Archive for February 2009

Puff On This

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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It’s Tuesday already and I’m still in a quandary over what say in the blog.   I suppose it would make more sense, then,  to just not write anything at all rather than ramble on. But I have found that rambling does sometimes lead to an occasional idea or two.
I know what I’d “like” to write about but doing so is just asking for trouble and I’ve been trying to dodge trouble here for the last few weeks.Let me just say that this month marks ten years since I quit smoking cigarettes. I did it on my own because I was developing a cough just like my old man and I didn’t want to go out like him tethered to an oxygen machine. Now, it appears that South Dakota lawmakers are going to pass a ban on smoking that will include bars and video casinos. I suppose, in light of my smoking history, I should be on the rooftops shouting “amen!” But I’m not. I know it’s hard..probably win an argument on this subject in support of free enterprise, especially when emotionally-charged backers of the ban rise up en masse waving their official reports of how exposure to second hand smoke is killing off about 50 thousand non-smokers a year. No one seems to be interested in knowing how that figure was arrived at or which fatal ailments wind up being hung on the hook of second hand smoke.  Nope, it’s good enough that the surgeon general says there’s no risk-free level of exposure to second hand smoke. Breathing even a little of it, he says, can be harmful to your health. CAN be harmful.  The air in Los Angeles and Phoenix can be harmful too but families keep moving there and don’t seem to be afraid of keeling over when they walk the streets. I doubt if there’s a surgeon general’s report on smog related deaths. I also doubt he actually believes that if your child happens to catch a whiff or two of cigarette smoke that it will bring on disease or worse. That’s the trouble; he doesn’t make a distinction as to the amount of exposure that really DOES present a hazard to your health..which can only make one wonder how many other shocking claims about second hand smoke have been exaggerated for effect. But let’s be honest. Most people who want smoking banned in bars aren’t thinking about saving lives. They look at smokers as second class citizens who don’t have the sense God gave geese. Smokers need to be saved from themselves and if doubling the tax on cigarettes won’t do it, let’s see if we can’t make it illegal for them to light up in the very places where they hang out?  That’s what bothers me.  Smoking is not against the law if you’re an adult.It just seems wrong in this country to legislate away a business owner’s livelihood and the right to allow a legal activity in his own establishment. How can it be considered a threat to public health if nobody is being forced to work or play there?
When the ban passes (and it will) it’s going to be interesting to see how the state makes up the lost revenue from video casinos whose business drops off 25 percent when their smoking patrons leave. (and they will) Darn..I didn’t mean to say all that. Oh,well, flame away.

Confessions of a Rubber Necker

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I don’t get that many calls. The only time I’m sure the phone will ring is at home when I’m in the bathroom or in church on Sunday right in the middle of the pastor’s sermon where he’s just about to explain a crucial element of sanctification by grace. Brrrrring..Brrrrrring..”Oh, dear lord,” I say to myself while fumbling around my pockets trying to find the phone, Brrrrrrring..Brrrring.. “Where’s the damn off button?”  Who knows how many souls..teetering on the brink of salvation and damnation, have been lost because, at a critical moment of decision, they were distracted by calls coming in to members of the congregation who’d forgotten to shut down their doggone communicators.
Almost as bad.. is forgetting to turn the blasted thing back on. I haven’t been out of the house much this week and my cell has been hooked up to the charger all that time. It wasn’t until this morning I noticed a green light blinking indicating a left message. “But I didn’t hear any calls coming in! Oh, yeah, the ringer has been off since Sunday.”  Now, the two people who left messages must figure I don’t wish to speak to them because I haven’t returned their calls.
I grew up in the days of party lines and busy signals; terms that have all but disappeared today.  I can still see my dear saint of a mother sitting and listening-in on conversations of the lady up the street whom we shared a phone line with. You’d think that rubber necking, as it was called, would be considered a wrongful invasion of privacy..but if it was a sin, 90 percent of the ladies in my home town..and some men too..committed that sin on a regular basis without feeling any remorse or need to seek forgiveness.
I can’t remember the last time I heard a busy signal. Nearly everybody has an answering machine now and I believe they’re built-in to all cell phones so we’re left to record what we have to say and never experience  that old familiar beep, beep, beep, beep that indicates that the call-ee is talking to somebody else. We got caller ID at our house after telemarketers interrupted one too many evening meals. And, even though we signed up to be put on the “no call” list, a few of those buggers still manage to get through from time to time. But, they’re easy to spot by checking the incoming number so we simply don’t pick it up. Unfortunately, we also sometimes don’t answer calls from people we DO know. “Honey, I’m in the middle of this show..let the machine get it and we’ll can call them back later.”
Oh, come on.…don’t tell me you don’t do the same thing! Next, you’ll say your mom never did any party-line rubber-necking either.

Lund: The Al Bundy Years

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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It doesn’t take much, these days, to send me drifting off into some trance-like state where even forty year old memories can pop into my mind as fresh as the smell of this morning’s coffee.  Everybody daydreams, I suppose, but these journeys of mine are like self hypnosis.
It happened the other day as I was reading the paper and saw that Johnson Shoe Store will be closing this spring after 99 years in downtown Sioux Falls. The Coppock family, owners since 1960, decided to combine it with their other store, Arthur’s Shoes, at 41st and Kiwanis.
Suddenly, it was 1969. I’m this 23 year old small-town guy with a wife and two little girls about to start a new life in the big city of Sioux Falls as manager of Johnson Shoes’ “Men’s Den.”  I’m nervous to the point of nausea. I’d had over a year’s experience selling shoes at Urevig Bootery in Brookings and actually enjoyed it. But Bill Coppock, my new boss at Johnsons,’ was expecting to me to not only sell shoes but also make critical inventory decisions about styles, colors, size ranges and number of pairs to order in. hoping to charm customers right off their feet.Mistakes could be expensive, like the 35 pair of black and brown faux alligator skin saddle shoes that I was sure would be a hit with the guys and wound up collecting dust on the January/July sales racks for years afterward. Fortunately, those miscues were few thanks, in part, to the boss’s two high school-age sons, Tom and Jim Coppock. Both worked at the store after school and weekends.  All I had to do is show them the latest shoe order catalogues and they’d usually pick the styles that would sell well.
Unlike a lot of shoe stores today where the clerk just asks what size you wear,” Johnsons insisted that feet be measured with a Brannock Device so the customer could be properly fit with the correct size. We weren’t just shoe salesmen..we were podiatry engineers.Easier said than done.   The TV character, Al Bundy, may have been an exaggeration but he was right about one thing; both woman and men are incredibly vain about the size of their feet and will stubbornly resist any effort to change it. Ladies who clearly measure 9 on the Brannock will insist they’ve never worn anything larger than a 7 ½ which would explain their bunions the size of onions. Men..even slender-footed men..would rather jam their tootsies into a 10 EEE than a longer narrower size that fits snuggly in the heel and gives the toes some breathing room. “Nope,” most will say, “they look like gunboats.”  Gunboats..the most often heard word in shoe stores. I never understood how so many people were familiar with the dimensions of Navy warships and how that applied to footwear. 
Every once in a while, though, customers would put their vanity aside, follow my recommendation, based on the correct measurements, and buy a pair of shoes that actually fit.  I even managed to get my dad to switch from a 9 E to a 10 ½ C. He had to admit that even though they still looked like gunboats, his toes no longer touched the end and his corns had disappeared.
I certainly didn’t mind those years in the shoe business, but it was, of course, show business that turned out to be my life’s calling. Tom and Jim Coppock also had plans to move on to different careers when they graduated but in the end chose to follow in their dad’s footsteps and take over operation of Johnson Shoes. I called Tom this week to reminisce about the old days. He told me that closing the downtown store will be tough but merging with their other location to become Arthur Johnson Shoes should be a very good fit. And, afterall,  in the shoe game, a good fit is always the most important thing.


Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm
By: Doug Lund
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There should be lots of you reading the blog today as you sit huddled at home afraid to leave the house because it’s…well, you know, FRIDAY THE 13TH.
I’ll probably stick close to home too but it has nothing to do with being superstitious, I just don’t have anywhere to go.  That’s not to say that I don’t have a few..shall we say, “concerns” about mysterious events which defy explanation. I was sort of kidding in an earlier post about my being a jinx to the Minnesota Vikings but I’m not entirely free of superstitions.For example; Keloland engineers needed to get to the roof of our building quite often and would usually put their ladder up right next to the back door. That left employees with the choice of walking around the ladder or under it. I preferred not to tempt fate so I always took the long route but I had a feeling that the engineers had rigged up a closed circuit camera and got their jollies watching people like me make such a stupid decision. 
Over the years I’ve done several stories with folks who’ve experienced all kinds of weird things from seeing ghosts and UFO’s to those with the ability to find underground water with divining rods; Water Witching!
The first “dowser” I met was in the late 70’s. She was an older lady, (I’ve forgotten her name) who lived on a farm somewhere between Harrisburg and Canton.  She was known far and wide for her ability to locate the perfect spot to dig a well using nothing more than a “Y” shaped willow branch. She would walk around the property holding the branch in her outstretched arms, palms up, until the long end would magically point downward. “It never fails to find water,” she said. “Let’s see you do it,” I said. And with the camera rolling, she marched around the yard until the rod’s tip started to move. I could hear it twisting in her little hands as it pointed toward the earth.Ever the skeptic, I wondered to myself, how this sweet old lady could be a con-woman. But it turns out she didn’t charge for her services. “It’s gift from God that I must share,” she told me.  Way back in the cobwebs of my memory, I seemed to recall my dad saying that he was able to witch for water.  Maybe it’s in my genes too.“Can I give it a try?” I asked the woman.  After a quick lesson on the proper way to hold the divining rod, I started pacing about. Within a minute, I could feel the branch pulling down and me powerless to stop it.
“You’ve got it too!” the lady yelled. “ I know for a fact there’s water down there.”
Many years later I was doing a story on Jim and Joan Lacey’s “Little Village Farm” near Trent..North of Dell Rapids. They have a large collection of antique farm equipment plus a couple rare round barns. Jim also has a successful well drilling business. I asked what he thought of people who claim to be water witches. As an expert in geology, I expected him to laugh at the absurdity of it. Instead, he smiled and pointed to his wife. “She’s the best dowser around,” he said. “I use her to find water all the time.” With that,  Joan grabbed a couple of “L” shaped rods out of the pickup and told me to watch. She held them in her outstretched arms and began walking. “When they cross, it means there’s good water below, “she said. “I can even determine how much and how deep.”  Sure enough, the rods crossed like crazy for her. “Wanna try?” she asked. Before long, just like before, without any warning or help from me, the rods crossed. I stopped, backed up and they went parallel again.
James Randi, the magician and noted debunker of all things paranormal, has done several controlled experiments with dowsers and concluded it’s all a flim flam that can be explained by something called the”Ideomotor effect” which basically means we want the rod to move so we subconsciously make it move.
Randi offers a million dollars to anyone who can prove to him that dowsing is for real.
Linda, I’m going to take a couple coat hangers from the closet. I have an idea that just might make us rich.

Meriwether Lewis S.D.Legacy

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I watched some of President Obama’s news conference last night and quickly realized I should have paid more attention to the teacher during high school economics and bookkeeping classes because nothing he was saying sounded familiar.  I kept thinking, isn’t this like a guy in debt up to his eyeballs, trying to get a few more credit cards in order to make his monthly payments and maintain his present lifestyle?  But what do I know? Clearly, something has to be done to right this ship of state and we don’t seem to have much of a choice other than to wait it out and pray these guys know what they’re doing.
What I did was to turn off the TV and reach for the latest issue of South Dakota Magazine which arrived in the mail while we were on vacation. It’s a great way to get lost for a couple hours through words and pictures featuring so many interesting people and places from all across the state.
One of Bernie Hunhoff’s articles in particular caught my attention; The New Lower Brule. It brought back memories of a trip I made to Lower Brule..gosh, it’s been nearly five years ago now. Keloland News photographer, Kevin Kjergaard, asked me one day if I’d ever heard of this guy on the reservation who claims he’s a direct descendant of Meriwether Lewis..of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame. I did some checking and sure enough, a man named Sheldon Fletcher, says he’s the great, great, great grandson of the noted explorer..and has the documentation to prove it. Fletcher also happens to be the Lower Brule reservation conservation officer and I was really excited about the chance to talk with him after I called and he invited us out.  It was late morning on a hot August day when we arrived at Lower Brule. The town itself, relocated to higher ground 45 years ago when the Big Bend Dam was built, has a lot of run-down houses that reflect the low income levels of their occupants but, as we came over the hill, I was stunned by the beautiful view of the bluffs and Missouri River below. It’s one of the most impressive sites in our state. In the administration building, Sheldon Fletcher gave us a well prepared power point presentation which followed his lineage to a man named Joseph DeSmet Lewis born in 1805 who, according to oral history and baptismal records, was who he claimed to be; the son of Meriwether Lewis and a Teton Sioux woman named Winona. It was not uncommon for Native Americans to offer women to members of the Corps of Discovery, including Lewis and William Clark. There are plenty of entries in their journals that suggest such offers were graciously accepted by the men except for the two captains, of course. They, in fact, likely partook in pleasures of the flesh too but chose to keep their dalliances discreet rather than write them down in a book that would one day be published for the whole world to see.  Sheldon Fletcher is convinced that he is the result of that encounter between Lewis and Winona and that it happened when the Corps passed throughDakota on its way up river in 1804. Others, though, aren’t so sure.    Meriwether Lewis and his great, great, great grandson Sheldon Fletcher?
Fletcher told me he’d be willing to resolve the question once and for all through  DNA testing but, apparently, that still hasn’t happened.  Grave marker at St. Alban’s Cemetery on the Lower Brule (SDPB photos)
I’d like to believe that Fletcher is right and that Lewis and Clark did, in fact, leave more than their moccasin tracks behind when they passed through this part of the country over 200 years ago. It sure would be fun to know. Maybe the president could be persuaded to spend a little economic stimulus money for researchers to find out.

Keloland Homecoming

Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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“My gosh, it still works,” I thought to myself as I waved my old coded  ID card in front of the little black box outside the Keloland parking lot and the gate slowly rose to let me in. It had been a few months since I’d paid a visit to the TV station where I spent so many years of my life. The KELO building at 13th & Phillips as it looked when I started in ’74 and how it still pretty much looks today.I guess I’ve always been surprised that the gates of Keloland were ever opened to me at all. I had no real credentials when I was hired in 1974, just an obvious love of the business and a willingness to do anything and everything they asked just so I could be a part of it and learn.  
In those early years, that meant operating the audio board and recording lots of commercials. I kept asking for more to do until finally they gave me a shot in the news department. At first my jobs consisted of ripping wire copy from the AP and UPS machines, typing up stories for others to read and making daily runs to Harolds Photography for news film to be developed. By some miracle, I was never stopped for speeding along Phillips or Minnesota Avenues as I raced back to the station in the KELO car with cans of film sitting next to me in the front that needed to be edited in a hurry to make the six PM newsreel.  We always made it but sometimes just barely.Those daily deadlines were incredibly stressful, exceedingly exciting and fantastically fun.
Eventually, in late March of 1975, the news director handed me a Bell and Howell film camera, gave me a quick lesson on how to run the darn thing and sent me out to do a story on my own from start to finish..which meant shooting, writing, editing and voicing. As I recall, it wasn’t much of a piece, just a simple report on how people were about to go nuts from cabin fever because it had been three solid weeks of overcast skies and cold.  As luck would have it, the clouds suddenly parted as my camera was rolling and I got a great shot of that precise moment and wrote something like; “There can now be a great feast of joy and celebration in Keloland because the prodigal “sun” has returned.”
The next day I was called into the office of General Manager, Evans Nord. I figured for sure he was going to fire me for blasphemy but to my surprise, he said he found my little report amusing and to keep it up.Speaking of amusing. This picture is from 1976 or 77, just after Keloland switched from film to video cameras. With the hair, tie and jacket, these were my Ron Burgundy years. And, yes, I know the lens cap is still on the camera. Someone just handed it to me, told me to pretend I was shooting video and then took the photo. I swear that’s least I think I swear that’s true.Before long, he called me back into that same office, only this time it was  to offer me the co-anchor spot on the 10 O’clock news; a position only a handful of others had occupied since KELO signed on the air in 1953.
All these years’ later, wonderful memories like those rush to my brain every time I return to the KELO building and I still marvel at my good fortune at having been a part of it for so long.
Now, let’s see if my key will still open the back door. Yup! Ah, it’s so good to be home again but I better not stay too long, these people have more important things to do than listen to a grey haired geezer ramble on about TV stories from the olden days.

O.K. Steve, I Apologize

Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I know, I know, this is a day late..but in the spirit of Hemmingsen’s National Day of Apology, I would like to extend a belated “I’m sorry” to the Arizona Cardinals football team..its fans and everyone who lost money wagering on the Super Bowl.Kurt’s obviously not superstitious but I am
It’s all my fault; the Lund jinx.After the Cardinals impressive performances during the playoffs and because they’re Linda and my home team for one month out of the year, and because I usually cheer for the underdog, I decided to declare my support for them in the big game.  I should have realized that was a bad idea especially considering my long track record rooting for the Minnesota Vikings.  Need evidence?I was there in person at the Metrodome for the NFC championship game between Minnesota and Atlanta  in 1998. The Vikings were practically a shoe-in to win but they must have noticed me in the stands during the 4th quarter and crumbled like Jessica Simpson’s diet plan..becoming the first 15 and 1 team to NOT make the Super Bowl.
I was also there in 2003 when the Vikings got off to a 6-0 start under head coach Mike Tice. It was Sioux Falls day at the stadium and team owner, Red McCombs actually came to our special tent before the game to say hi and hinted strongly that, yes indeed, he was giving serious consideration to moving the Vikings training camp from Mankato to Sioux Falls.  Well, not only did Minnesota’s perfect season come to a crashing halt that day (they only won three more games all season and lost the last one and a chance for the playoffs, to the Arizona Cardinals) but it turned out that  McCombs little guest shot was just a spoonful of sugar buried in a Texas longhorn  cow pie.
Last Sunday, though, against my better judgement, I did allow myself a moment to believe that the jinx had been broken when the Cardinals came roaring back to take the lead against the heavily favored mighty Steelers. Oh, it was going to be so much fun listening to all those smug sports radio talk show experts, like Colin Cowherd,  squirm on Monday morning having to admit their game prediction of a Steelers rout, was full of the same pile of cow poop as a Red McCombs promise.  But it was not to be, of course, so, again, I apologize.
While I’m at it, I might as well accept responsibility for the latest sub-zero temperatures that have descended on Keloland. They rolled back in about the same time Linda and I did from our warm-weather sojourn to Arizona; a state where Cardinals fans are hoping we never return. (On a related note: I had been rooting for Tom Daschle to be confirmed as the new HHS secretary. My fault, Tom, Sorry.)