I received a letter from an old friend today; a letter that left me stunned at first..then angry then terribly sad because it would be the last time I’d ever hear from her again.
In the e-mail, sent to several former colleagues, J. said she has decided to end her own life.
And I, for one, don’t intend to do or say anything to stop her.
When J. came to work at Keloland 20 years ago, she started out as a production assistant but it didn’t take long to recognize her skills and she soon became our very first woman producer.
J. was one of those people who just “got it. She quickly became the go-to person in the newsroom for anyone with a question about anything.
She could be counted on to get things done.
J. loved to laugh and was an absolute joy to be around.
She didn’t have many boyfriends, that I knew about anyway, but her social calendar was filled hob-nobbing with co-workers, church friends or volunteering for any charity that could use a hand. One of her favorites was the Ski For Light organization.
Each winter she headed out to the Black Hills ski slopes to help visually impaired people enjoy the thrill of skiing.
Then 15 years ago, when J. was still in her twenties, she was struck down by a massive stroke.
It left this energetic young woman paralyzed below the neck and unable to speak.
She’s been at a facility specializing in long term care for patients with brain injuries ever since.
J. eventually managed to learn to communicate through a computer that translated her head and eye movements into letters enabling her to send e-mails..an agonizingly slow and frustrating process.
She would often correspond this way with her old friends from Kelo including a note of congratulations to me shortly before my retirement.
I really didn’t know what to say when I wrote back except that I treasure the memories of our association together and pray that she’ll one day know why she has had to suffer so.
That day will be arriving soon, apparently.
J. writes that she’s tired; tired of the pain from ongoing medical problems. Tired of being dependant on others when she was the one others could always depend on.
Tired of crying.
After almost constant prayer and visits with a minister, a psychologist and staff, J. has chosen to die. She’ll stop eating, drinking and taking most medications in order to hasten the end.
I suspect that most of us have thought about how we would handle the horror of being confined to only our own thoughts unable to ever move or talk again.
J. has faced up to her situation bravely but the time has come to choose a path that will let her go home.
A home she’s only been able to dream about where she will finally be free of the shackles that have bound her for so long.I suppose there are those who believe it is against God’s will for her to take such drastic action.
I don’t happen to be one of them. May you have a peaceful liberating journey, J.
Archive for March 2008
By: Doug Lund
By: Doug Lund
In his blog, Hemmingsen Weighs In, Steve has written about Captain 11, Dave Dedrick’s, 80th birthday bash at Champs Friday night. The following are some photos from the party.Happy Birthday, Pal!"I thought we were just going out for burgers," said Dedrick upon entering the surprise party room with wife MarjeanLongtime friends Ray (brown sweater) and Phil (white sweater) George (in foreground)Danny (Dave’s piano accompanist when he sings) and DortDave and Marjean’s daughter, Sunshine, who pulled off the surprise. Son Dana was there too, of course,but somehow he eluded my camera. Their third son, Davey, who died of AIDS several years ago, would have loved this night.Dave’s two sisters are pictured here..sorry forgot names..one is the lady in the foreground the other in purple. Dave also has an older brother who couldn’t be there. The longevity genes are good in this family.The little guy is, I believe, one of his great nephews.Patty Townsend sits between her daughter and grandaughter. Patty’s husband, Jack, one of the KELOLAND pioneers, died last Fall, The Dedricks and Townsends have been friends since 1955.Keloland oldtimers: LtoR, Me, Dave Dedrick, Steve Hemmingsen, George Ringen, Joe H. FloydMy favorite picture of the evening. Even at 80, the Captain’s love for children still shines through and their facination with him is timeless.May God bless you with many more happy years, my friend.
By: Doug Lund
Sounds like Linda and I could be moving.
She saw the story in the paper this week about the Van Epps mansion being up for grabs and she would love to grab it.
We’ve lived in the same neighborhood in our same little ranch house since we got married ah..let’s see…twenty…ah…twenty four?…yeah, 24 years ago.
But each time we’re anywhere near the cathedral district we have to drive by and look at all the magnificent old houses and dream.
Two stories..three stories high some with domes, some with lacy wooden scrollwork trim on porch and gable roofs. Some are made out of Sioux Falls quartzite..a hard pink granite that was quarried just a few miles east of town.
Still so strong are these mighty mansions that after 120 years a direct hit by a South Dakota force 5 tornado or a whole pack of huffing/puffing big bad wolves could never budge them.
As we slowly pass by these architectural masterpieces, Linda will usually say the obligatory, “boy, I’d hate to have to wash all those windows.” And, my obligatory response; “Honey, if we could afford to live there, we could probably afford to hire someone to do the windows.”
Then she gets rather serious and says, “Wouldn’t it be fun, though, to have a big beautiful place like that and fix it up?”
“Yeah, it sure would,” I’d say knowing there was no chance of us ever doing it.
But now, the glorious Van Epps mansion at 8th and Minnesota is not only available as a fixer-upper, it’s being offered FREE to anyone who will move it to another location! The owners will even give the TAKER ten grand to help the relocation cost. Otherwise, it’s going to be torn down.
(For pictures and a guided tour, click here.)
Once surrounded by stately elm trees and a big yard, the Van Epps mansion was perfectly located so its enterprising occupant, Inez Van Epps had a grand view of the growing city which had provided her late husband, William, with the golden opportunity to earn a fortune.
Inez, a musician and singer, would often open her beautiful home for concerts and other artistic presentations which must have been a god-send to those who had left such refinements behind when they came out west which was still pretty rough around the edges.
I’ve only been inside the big blue house on the corner of 8th and Minnesota once. It was many years ago, when the first floor had been converted into a nifty gift shop.
Now, the old structure seems out of place; an island amid a sea of concrete and it has to go.
She didn’t say it, but I could hear Linda thinking..“could it go to US? The price is right!”
I have to admit that it would be kinda nice..but poor Linda has to accept the reality that she’s married to a klutz who cannot be trusted with power tools much less the responsibility of anything remotely approaching a restoration project as demanding as the Van Epps home. Plus it would cost a least 150 thousand for a lot and to move it there. Triple that for the cost of restoring and furnishing and, well, even though I got my first social security check today, 14 hundred a month won’t cover it.
Besides, in a couple years, all those stairs each night would be as challenging for us as a trek up Harney Peak.
She’ll thank me for being so “level” headed about this…I’m almost sure she will.
By: Doug Lund
Its okay for me to occasionally bad mouth a member of my family but when someone else does it, well, they’re in for a fight.
A year or so ago, the people who make decisions at Keloland TV invited some of South Dakota’s better known political bloggers to present their various points of view on Keloland’s hugely popular website, Keloland.com.
I thought at the time that was a pretty generous offer since it’s the most popular site in the state and will give these people an enormous audience they would never have otherwise.
Among those getting the nod was Todd David Epp. Todd David has since dropped the “David” from his moniker. Not sure why. He must figure that Epp is sufficiently Ostentatious.
Todd David loves to point out that long before he was a lawyer or blogger, he was a journalist.
Most of his journalism was at South Dakota Public broadcasting with a relatively short stint at KSFY then an even shorter stop at KDLT which, I believe, included a short-lived attempt at anchoring the news.
I remember hearing from others in the business how Todd David rarely missed an opportunity to blast KELO during his various tenures at the competition.
Then after this website extended the opportunity for him to blog here, suddenly he was referring to any and all of us on the KELO payroll as his “colleagues.”
I always regarded colleagues as people I worked closely with..but Todd David apparently has a different concept and sees his occasional blogs here as an association that’s close enough… even though I doubt most KELOLAND news employees would know him if they stepped on him at a Nader for President rally.
I’ve got to say that Todd David is a busy guy. In addition to his alleged law practice and his prolific daily blogging, he has always found time to support liberal political campaigns on all levels from the aforementioned Ralph Nader to Al Gore. He was on Tom Daschle’s legal team in the senator’s unsuccessful bid for reelection in 2004. He worked for the Jim Abbott for Governor campaign in 2002 and was Jack Billion’s campaign manager in the 2006 governor’s race until there was a parting of ways and Todd David was suddenly out. When asked why, Todd David, who is an outspoken advocate for government openness, clammed up and, as far as I know, never said exactly why he and Jack split..except that the two no longer saw “eye to eye.”
Anyway, I don’t think I’d be bragging about my political influence with that kind track record on my resume.
Now, Todd David has decided to not only bite the hand that feeds him but rip into its heart as well with his latest column, “Keloland, your home for warmongering.”
In it, he claims that Keloland news has, for the last five years, intentionally done nothing but perpetuate the lies of President Bush in its local coverage of the war in Iraq.
To suggest that MY colleagues in the Keloland news department have ever been instructed to report only one side of an issue on anything, including the war, would be laughable if it wasn’t such a lame grasp for attention.
Seems ironic that Todd David spouts such nonsense from a platform provided him by the very people he’s condemning for not presenting all points of view.
What Todd David doesn’t say in his rant is that he’s probably ticked off at Keloland for not showing up with cameras to cover a candlelight vigil organized by the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center on the 5th anniversary of the War in Iraq.
Todd is a big supporter of this small liberal group who gather in coffee houses to formulate plans for peace in the world.
The vigil was to take place outside the V.A. Hospital.
I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it was to send a message to those ailing veterans inside watching from their hospital window that they should have known better than to fight for a county as corrupt as ours..shame on them.
Maybe there’s another reason that site was chosen. I think a lot of us would be interested in knowing.
Keloland news also passed up the opportunity to cover the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center’s art show and concert at the Black Sheep Coffee house the other night. 14 artists were there presenting, on canvas, their disdain for the war. I’m guessing that Keloland news will do the classy thing and let pass Todd David’s obnoxious contentions about my friends who work so hard to put together newscasts that are factual, informative, objective and without sensationalism.
I don’t have any class..so let me be the one to say that Todd David, who has his own agenda, is dead wrong on this one and ask him, nicely, to set the record straight and stop messing with my family.
By: Doug Lund
“God created the month of March to give people who don’t drink a chance to feel what a hangover is like.”Garrison Keillor
Another dreary cloud-filled March day here in the part of our world we like to call Keloland.
Like a lot of you, I’ve accepted the reality that March is going to be windy, cloudy and cold so there’s no point in getting my hopes up of the golf courses opening early.
Also, because Easter is determined by one of the equinoxes (I forget which one) there’s little chance that the grandkids will be able to take their search for hidden Easter eggs outside this Sunday.
So when we all head over to my sister-in-law’s farm for the holiday celebration, the kids will have to do their egg hunting indoors because it’s much too muddy outside.
My mom, bless her soul, used to boil up a couple dozen eggs and, after they’d cooled, let her three boys dip them into dishes filled with food coloring. Then we were told the Easter Bunny would be stopping by sometime during the night to hide them for us to find on Easter morning.
I don’t ever remember seeing that rabbit but he must have been a fair-weather hare because he always opted to conceal the eggs INSIDE our home.
I don’t think my brothers and I ever really bought into the whole Easter Bunny thing. We had enough on our minds trying to figure out the Holy Trinity much less a connection between Jesus’ resurrection…chicken eggs and a rabbit.
Anyway, we played along and on Sunday morning, mom would say, “Time for you boys to get up now and find where those eggs are.”
After a couple years of this, we knew most of the hiding spots: behind the mantle clock, above the kitchen stove (two were usually there) in the fern plant, behind the telephone, under the doily on the folk’s nightstand etc.
Once we’d gathered them up, Mom would make sure all the eggs were accounted for then we’d get ready for church. (The Easter bunny must have filled her in on the correct number)
One year, though, mom became concerned because the totals didn’t add up. One egg was still missing.
We looked and looked; even Dad joined in the search but no luck.
Eventually, we concluded that the count must have been wrong and we soon forgot all about it.
By the time the month of May rolled around, though, it was hard not to notice a foul aroma coming from the bathroom area. We just blamed Dad at first but it kept getting worse even when the old man hadn’t been home for hours.
Finally, Mom had had enough and said we were going to find the source of that stink if takes all day.
So, all five of us wound up walking around the house sniffing the air like a pack of bloodhounds.
Eventually, one of us zeroed-in on the floor lamp by the bathroom hallway.
Sure enough, when the light was turned on the silhouette of an oval-shaped object was clearly visible in the globe.
It was the missing Easter egg that had been fermenting to a nose-curling stench for over a month.
Mom grabbed a section of newspaper, snatched up the offensive smelling orb and took it directly out to the trash barrel in the alley.
“How come the Easter Bunny didn’t tell you where he hid that last one?” we asked her with a laugh.
“If you think it’s so funny, she said, just wait until next Easter when he doesn’t show up at all.”
Come to think of it that WAS the last time…for us anyway.
He didn’t return until our own children got to spend Easter at Grandma’s house.
After the hunt, though, Mom always made sure to double check the hall lamp.
Linda, Doug and Granddaughter, Zoey HAPPY EASTER!
By: Doug Lund
"Hello, my name is Doug and I’m a tv-aholic."
"Hi Doug." (responds the coffee-slurping crowd through clouds of cigarette smoke.)
There, it feels good to finally get that off my chest and fess up to a condition I’ve had since childhood…when dad brought home our very first television set (a Caphart, black and white of course) in 1953.
But I’m not like other TV addicts in that I won’t watch just anything. If, for example, there was nothing on but reality shows or that awful series with Jim Belushi, I could and would give it all up and read books or do something more constructive with my time.
But, you see, there are lots of other options on hundreds of channels with programs that attract my interest. And, with my digital video recorder, I can build up a library of shows then zip through any commercials or parts I find boring. I pay extra to have the Home Box Office channel on my cable system although sometimes I really wonder why.
For example, I know a lot of people who loved "Deadwood" and, while I did watch every episode, the dialogue to me was mostly a mystery; a Shakespearian play peppered with obscenities that would make Larry Flint blush.
At the urging of friends and after reading so many raving reviews of HBO’s The Wire, I decided to watch the entire 5th and final season in one night courtesy of "On Demand."
The acting was exceptional but It’s a story with few, if any, good guys.
Most of the cops, politicians and newspaper execs depicted are two faced, crooked opportunistic slugs.
The producers lift up the rock that is urban Baltimore and would have us be entertained by what crawls out. It may be great stuff to some but I don’t find stories about young black men killing each other over drugs and power..all to the annoyingly pulsating rythm of rap..that entertaining.
It’s a world where the language of the street is spoken..impossible for most of us to understand without subtitles except for the ever-present and ceaseless use of the F-bomb as a noun, verb, adjective or in reference to a sick relationship with one’s mother.That’s the way the real world is, Doug. No, it isn’t. Not in my living room anyway.
Then, just when I’m about to pull the plug on HBO, along comes the series, John Adams that not only entertains but informs, enlightens and lifts the American spirit.
It stars, Paul Giamatti as Adams..a founding father and the second President of the United States.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by the brilliant David McCullough, we get a dramatically realistic look at conditions,both political and environmental, in late 18th century America leading up to and through the revolution.Laura Linney plays Abigail Adams who was her husband’s biggest supporter and severest critic during their 54 years together.
Stephen Dillane is Thomas Jefferson, Tom Wilkinson plays Ben Franklin and David Morse looks so much like George Washington you wish he’d run for president again. Imagine, a G.W. who could not tell a lie.
There are five more episodes in the series and I can’t wait for the next one Sunday night.
It should be required viewing for all kids who find the study of American history less than exciting or inspirational.
But then you’d have to sign up for HBO where your children might accidentally tune in and hear George Carlin..who used to make me laugh..spewing messages of hate under the guise of humor.
You might have to try explain to them why that grey bearded old man is using each and every one of his formally banned expletives to lambaste everything from organized religion to the plight of hungry children around the world.
Yeah, that’s funny stuff George.
By: Doug Lund
In the summertime most homeowners follow a strict code of conduct as to how early in the morning you are allowed to fire-up the lawn mower or any other noisy yard-care equipment so as not to disturb those who live around you. After 9:00 a.m. is okay, any time before that is just being..well, unneighborly.
But during the winter…all bets are off.
The green flag is always waving for those of us lucky enough to own snowblowers.
In fact, long before sunrise right after..or even during, any snowfall, large or small, the neighborhood sounds like the start of the Indianapolis 500 as Briggs & Stratton and Tecumseh motors rev-up with a huge racket.Men (plus a few women) wearing their parkas and boots steer their hungry snow-eating machines toward the enemy in a race to be first to have their sidewalk and driveway clear of any and all snowy obstructions.
But it’s not only about speed. Style points are also awarded to those who have mastered the art of cranking the snowthrower spout at just the right time and in just the right direction to send the snow so it lands in perfect white windrows.
Some can carve a path so neat it looks like the work of a master sculptor.
Oh, I envy those guys.
My neighborhood just before the big race
Linda and I live on a corner lot and for years never had to worry about shoveling because we had an enthusiastic snowblower owner right next door. He and his machine would be over in a flash and by the time I awoke, my walks and driveway were already clean as a whistle.
If he didn’t show up right away, I’d go out in the cold wearing only a light jacket with my little aluminum shovel and bang away at the snow making an intentionally feeble attempt to move it.Usually my neighbor would see or hear me..take pity and holler, “hang on Doug, I’ll be right over with the blower.”
Heh, heh, heh.
But then, my friendly but gullible neighbor just up and moved away taking his magnificent orange Ariens with him.
There was no choice. I was not about to shovel snow by hand so I had to buy one for myself.
That was about six years ago and I now must admit that I kind of understand how my former neighbor felt.
I’m not sure if it’s God’s way of bringing out the Good Samaritan in us or if it’s the sense of power one gets when that engine fires up and the auger begins to churn away at the snow..but I rather enjoy the feeling and have been known to keep rolling along clearing other people’s sidewalks up and down the block.
Of course that ticks off as many as it makes happy because I’m encroaching on the territory of others with snowblowers… robbing them of their fun.
Yours truly experiencing the joy of snowblowing
It wasn’t so much fun this morning, though. No sooner had I fueled ‘er up and started blowing, than I ran over last week’s Shoppers News lying buried in the snow. That caused the sheer-pin on the auger to break and it took the better part of an hour to find and install a replacement pin.
Plus this snow was wet and heavy meaning there was no joy at seeing it fly 30 feet into the air.
Instead, as the engine groaned to find enough power, the snow sort of oozed out the spout like sludge from a sewer pipe.
That’s probably it for this year anyway. Spring is just around the cor……
Hey, it’s snowin’ again and the neighborhood is roaring back to life..gotta go.
By: Doug Lund
(Sung to the tune of "On Wisconsin")
Onward Volga, onward Volga, you’re the school for me.
When we battle (fill in name of opposing town here) high school, happy we will be.
Onward Volga, onward Volga, fight them for your fame.
So fight, fellas fight, fight, fight to win this game.
I’ve had our old high school fight song running through my head quite a bit over the past two weeks as BOTH the boys AND the girls basketball teams from Sioux Valley High School in my hometown of Volga advanced to the state tournament.
They both lost, of course, but still..wow, what an achievement!.
Val Klienjan of the Cossacks shoots and scores Photo by Lara Neel Argus LeaderI don’t know any of the kids that play on either team. I recognize a few last names like Klienjan and Knutson. (they’re probably the grandkids of my classmates.)
My little town has grown a lot since I left. Back then, there was no girl’s basketball program at all and for the boys team, coaches had to pick players from a pool that consisted primarily of Dutch or Norwegian kids.
Now there is even an African-American, Brooks Knolley, who’s a starter and a star player for the mighty Cossacks.
Photo by Lara Neel Argus Leader
When I was a senior in 1964, the Cossacks did very well in both football and basketball…no thanks to me.
My cousin, Grouse and I were too busy growing our hair long and playing rock and roll music trying to impress the girls.
Our football team went undefeated that season and the basketball team certainly looked as if it was going to be good enough to do the same.
For once, our arch nemesis, Arlington Cardinals, had nothing for us.
The Howard Tigers, though, that was another story. They beat us by 14 points in the very first game of the season. Well, that shocking defeat seemed to light a fire under our guys and, except for an unexplained loss to Lake Nordon, the Cossacks completed the regular season without another loss and had three games in which they scored a whopping 100 or more points.The Volga Cossacks 1964..the next year with consolidation the name was changed to Sioux Valley With Arlington out of the way, the Cossacks breezed through the district tournament and then made it to the championship game of the regionals. Only one thing stood in the way of a trip to the state “B’”… Howard.
Here was our chance to get revenge for that earlier humiliation.
Oh, what a game! The lead changed back and forth for the entire contest. Fans on both sides were screaming so loud you could hardly hear the buzzer.
But then, in the final seconds, Roger Truman (I’ll never forget that name) of the Tigers, ended the tie, dropped in the winning basket and broke our hearts.
Congratulations to the wonderful 2008 Sioux Valley Cossacks girls and boys teams for making it to the big show.
I’d like to say that the agony of defeat eventually goes away but as you can tell, for some of us, it still kinda stings even after 44 years.
By: Doug Lund
I’ve been perpetuating my own reputation as a procrastinator this week by not making any blog entries for a few days.
The truth is, I’ve started quite a few then decided to take some time to cool off before writing something I’d regret later.
A lot of things in the news this week, though, have got my blood to boilin’.
First was the decision by the Sioux Falls school board to hold off on making any improvements to Howard Wood Field for a year in order to have more time to ponder tearing the whole place down for a new events center parking lot.
First of all, (and I’ve written about this before) how has Howard Wood, with it’s relatively new artificial grass field, all-weather track and concrete grandstands..which a couple years ago were good enough to try lure the Minnesota Vikings training camp away from Mankato, suddenly become so easily expendable? Also why would it cost six to over 20 million dollars (I’ve heard both figures) to fix it up? I know six million doesn’t go as far as it used to but, my gosh, how can remodeling the press box, fixing up the rest rooms, and patching some of the concrete cost so much?
Well, Doug, you don’t understand how expensive things are these days. Perhaps not but I was at a couple events at Howard Wood last year and made it a point to look around a bit. The place looked pretty solid to me. I didn’t notice any huge cracks in the cement that threatened to send a whole grandstand full of people screaming and crashing to their death. The rest room toilets, urinals and sinks seemed adequate and functional.
I have no sentimental attachment to Howard Wood or regard it as a historical landmark. But it serves a need..it’s part of a very nice sports and entertainment complex and it’s paid for. Even if some insist that a few million needs to be spent to bring it up to snuff, then do it.
Mayor Munson and a lot of others are set on building a new events center..somewhere.I really like the mayor and appreciate his love for our city and concerns for its future but I’m not the only one who questions the need.
No one is saying for sure how much it’s going to cost because there’s been no agreement on how big the thing is going to be.
I’ve heard anywhere from 12 to 20 thousand seats. That’s quite a range. What type of events are we missing out on because we currently can’t accommodate crowds that large? Are there enough big name entertainers that are still touring and able to draw 20 thousand people from this area?
Even Keloland hater, music critic and self proclaimed expert on everything, Scott Hudson, says there is not.
At any rate, supporters of cramming this building..whatever the size..next to the current arena have another year to plan a strategy and convince us that Howard Wood has to go.
Another thing that continues to infuriate me is the latest report on how our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is draining the United States dry economically: $12 Billion a month! But even worse, in over five years we’ve lost nearly 4 thousand American troops, thousands more have been injured and maimed..yet there’s no end in sight and we still can’t find Osama.
If, as some people claim, this whole adventure in the middle east is more about oil than terrorism then why do we allow ourselves to be pushed around by OPEC at $110 a barrel?. Why don’t we just take Iraq’s oil? They owe us something, don’t you think?
No, we can’t do that because it would destroy Iraq’s fragile economy. So fragile that Americans, with our fragile economy, will have to pick up the tab for Iraq’s post war reconstruction.
Where were those weapons of mass destruction again? These are some of the things I think about when filling up the gas tank.
Another thing that raised the hair on the back of my neck this week was watching the governor of New York choke back tears while confessing to his involvement in a prostitution ring. As if spending 5 thousand dollars a night on a hooker wasn’t bad enough, Eliot Spitzer had the gall to have his poor wife stand there next to him while admitting his expensive indiscretions. What a clod.
I could get into other issues that really frost my bobber like Steve Kirby’s decision not to run for senate after a stupid preemptive-strike by Tim Johnson’s re-election campaign that basically said Kirby and his family are too rich for their own good and probably play cribbage with the devil.
But that’s it for now. I’ll be back next time with something that hopefully will be more uplifting.
Meantime, here’s a photo someone sent this week that gave me a much needed laugh out loud.
By: Doug Lund
“Hey Doug, you gotta come over to the studio and do a story on this guy from Lemmon…you won’t believe it.”
That was a call I got nine years ago from Will Prines who operates “Creative Communications” in Sioux Falls and who has produced and recorded the music of many very talented people since going into business back in the 70’s.
“His name is Rory Hoffman,” he sings…plays 14 different instruments…and oh, yeah, he’s blind.”
I rounded up a photographer and off we went to meet this one man band.
In spite of Will’s enthusiasm, I sort of half expected this guy to be one of those jack-of-all-trades..master of none..type musicians.
When we arrived, they were just wrapping up a session. Rory was playing the piano, which I assumed was his instrument of choice because it certainly sounded as if he’d mastered it.
Then he grabbed a saxophone to lay down another track. Oh, my gosh, I thought, he’s great at that too.
Rory took a break for our interview. That’s when I learned how he grew up in a gospel music family, Roland Hoffman and the Believers.
Born blind, Rory began traveling with the group at the age of five..playing drums. Rory Hoffman played drums but eventually turned the sticks over to his little brother.
As we talked, Rory said when he was little he wanted to play guitar like his father but his hands were too small to fit around the neck so he laid the instrument across his lap..backwards..and started picking the strings with his left hand and making chords with his right.Rory pickin’ guitar "his" way at age 7 or 8
“Do you still play guitar today?” I asked.
Rory smiled and said, “Well, yeah, that’s kind of my specialty, I guess.”
“Okay, let’s hear some.”
With that, Rory Hoffman opened the case next to his feet, pulled out a beautiful Fender Stratocaster guitar, laid it across his lap..plugged it in and proceed to cause my jaw to drop in amazement as his fingers flew across the neck at lightning speed.
I had never seen or heard anything like it. (left) Rory performing with his brother, Reed, who is also musical and also blind. (right) Rory sitting in with a couple of other South Dakota originals, Williams & Ree at Hostfest in North Dakota.
“I’m working on my first album, he said. “It’s called “Blind Faith”..a collection of some favorite old hymns that I’ve kind of put my own style to. I’ll send you a CD when it’s done.”
I got lots of phone calls after my story aired on Keloland..all from people wanting to know more about this incredible performer.
Good to his word, Rory sent me the CD a few weeks later which I still play all the time.
Jammin’ with fellow pickers in Nashville Performing on stage at CCMA awards
Rory Hoffman has gone on to record a second album called “Fishin” plus he’s won lots of awards including “musician of the year” honors from the Christian Country Music Association in 2004 and 2005.
But now, I’m a bit concerned. His website has been closed and I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing.
I certainly hope good things have been coming his way and the world will soon know of his talents.
I’ve never heard anyone better.
If you don’t believe me, click here to watch and listen to this performance he made last year at the Independent Music and Media Professionals (IMMA) conference in Kansas City.