On Veterans Day in 1961, with his presidency less than a year old, John F. Kennedy spoke with hope that the world might learn to solve differences without wars. Kennedy, who would be assassinated two years later and who lies in Arlington National Cemetery, knew something of combat. He skippered a torpedo boat, PT-109, in the Navy during World War II. He and his crew saw combat in the Pacific and had their vessel shot out from under them.
Because I was weary of thinking about, talking about and writing about politics and elections, I spent last evening pondering the business of wallpapering. Yes, I know it was election night. And I know elections matter. I voted. I studied the candidates and read the pamphlet with the explanations of the ballot issues. Then I voted. From time to time last evening, I interrupted my recorded programs and checked election results.
Last weekend, author and Harvard University professor Tom Patterson used a word that seems to have gone out of favor in today's overheated political climate. The word is "forbearance.'' One dictionary definition is "the action of refraining from exercising a legal right, especially enforcing the payment of a debt.'' Patterson, talking in Pierre about the extreme partisan nature of politics these days, used the word in terms of restraint. An example of political forbearance would be to have political power or control but to exercise that power with restraint, perhaps even civility.
I'm old enough to remember when the bigger kids talked about going around on Halloween night tipping over outhouses.
Probably because autumn was the time when we had few chores on the farm and spent long afternoons tromping through the lakebeds and low spots, I've been feeling these days a strong nostalgia for the land. I know many grown-up farm kids understand what I'm feeling. In spite of hard work and hardship, a lot of us look back at our days on the farm with affection and a wistfulness that is impossible to describe to someone who doesn't have the experience in their background.
It never occurred to me growing up on the farm that my family was anything but rich. And we were, I suppose, in the sense that we were all relatively healthy with plenty of food for the body, books for the spirit and a fair amount of land for wheat fields and cattle pastures. We wanted for little that we really needed, and if that didn't make us wealthy, at least it made us fortunate.
One of the things I have never liked about being a father is how, when the kids are around, a dad must pretend he isn't afraid of anything. Like the dark, for example. I've been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. When I was young, that didn't matter. A lot of kids are afraid of the dark. Even as a young adult, it was something I could mention to a close friend. I'd be ridiculed, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. But a father simply can't let a child see that he is frightened by a dark night or dark house.
When I was a kid, the first day of pheasant season wasn't so much "the opener'' as it was a Saturday when we went to the farm and didn't work.
During the week I spent in New York City covering the Democrats' national nominating convention in 1976, I loved waking to the sound of the morning newspaper hitting my hotel-room door. It was the first time I'd been able to read the New York Times the same day it was published. I started reading mailed copies back in college in the middle 1960s. The news was a bit old by the time I got my hands on the paper, true. It was news, still, and the Times' staff filled the newspaper with it.
It was chilly down by the Missouri River last Saturday afternoon. Windy, too. The bridesmaids shivered in their sleeveless green dresses, and the groomsmen in shirtsleeves squinted into the sharp breeze that blew in from the water. Wedding attire for the invited guests ranged from suits and ties to heavy sweaters, light parkas and wool blankets. I didn't see any of the guests actually pull hoods or blankets over their heads during the ceremony, but I wouldn't call you a liar if you said it happened. It was a blustery day.