockets have soared to ridiculous levels and unless we say yes to their demands to go out and find more oil, prices will continue to go up. What I don’t understand is where is the incentive to go looking for oil if they can continue rolling in record profits without ever having to dig another well?
Now, I’ve never been one to hate rich people. I think most of those who do probably wish they were.
But I do have a problem with how some folks are making their millions.
If you offer goods or a service in a competitive market and do well through ingenuity, hard work and integrity.. well, more power to you. We’ll drive by your mansions and drool.
But if you’re living high because you were in a position to take advantage of people  by jabbing them at the gas pump, doctor’s office, garage, nursing home, lending institution or some such operation…shame on you.
This is nothing new in America. Most of the early industrialists from Getty and Rockefeller to Carnegie achieved richest man in the world status because they absolutely controlled the marketplace… be it oil, railroads or steel..leaving consumers no choice but to pay whatever price the big wigs felt like charging.
Anti-monopoly laws were eventually passed but the spirit of greed that drove those men has never gone far away.
I hear there is supposed to be a nationwide gas price protest on Tuesday. Boycott the pumps for a day.
It’s not going to work, of course. Besides I just filled up.
Obviously, complaining to our elected representatives in Washington does nothing.
Somebody said to me the other day, well, why don’t you buy one of those hybrid cars that run on gas “and” electricity and get such great mileage?
Have you seen how much those little underpowered things cost…if you can find one?
The auto makers say the price is so high because of the law of supply and demand.
Where have I heard that before?

Memories of Mom

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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“Why do you always have to wait until the last minute to get things done?”
Although she died over 11 years ago, I can still hear my mother’s voice scolding me again for that flaw in my character.
 It’s a flaw I’ve never been able to shake even as I sit here trying to write down some personal feelings about her as a Mothers Day tribute.
I’ve been putting it off for a week.
I think part of my problem getting started in her case is the knowledge that she wouldn’t have wanted the attention anyway.
“Oh, Piffels,” she would say…and scoff at the suggestion that she was anything special.
I suppose there’s some truth in that. She may not have been all that different from other Norwegian Lutheran women, born in the early 20th century, who married Norwegian Lutheran men and raised a varying number of  Norwegian Lutheran kids.
Most had the same quiet dignity, strong work ethic and an unshakeable faith.
But not all possessed much of a sense of humor.
Mom did.  
Oh, she didn’t “tell” lots of jokes and laugh out loud too often but she was a great audience for the rest of us. Something we’d say or do would strike her funny bone and she’d first smile, then start to shake trying to avoid an outburst of laughter. My brothers and I loved to tease her and I’m pretty sure she loved it too and would often give as good as she got.
My very first memory is from age three and me watching mom baking lefse in our farm house kitchen.
Over the years we had some of our best talks at that lefse griddle as she spent hours and hours working her magic… turning potato patties and flour into delicious delicacies fit for the king of Norway but enjoyed, instead by family and customers of the Clover Farm grocery store in Volga, South Dakota  for 59 cents a dozen.
(Mom on her 80th birthday surrounded by her three sons, Doug..Denny and Tom. )Raising three boys (four.. if you count my dad since he called her mom too) was no picnic and she could get mad…real mad.  Sometimes when one of us would push her too far, she’d explode in a short eruption of profanity that was so unlike her we’d be stunned into silent submission.   
Some of my favorite scenes in the movie “A Christmas Story” are when Ralphie’s mother didn’t always tell Ralphie’s father about a fight or some other trouble he’d gotten into.
My mom was the same way. She was a buffer between my dad and me on several occasions.
Sometimes she wouldn’t bring up my infraction at all, other when I was 13 and had crashed our 1953 Mercury through my Aunt Leila’s garage door..she downplayed the incident to dad so instead of me getting his Red Wing boot up my butt and grounded for life, I was given a good talking-to sprinkled with lots of colorful creative expletives.
My mother loved music and somehow came up with the money to buy an old upright piano that we crammed into the bedroom of our small house.
I was shocked when she sat down and actually played the thing.
It was all on the black keys and the only tune she knew.. but it sure left a lasting impression.
I even took piano lessons for a while but gave it up in favor of rock and roll when my cousin and I each got guitars and eventually formed a band.
“That really sounds good,” mom would say encouragingly as we struggled for hours trying to learn enough songs to perform in public.  
But she was always doing that..lifting me up..telling me what a handsome young man I was even as I stood before the mirror in tears looking at a face full of zits. Or telling me how smart I could be if I’d only apply myself..while reluctantly signing a report card filled with “D’s.
Or saying nothing about constantly having to change my bed sheets in the middle of the night after those “accidents” I had until the age of 12.
Those are some of the things they just don’t put in a Hallmark Mother’s Day card.
Mom lived a long time and I was eventually able to tell her how much I appreciated all she had done in my life. (to which I believe she said, “aw, pifflels”)
If you’re lucky enough to still have your mother around..why not tell her too?
She might just say how good looking and smart you are!

Riding with the Rocketman

Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2007 at 11:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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 When I read that former astronaut, Wally Schirra, died of a heart attack this past week, my thoughts immediately took me back about 15 years ago when I was chauffer to this American space pioneer.
Schirra was one of our original seven astronauts and the only one to fly in all three manned space flight programs; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.
He was such a skilled pilot and courageous leader that NASA put up with his occasional outbursts of insubordination.
For example, Schirra thought the centrifuge part of astronaut training was a waste of time and said so..not only here but while touring the cosmonaut training facility in Russia.
During the 11 day Apollo flight, all three astronauts developed head colds and were grumpy about it. When it came time to put on helmets for reentry, Schirra requested that ..because of their colds..they be allowed to skip it.
When flight controllers said no..put them on..Schirra said something to the effect of “come up here and make us.”
They splashed down bare-headed.
He was full of great stories and a real rebel.
I think he was in Sioux Falls giving a lecture at one of the colleges. Anyway, he was kind enough to do an interview with me on the Five O’clock News.
He talked about working alongside Walter Cronkite during television coverage of the first moon landing in 1969.
He also talked about his relationship with NASA..saying he always considered himself a naval officer on assignment rather than an employee of the space agency.
He wasn’t a big fan of the shuttle, as I recall. He didn’t see how it was really challenging our imagination for space exploration. (In later years, though, he said we have greater needs than going to Mars and other deep space ventures and challenged NASA to put its focus on the environmental concerns of our own planet.)
He also chuckled about the accuracy of the popular movie “The Right Stuff” in which he and the other early astronauts were portrayed.
Schirra called it mostly entertainment and not so much history.
After the news, the producer asked if I could give Schirra, who was traveling alone, a ride to the airport.
I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to have this American icon sitting right there next to me in my car..talking and laughing about his space exploits with the likes of John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter and GusGrissom.
The first  rocketmen.
Now, all but two are gone..and I’m feeling a lot older.

Lund Is Large

Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I’m fat
There I said it.
I believe some people, including me, are predisposed to be fat. That’s not an excuse, just an observation that I’m sure Jaine Andrews could confirm from some of her Healthbeat reports..especially her on-going saga of Patrick Deuel, the Valentine, Nebraska man who came out of the chute fat and kept gaining weight until he finally had to be hauled away to the hospital in a truck.  
I’ve been self conscious about being fat since grade school. I even remember spending my hard earned lawn mowing money on Metracal, the first weight-loss shake mix.  It tasted more like chalk than chocolate. I did lose a few pounds. Not from the product but the exercise gained from running to the bathroom all the time.
There aren’t too many diets I haven’t tried including “Ayds” which was an expensive appetite-suppressant candy that exploded onto the market in the 70’s but disappeared overnight when a disastrous epidemic with the same name became part of our national lexicon.
I’m not in camp with those who believe every bad habit..including a “disease” but everyone’s chemical make-up is different and for some, food is as addictive as cocaine.
We all know those people with the metabolism of a hummingbird who can gorge themselves and not gain an ounce while the rest of us need only sniff the caramel rolls baking away at HyVee  and have to loosen our belt a notch.
There is something in my genes that keeps me from “wearing” jeans..even the relaxed fit.
Oh, they probably make blue jeans in my size but then the hummingbird people use a branding iron to print that waist size on a piece of leather then stitch it on the back pocket for everyone to see and snicker.How embarrassing.
Oh, I have lost weight before.
Nutri System worked for a while..all three times I was on it.
Hemmingsen and I did the hypnosis thing one time. All he did was fall asleep in the chair during his sessions.
I managed to lose 20 pounds but not because of any post hypnotic suggestion given during a trance.  I starved for several days so as not to be embarrassed in front of the shrink at my weekly weigh-ins.
I had some success with the Atkins low carb diet but there were times I would have crawled over a mile of sizzling buttery steaks to get to a bowl of spaghetti or slice of toast or a pancake or a muffin with a tall glass of milk to wash it down.
I know, I know..the answer is simple. Just make the decision to eat healthy.. eat less and exercise. The pounds will come off and you’ll finally be happy.
When you say that to a fat person we figure you are one of the hummingbird people.
You don’t realize that many of us have tried and failed and tried again..and again and again..
We beat ourselves up over these failures and often take refuge in food disregarding the health dangers and warnings.
Never the less, I’ve decided to take one more shot at becoming the slender healthy gentleman I wish I was instead of the elderly fat dude I’ve become whose knees hurt and who is looking at an early dirt nap unless changes are made.
I’d love to hear any comments or experiences you dear readers may have that might help me and perhaps others make the journey to slimmerdom as un-traumatic and successful as possible.
Besides my wife is cleaning closets and wants to get rid of all my clothes that don’t fit.
Goodwill will have to make two trips to our house.