Archive for July 2008

The Buzz is Back to Bug Me

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Linda absolutely loves the summertime. In fact, she starts fretting about it being over on the very first day it begins because the summer solstice means that days will start getting shorter again and before you know it..bam..it’ll be time to unpack the bulk knit sweaters and start planning Christmas dinner.
For me, the sure sign we’ve turned the corner on the season is when we can no longer sit out on the deck in the evening without yelling at each other.It’s not that we’re fighting. It’s because those  #&*%@ cicadas are back buzzing away in the treetops so loudly you can’t hear yourself think much less carry on a conversation. Aww. Innee cute? A dog-day cicada now appearing with a cast of thousands in a tree near you.
Cicadas are apparently quite a freak of nature in that some species stay buried in the ground for up to 17 years before arising out of the earth in mass to annoy the planet.We have mostly dog-day cicadas around here which show up annually during the dog days of summer to bug us.  Actually, it’s only the boy cicadas that make all the racket. And, as you might suspect, it all has to do with sex.
For some reason, God, in His infinite wisdom, created these creatures with hollow chambers next to their bellies that when compressed back and forth sounds something like the noise you make by pushing down on the top of an empty pop can..only multiplied a hundred  times a second.
The idea is to get the attention of girl cicadas…to lure them over for dinner, dancing and a little roll in the tree leaves. When you get thousands of these sex starved cicadas all screaching out their love songs at once, it’s louder and even more annoying than when both my neighbors decide to fire up their muffler-less lawn mowers at the same time. Air National Guard F-16 jet fighters can fly right over the house and not be heard above the cicada mating call.
When I played drums with Mogen’s Heroes band, we had to crank up the volume each time we performed the August concerts at McKennan Park because of competition from millions of those blasted bugs.
It turns out, though, that not everyone hates them. In fact, there are actually entire web sites devoted to cicadas. Many people find their constant buzz to be soothing rather than excruciating and their appearance to be beautiful rather than like a monster from a cheap Japanese horror movie.
Some cultures also find them delicious and an excellent source of protein. Okay, that’s really disgusting but I almost think I’d rather eat a cicada than have to listen to one.
I wonder if they’re on the Atkins diet.

Okoboji Memories

Posted: Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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The first time I ever set foot into the Keloland building in downtown Sioux Falls, where I would eventually spend so much of my life, was…I think…in 1961.
My cousin and I were there to audition for a locally produced program called Okoboji Varieties. I don’t remember too much about the show except it featured entertainers from around the Keloland coverage area and served to promote the Iowa Great Lakes region.
What I do remember is being escorted into the studio where we sat down on the Captain 11 bleachers and, with guitars in hand, nervously waited for our names to be called. 
It turns out that our Everly Brothers rendition of “Oh, Oh, Claudette” ..a big hit at father-son banquets and on the Farmer’s Union meeting circuit..didn’t much impress the judges and we failed to make the final cut.
Okoboji Varieties really got viewers in South Dakota from Watertown to Wall excited about making the journey (90 miles east of Sioux Falls) to see Lake Okoboji…one of just three fresh blue water lakes in the world..and, of course to visit Arnold’s Park; Disneyland of the Midwest.
My brothers and I finally talked our folks into making the trip when I was 16. It was one of the most exciting and fun filled days of my life.
I can still smell the sweet aroma of cotton candy and salt water taffy wafting from the midway as we entered the park and walked past the open windows of the roller rink. The roller rink didn’t change much over the years from this photo in the 30′sAs we pressed our noses against the screen to look inside, we could see grown ups..men and woman gliding about the huge hardwood floor together in perfect unison.  The girls in their short skirts and shoe skates adorned with pom poms; the boys in black pants and shiny shirts oozed with confidence as they did their dance on wheels to the music of a real concert organ. Quite a contrast to the demolition derby I was used to at the makeshift skating rink inside the Volga Auditorium.Click, click, click.  After hearing about it for a long time..here we were; actually aboard the famous Arnold’s Park wooden roller coaster that’s been thrilling riders since the 20′s. Click, click, click. My heart was pounding as our group of cars inched toward the point of no return. My knuckles were white from gripping the flimsy bar that was supposed to keep  us from flying to our death . Click, click, click. Who’s the idiot in the car ahead with his hands in the air. Is he nuts? The clicking stopped and we were in free fall. Down, down, down to our doom. But no..suddenly we hit bottom and instead of being crushed by our own weight, we were launched skyward again..and again. I’d never been so scared in my life and couldn’t wait to ride it again..and again. To check it out for yourself, Click here. To see an amazing collection of old photos of the Okoboji area, click here.
After dining on a Nutty Bar, we headed over to the fun house..passing by the animated laughing lady at the entrance and into the strange interior where a wooden walkway moved up and down and back and forth; where air shot up from the floor lifting girl’s dresses over their heads. There was a spinning wooden cylinder big enough to walk through..but few who tried actually made it and wound up polishing the inside with their clothes until they managed to crawl out. Everyone’s favorite fun house feature, though, was the indoor slide. After grabbing a gunny sack, you’d climb up the tall stairway…plant your butt on the burlap and launch yourself down the hilly wooden slope for three seconds of terrifying delight.
Some of Okoboji’s attractions are long gone..but after nearly 100 years, the amusement park, taffy shop, Queen excursion boat and the roller coaster are still there.
I wonder if I’d have the nerve to raise my arms if I were to ride it again.

Doug’s Den KEEP OUT!

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Linda dared to invaded my little corner of the house this morning;  it’s where  you can find me most any time of the day when I’m not on the golf course or in front of the TV. It used to be Christy’s room but since she hasn’t lived here for 13 years, I decided, after retirement, to claim it for myself and turned it into Doug’s Den..a place where I can work and play on the computer to my heart’s content.
I didn’t pee on the floor or anything to mark it as my territory but I’d like to think it’s my private space and others should stay the heck out unless they’re invited in.Linda pays no attention, of course, and, even though I may have thought about growling like a bear when she came in with the grocery list this morning,  I wisely kept my snout shut. (Yes, I’m the designated grocery shopper. It was either that or be the designated cleaner of toilets and bathroom fixtures.)
“Good grief, your computer desk is a dusty cluttered mess,” she said.
She’s right, as you can see, but as anyone who worked with me at Keloland over the years will tell you, mine was always..well, a bit unkempt.
I don’t trust people with spick and span workspaces.
I’ve always believed that those who worry about their desks being clean and tidy are way too uptight…too organized..too concerned about making an impression on others who are overly organized and uptight.
People with messy desks, on the other hand, don’t sweat the small stuff. They’re much too busy thinking deep and creative thoughts  to be bothered by such trivial matters such as green fuzz growing in the bottom of a coffee cup or stale cookie crumbs all over the place or globs of dehydrated ketchup stuck next to a desktop calendar from 2004.
Linda was in medical for some 30 years and, almost without exception, the doctors she worked for had cluttered disgusting desks with papers and charts and moldy chunks of uneaten pizza crust piled high. Their priority was to figure out how to save lives not general housekeeping.
On our occasional visits to CBS in New York, Hemmingsen and I got a chance to walk by the offices of some of the network big shots. Inside we could see stacks and stacks of papers and books on and around their desk..some precariously teetering on the brink of collapse. Who cares? There is breaking news to report.
Of all the artists I’ve interviewed over the years, some of the best were some of the messiest. We often found them in their studio up to their armpits in oil paints or wood chips.
So, Lund..are you comparing yourself with physicians,  network news stars and gifted members of the artistic community?
Well……actually no.
But if Linda finds out that my desk is a mess because I’m basically a lazy slob, she might insist I learn how to operate the washing machine and clean my own dirty underwear.

To Debate Or Not To Debate, That Is The Question

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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As my friend and I were riding home from the golf course a couple weeks ago, we were tuned in to Rick Knobe’s program on KSOO radio. Rick was doing an interview with Senator Tim Johnson.
It was a very difficult thing to listen to.
The senator, as everyone knows, nearly died from a brain hemorrhage in December of 2006. We were encouraged by early reports that he was doing great and told that even though it was going to take some time, there was a good chance he’d recover to be the same ol’ Tim as before the injury.
As my friend and I listened to the senator struggling to get the words out and Knobe helping him finish sentences during the interview, we looked at each other and said he’s going to need more time isn’t he?South Dakota Magazine photo
I suppose some of you will think me an insensitive clod for even bringing it up.. but the truth is that Senator Johnson is not yet able to articulate his thoughts and views very well verbally.
Does that mean he can’t function effectively as a United States Senator?
Not necessarily.
Does it mean he should avoid debates with Joel Dykstra, the Republican challenger for his job?
Probably.
The trouble for Dykstra is that to have any chance at all against the favored incumbent, he needs the exposure that only debates can provide..so he continues to push for them.
But I’d be surprised if they happen.
Tim Johnson’s mind may be as sharp and fast as ever but he could never keep up in the rapid fire exchange of a debate format like he did in the old days. That’s just a fact and his reelection staff knows it.Dykstra campaign photoOn the other hand, if Dykstra were to exploit Johnson’s limitations, he runs the very real risk of coming off like a bully and we would never elect a bully to congress. Would we? Oh, yeah..there was that one guy.

Sun Powered Cars

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I’m not sure if it was guilt over my anti-wind generator rant here earlier this week…or just a natural curiosity..but I rode my motorcycle over to Falls Park on Wednesday to check out the arrival of sun-powered cars taking part in the North American Solar Challenge race from Texas to Calgary. (they spell race r-a-y-c-e..like rays from the sun I guess)
Sioux Falls is once again a stop-over for these odd looking electric machines designed and  built by college students for anywhere from 50 thousand to a quarter million dollars. The object is to propel a person across the country using nothing but solar power in the least amount of time. There may be only one person at the wheel..but the major challengers, like reigning champion Michigan, have a support team of 20 or more students.Michigan support crew members lift the car body up to get maximum exposure to the sun for recharging the solar panels.
The Wolverines are in the lead again; their entry called “Continuum” rolled into the park with full police escort some 40 minutes ahead of the next challenger. I didn’t stick around to see who that was. It was hot and even though I was disguised in shorts and a baby blue polo shirt, I was sure I’d be recognized by someone in the crowd of planet friendly environmental enthusiasts wearing Tilley hats, riding ten speeds and packing a lunch of soy nuts and bean sprouts wanting to take issue with my views on wind power.
Bottom line, though, it’s nice that the event comes through our town and here’s wishing them sunny days until they roll safely past the checkered flag in Canada next Tuesday."So how many miles to a recharge there then?"
Oh, as I was about to leave Falls Park, I saw two freckled face little boys on their way to do some fishing in the river. They reminded me of a modern day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I thought that would make a cute picture for the blog and started to reach for my camera when I suddenly had visions of someone calling the cops to report a suspicious heavy-set guy in a funny looking aqua colored shirt and riding a motorcycle  snapping photos of children in the park.
I quickly put my Kodak back in the case.
Oh, the times in which we live.

Retirement..Some Second Thoughts

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Brrrrrrrrring!
“Good afternoon, Keloland news.”
“Uh, hi. This is Doug Lund, could I speak to the general manager please?”
“Doug who?”
“Lund..I used to work there.”
“Okay, Mr. Lind, I’ll connect you.”  
“No, it’s Lun….”
“Hello, this is Jay.”
“Jay..it’s Doug.”
“Doug……ahhhh?“Lund!”
“Oh, yes, Doug. What’s up?”
“We’ll I’ve watching the marathon coverage on ESPN about Bret Favre’s burning desire to put on the old number 4 uniform again and return to the Green Bay Packers..even after he cried his way through a retirement announcement last March..sniffing up a river of snot.
 It’s got me to thinking that I might have been a bit hasty in my own retirement..ya know? I think I still have what it takes to get back in that old anchor chair and help lead our news team to victory in the ratings.How ‘bout it Jay?”
“Well, geeze, Doug..we’ve kind of moved on. My gosh, don’t you remember we did that half hour special on your Keloland career and threw you a great big retirement party where lots of people, including you, said tearful goodbyes? We’d all look pretty silly if you suddenly showed up again after all that..right? Besides, our ratings have never been better.”
“But…but..”
 “Go play golf, Doug. Throw a fishing line in a lake somewhere. Visit your grandkids. Read a book. Keep on blogging.  Enjoy what time you may have lef…ooops, gotta go..call on the other line. Nice talkin’ to ya..”   

A Giant Mistake

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I watched the movie “Giant” the other night.  Hadn’t seen it since I was a kid when I thought it was just about the greatest movie ever. It starred Rock Hudson as Bick Benedict, an early 20th century Texas cattle baron who believed that cows were a better more respectable way to earn a fortune than oil.

It also starred James Dean, as Jett Rink, who was the absolute epitome of “cool” even as his character changed over time from an innocent young ranch hand with big dreams to an evil, greedy, womanizing, alcoholic mega millionaire Texas oil tycoon.  
Time has not been kind to “Giant.” 
The movie I thought was so fantastic when I was ten..doesn’t have quite the same appeal a half century later. I now see lots of places where it’s three hour running time could have easily been cut in half..including some of James Dean’s scenes filled with his frustratingly long method-acting pauses. Oh well, it still holds up okay today and it was especially pleasant to watch the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in her cowgirl outfit riding sidesaddle across the vast expanse of Riata Ranch. I also thought it was rather poignant when Bick Benedict as an older man sat on his front veranda staring sadly out onto what was once pristine open range land now polluted with ugly oil derricks as far as the eye could see and thousands of oil pumps bobbing up and down like one of those drinking bird toys on a glass of water. 
It kind of reminded me of what’s already happened in southwest Minnesota and what the green crowd would like to see happen all across the windy Midwest including and especially South Dakota; stick 300 foot high wind generators on every square piece of property where there might be a breeze.
I’ve harped on this before and managed to tick-off a lot of people who are convinced these contraptions are the answer to the perceived energy crisis and a badly needed financial boon to farmers and landowners who’ll gladly trade a nice countryside view for a big check from the utility company..who is also getting a big check from the government (my tax dollars) to subsidize the whole thing. 
But, I’m like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness on this one. It seems most everybody, including all three of our congressmen have gulped down the environment-in-crisis kool-aid and refuse to consider an alternative source of energy that’s been around for over 60 years.
We think nothing of sending our sons and daughters to serve in the Navy aboard a nuclear powered ocean vessel where their bunk beds might be located  just a few feet away from the atomic reactor. But mention building more nuclear power plants in this country as a safe energy alternative to those mega million dollar windmills on every hill and people will look at you like you have snakes coming out of your ears and they’d just as soon run you over in the parking lot with their 30 thousand dollar hybrid Honda.
I see now that South Dakota’s wind energy industry is currently a pawn in a political chess game in Washington essentially putting a hold on further “wind farm” construction until they sort it all out.
 I sort of hope they don’t get around to it. Flame away, folks, but don’t blame me when 20 years from now you look out toward the horzon and see nothing but giant whirlagigs.I’ll bet, just like Bick Benedict , you’ll wish for the old days and unobstructed sunsets.On a lighter note: Here’s a little image that made me laugh and serves as a reminder for all of us to be mighty careful when operating a lawn mower.

Help! My Yard Has Fallen and Can’t Get Up

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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The grass is always greener….in somebody else’s yard.
As I write this, a young lady from the South Dakota Extension Service is circling our house taking pictures of my sad looking lawn.During the spring, Green 4 Ever sent soil samples to SDSU for analysis to try figure out why..with an irrigation system to take care of the watering  and a lawn service company to handle fertilization and weed control..I have such a thin crappy looking yard. The tests showed an acidity issue which has been corrected but it’s still as thin as Paris Hilton.We do have three trees that provide a lot of nice shade for us, but I suppose it’s not so nice for blades of bluegrass that are starving for some sunlight.A big canopy of trees over our house..nice for AC..bad for bluegrass.
The biggest problem area is under our big old backyard maple. A few strands of fescue and bluegrass struggle to rise out of the dirt each year but soon die for, presumably, lack of light once the leaves on the tree fill in.I’ve tried reseeding with more shade-friendly grass but it doesn’t seem to help. Maybe this extension specialist will…Oh, the doorbell just rang. She must be finished. Back in a minute.
Well, that was interesting. Our lawn service guy was with her and as they were soberly giving me their diagnosis, I felt like the last living relative of a dying person being given the bad news by doctors.  
“Well, it doesn’t look like a pest or insect problem,” she said.  “We’ll need to do some further tests but it appears the biggest issue is sunlight..or the lack of it. The trouble is, even if some sunshine gets through, maples have been known to actually rob the good light necessary for the grass below to grow.”
“So, do I need to cut down the tree?” I asked.
“No, no. But you should give it a good haircut. As for the rest of the yard when’s the last time you had it aerated?”
“Ummm, I’ve never had it aerated in the 25 years we’ve lived here.”
“Oh my, we usually recommend that every two or three years,” she said.
“So what’s the verdict, doc. Is it too late or can you save her?”
“We can’t make any promises but we’ll do everything we can.”
“Thanks, doc. Whadda I owe you?”
“Nothing..our service is free to all taxpayers.”
“Really?”
So this is what it feels like to be a Canadian.

Where Do We Go After We Die?

Posted: Saturday, July 5, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Did you ever think when the hearse rolls byThat  you might be the next one to die?They wrap you up in a clean white sheetAnd bury you down about six feet deep.
The worms crawl in the worms crawl outThe worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your clothes they eat your hatThey crawl in skinny and crawl out fat
The last time I sang that song was when I was about 12 or 13 years old sitting around an evening bonfire at Boy Scout camp. We all laughed at the words just like we all pretended to be scared when the counselor, with a flashlight held under his chin, told the obligatory ghost story in the glow of the fading campfire. Oh, I admit I may have jumped a little when he looked at me and screamed “You stole my golden arm!”  And, maybe I did have a little trouble falling asleep in our tent that night thinking about worms crawling in and out and ghosts looking for missing limbs. But isn’t that what scout camp is all about..to make men out of little boys by scaring the snot out of them?
I was reminded of that experience recently when my cousin Grouse and I were sitting around having a couple glasses of his favorite boxed wine. Somehow the conversation turned kinda morbid..important but morbid. “Have you decided where you’re going to be buried when you die?” I asked.
“Of course, he said, the cemetery in Volga. Haven’t you and Linda made arrangements for a plot someplace?   “No. The few times we’ve talked about it ended in kind of a standoff  followed by silence.” My brother is talking about being cremated.  I’ve spent my whole life hoping to avoid the burning fires of Hell..I certainly don’t want the funeral director to jump start the process so that’s out. This chardonnay in a box isn’t half bad..what vintage is it?”  “The middle of last month,” Grouse said with a laugh. “I dunno, he said, maybe being cremated isn’t a bad idea. Better than being planted like a petunia. Those caskets eventually leak..you know and then you’re nothing but a feast for the night crawlers.”
“I was thinking about being buried above  ground in a mausoleum like they have over at Hills of Rest. That’s what our friend Alona plans to do.”I said.
“Yeah, but isn’t that awfully expensive?” said my cousin as he headed back to the refrigerator to unscrew the dispenser on the bladder of wine inside.
“I suppose so, I would just rather not have to think about any of this stuff, you know?”
“Well, said Grouse, you don’t what to leave these tough eternal decisions for your kids to have to figure out do you?”
“No, I guess not.”
“If  I were you, he said with the confidence that only a fine boxed white wine can provide, I’d get it done as soon as possible and  have it over with. Oh, and be sure to include that decision in your will.”
“Will??”
 
 
 

Remembering Charles Kuralt

Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Doug, what I try to do is begin each story with a sentence or two that will get people’s attention; arouse their curiosity so they’ll want to read on. I like to end a story the same way, perhaps with a turned phrase or touch of irony that will leave the reader with a smile or at least with something to think about. Oh, yeah..keep it simple stupid.
That, as best as I can remember, is what Charles Kuralt said when I asked him during an early 80’s interview if he would share some of his secrets to being a good writer. Charles Kuralt is to me what Mickey Mantle is to Bob Costas or Johnny Carson is to David Letterman; a hero.
When he first was hired at CBS he wound up covering hard news stories all around the world including Vietnam. But he didn’t like competing with fellow correspondents and hated the daily deadlines. He somehow managed to convince CBS to let him just wander about the country for three months chronicling the lives of everyday Americans if for no other reason than to show that the world isn’t necessarily going to hell in a hand basket. Well, that experiment turned into “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” and lasted for 25 years. He and photographer, Izzy Bleckman logged thousands and thousands of miles crisscrossing the country in a motor home looking for stories and finding them at every turn. Each were beautifully shot and brilliantly written. But the magic happened because of Kuralt’s narration. He played his folksy voice like a master violinist; always at an unhurried pace and with just the right inflections to create moods of  joy, reverence, patriotism, whimsy, or sadness.  He could read the book of Genesis and hold an audience mesmerized..even with all the boring begats. (To see and hear one of his most famous pieces, click here.)
It’s been 11 years now since Charles Kuralt died on the Fourth of July.  
My colleagues at Keloland  knew how much I idolized him and that we actually..kind of, sort of, knew each other; so they showed up at my house with a camera and reporter that day for a reaction to his death. I have no idea what I wound up saying. All I remember is fighting back tears when it suddenly sunk in during the course of the interview that he was actually gone.
We first met in Sioux City where he was the featured speaker at a regional news media gathering of some sort. Keloland TV has always been a well respected affiliate of the CBS network and managed to pull a few strings to get me a half hour exclusive interview with Charles Kuralt. I tried not to appear as nervous and star struck as I was but I’m sure it showed.I had written out a list of profound questions that I figured might impress him but as it turned out, we just sat there and talked as the camera rolled.He really was just like he appeared to be on television; accomodating, friendly and humble almost to a fault. Before long the time had flown by and I’d hardly gotten to any of my notes.  I thanked him for our visit and as I was leaving he asked if I had a card or something.  He probably did that to every young reporter he spoke with but at the moment it was to me like Mean Joe Green throwing a sweaty towel to the kid who gave him a Coke.
We met again when Keloland sent Steve Hemmingsen and me to New York to do some promos with the network personalities. While on the set of  CBS Sunday Morning I thought about asking him if he still had my card..but didn’t.
Kuralt came to Sioux Falls in 1983 to do a story on an area farm family and later took some time to talk to Kelo reporters in our newsroom. He actually remembered me..or said he did..In 1986, during the height of the farm crisis, Dan Rather decided to take the CBS Evening News on the road for three days. The network set up shop in our Keloland studios. After just one day, though, Rather had to leave so they called in Charles Kuralt to anchor the broadcasts. Not only did I get a chance to watch my hero on the job but after the news we actually got to hang out together. He asked Steve and me bring our wives along and join him for dinner. Linda still loves to talk about how Charles Kuralt himself actually hopped in the back seat of our car for a ride to the restaurant.  It was a magnificent evening filled with cigarettes, cocktails, good food and the unforgettable stories he shared of his travels..becoming more animated with each scotch.  
News reporters aren’t supposed to ask for autographs but I couldn’t resist having my hero sign my copy of his book.Linda and me with Charles Kuralt at a Keloland reception in his honor 1986I think it would have been great fun to have Charles Kuralt for a friend but he was a pretty private guy; a master at finding out everything about other people but equally masterful and keeping his personal life to himself.
That’s why shortly after his death so many of us were shocked to find out that he’d been cheating on his wife with a woman in Montana for nearly 30 years. How could this gentle self-effacing poet of the common man who warmed our hearts with so many stories extolling the virtues of honesty and good character in the American people, be, himself, dishonest and flawed? I don’t know and can’t say I care all that much. What I do know is that each Independence Day since 1997 I think about how Charles Kuralt influenced my life and career.I still put everything I write to the Kuralt litmus test..and right now I hear him saying, “This is running way too long..keep it simple, stupid.”