JULY 1969, A. D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND"
At dawn the next morning, the clouds settled down to ground level, and a heavy fog covered all of Rapid City. The meteorologists later reported that the absence of winds at certain elevations had caused the heavy rain clouds between Pactola Reservoir and the city to hang in the canyons and dump rain through the night. Reports are common of 15 inches falling, but there were some accounts of 17 inches of rain falling in the canyons, and the water gravitated to Rapid Creek. The damaged areas along Rapid Creek in the city were about six miles long and six blocks wide. It looked like a war zone. Mayor Barnett said, “We knew we had heavy casualties, but we did not have any idea about the eventual number – 238.”
It got worse in ways that the 29 year old Mayor Barnett and others caught up in the flood could not have imagined. Downed wires were everywhere and fast moving debris of every description made it even more hazardous for rescue operations. Trees, light poles, automobiles, trailer houses, and homes were moving in the flooded area at speeds up to 40 mph.
Among those who rushed to help was George McGovern, then a Democratic U.S. senator from South Dakota, who broke off from his 1972 presidential campaign to fly to Rapid City.
"We canceled our schedule and headed for Rapid," McGovern said. "That's the only thing I wanted to do as a senator from South Dakota, was be there to see how we could help."
The help began almost immediately as private donations began to arrive along with even larger government assistance.
"Everybody pulled together, and we got substantial help. I was amazed at it, really," McGovern said. "There's something about a flood, which everyone knows is beyond the control of anyone, that gets response - even from the bureaucrats in Washington," reported the Journal.
Today, there are no homes, no businesses, no structures in the 100 year flood plain of Rapid Creek. Rapid City took advantage of Housing and Urban Development funds to create a green space along Rapid Creek, relocating survivors and prohibiting encroachment of development into the green space. "When some smooth talker from Minneapolis comes and says, 'Well, I want to buy 20 acres under M Hill and I want to put up some apartment houses down there and I want to put a shopping center down there,' we hope the city council will say not only 'no,' but 'hell no,' Former mayor Barnett says. The Black Hills flood was a wake-up call for cities across the country that had buildings in flood plains. While Rapid City rebuilt itself to handle future flash floods, many other cities have not.
I am the grass.
Dawn breaks early this last day of May 2010 at the Dalton, Nebraska Cemetery. Here in this tiny farming town's final resting place small U.S flags mark the graves of her sons and daughters who answered their call to service. Loving placed by other veterans and volunteers who cannot let the day pass without remembering.
The town's folk will gather at a small space set aside near the flag pole where small white crosses are reminders of the veterans who rest here. Locals from American Legion Post 301 assemble near the gate with flags and rifles. The color guard proceeds down the gravel path, footfalls in unison mark their own cadence. The hats and caps come off, hands over hearts. Parade Rest! The roll call reminds us. One by one the names are called. Tears stream down my face. I am over taken again. The list is longer again this year. A few consoling words are spoken, the guns salute, taps echo in the breeze. The color guard is dismissed.
People mill about in no hurry to leave, visiting, reconnecting, recalling.
They--the dead--are not forgotten.
The grass, Carl Sandburg, has not covered all.
Not here, not yet.
What a crazy spring season this has turned out to be.
Tornadoes in Nebraska in late February ought to have signaled it so.
Not a drop or rain nor snow in all of March.
Record temperatures in the 80s, even 90s.
Talk about madness.
Then came word the Broncos were in the hunt for Peyton Manning.
Surely the one day NFL Hall of Famer would go to San Francisco,
Not this spring.
TV news helicopters show the arrival in the Mile High City, like O.J. in
reverse. Manning is in Denver, and Tebowmainia is gone in a New York minute.
What is going on here?
Attending a Nebraska alumni function, news of an urban development
project across the street from Lincoln's East Campus announces the demise
of the original Valentino's restaurant. The landmark eatery at 35th and Holdrege will
fall to the bulldozer and wrecking ball. Suddenly I'm feeling dizzy. A medium
peperoni with extra cheese might be the fix. I wonder if there are any "unclaimed"
at the pickup counter.
A caller to the radio station asks if he heard right--the Huskers were thinking
of changing uniform designs? I reassured him it must have been an
April Fools Day prank story. Quickly I checked my sources, indeed the
tradition steeped Cornhusker football team is considering some sort of Oregon like
change up......at least for one game.
What in holy hell is going on here?
Upon further review, if it prevents our quarterback from throwing to the
wrong team, say like Wisconsin, well maybe there is some merit here.
And Valentino's isn't closing its doors. Just closing a chapter in its history.
The old building was out dated and no doubt expensive to upgrade.
A new Val's will be part of the redevelopment. Perhaps the boys
in Burr Hall will still ante up money for a large hamburger pizza and draw
straws to see who has go pick it up and bring it back. All the while enjoying
the aroma seeping out from the white paper tent covering the delicious
pizza as he hustles it back to the dorm. Ah those were the days.
As for the Broncos, hey we all wanted Tim Tebow to succeed in Denver.
Some of us believed, some doubted, some were glad to see him go.
Others called John Elway the modern day Judas. I don't think so, I don't
think he took the decision lightly.....but when its Peyton Manning?
How could you pass up an opportunity for your team like that?
That leaves only the weather as unexplainable. Then again, it always is.
Weather is what weather does. Can't change it, can't contain it, enjoy
the best days, hunker down on the rest. And might as well quit complaining
about it. A little perspective from the folks in Woodward, Oklahoma or
Wichita, Kansas might help in that regard.
There's hasn't been much to cheer about for Husker hoop fans this year, but tonight a rousing win over a solid Indiana team gives us a smile. I have been hoping the boys might come through with a big upset to quiet the carping and boost their confidence and the 70-69 win at the Devaney Sports Center did just that.
As the game began, I settled in hoping for a good contest and sent a Facebook message that I had a good feeling about this one. Not that I'm anything close to being able to predict sports, I honestly did have a sense this one might go our way. For one thing, the team is finally healthy again. Dylan Talley and Brian Jorge Diaz had returned to the line up last week. The team played better but lost two close conference games. NU was at home to face 11th ranked Indiana....who although twice beaten recently, might just be looking past Nebraska.
The late arriving crowd seemed energized throughout a pretty good first half, and didn't leave despite the Huskers getting down by 13. I will admit I was beginning to doze off midway through the second half, but that's more about my schedule than anything! The boys hung around, and hung around and pulled off a much needed win for their coach Doc Saddler. He's been preaching patience with his team, while fending off the critics who have begun to get restless in his 6th season at NU.
I love it. Great win for the team, for Doc and for Husker fans near and far who only want to see their beloved Scarlet and Cream succeed. I've haven't been to a game in person for a long long time. The Devaney Center was brand spanking new when I arrived on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1976. Through my college years and the two seasons following, when I lived in Lincoln, I went as often as I could. As a student broadcaster, I had the thrill of calling a few games there. Its hosted some great moments.....like last night....and some not so thrilling. So I'm no bandwagon jumper.....just a happy NU fan glad to see the fight in the boys for a come back win. And for the Bob to host another thrilling Husker moment. She deserves it!
A year ago, I wrote a blog saying there was no need to beat a dead horse. The Denver Broncos were a dead franchise in the National Football League. A year later, following one of the most written about seasons in the Mile High city, the Broncos are not only in the playoffs, they are in the second round having dispatched a good, if banged up, Pittsburgh Steeler team.
At the start of the year I thought they would be better than last year. How could they not be? A new front office that includes the iconic face of the franchise John Elway, a new coach, a new approach, I had them figured for 8 and 8 in the regular season. Far more lucky than prophetic, but that's actually where they wound up....but who would have ever seen it coming the way it did.
I fully thought this was Kyle Orton's team. I said that last year. I said it again as this season got underway. I was as unconvinced as anyone Tim Tebow would be the man of the hour. Frankly, I didn't know that much about him. Even as he started a few games late in last year's disaster of a season, I didn't know that much about him. I thought Orton was a serviceable, if uninspiring NFL caliber quarterback who could keep the franchise in business if they could get something of running game to balance his outstanding passing ability.
But as everyone knows, a few weeks into the season, the Broncos changed horses and Tim Tebow took the helm. He made some great plays, he made some mistakes and some poor decisions. Tim Tebow appeared to have been the number one victim of the lockout and shortened training camp. He looked raw, unrefined, unprepared, then he would make a play.....with his feet, with his arm. He had those "intangibles" we kept hearing about. His teammates responded. The fans, many still doubting, responded. He helped pull games out of the fire. He took the team on a magical run, only to disappoint in the final 3 weeks with the team losing 3 straight only to back into the playoffs winning a weak division. He managed to pull off one of the great stories in all of sports in 2011.
In a year with so many stories from the sports world on the negative side. Here is a story about why we love sports. A clean kid, a positive role model, with a never say die attitude, putting inspiration into a sometimes machine like game. A much criticized player, Tim Tebow is an underdog, with unconventional technique and unabashed faith--and all he does is win. Not every game, not every week, but the team has come a long long way from the end of last season. And give some props to the coaching staff willing to throw out the play book and start over mid way though the year.
I still don't know if Tim Tebow is the best choice as quarterback to lead Denver to the promised land. But I'll hitch my wagon to this team of wild mustangs until proven wrong. There is pride in being a Bronco fan again. From dead horse to war horse, the once proud franchise is alive and well.
I love winter.
On a night with a forecast low of 10 below zero that seems counter intuitive, but I do love the season of short days, long nights, cold temperatures and snow.
There are, to be sure, many hazards of the season, and by no means do I endorse blizzards, slick roads, or high heating bills. I have taken plenty of missteps on ice, spun cookies on streets when I didn't mean to, and been defeated by vehicles too cold to start. And its not that I don't like the other seasons, but I do appreciate winter. I love living in a area where seasons change.
I love the shorter days. I get up very early in the morning, so it's dark when I go to work every day. year round. A lot of people complain about that in winter, but its no big deal to me. I also go to bed early. That's much easier to do when its already been dark for several hours. Its not easy to do when its still light out in summer and the evening is young and brimming with outdoor activities.
One of the greatest pleasures of winter is the crisp air. Especially after a snowfall has cleansed the atmosphere and blanketed the barren landscape with a pristine, sparkling cover. On a recent walk in my Nebraska town, I was reminded of something a priest had told me once about walking in winter, how it raised the awareness of his Creator. How by becoming small we become aware of something much greater than ourselves. Its not hard to feel small walking into a winter wind.
More so than the cold, I love the light of winter. There is a softness to the sky, with colors simply not there other times of the year. Hues of blues, pinks and purples, soft orange and yellows. Yes they are there in other seasons, but not like this. Summer is the 8 count box of crayons you had in grade school. The winter sky is drawn with God's deluxe Crayola box of 120.
Even the shadows are different in winter. The lazy southerly arc of the sun is never directly overhead. The contrast of light and shadow is less defined. And while some complain the landscape is boring without the foliage of summer, one can study and appreciate the architectural wonder of a burr oak tree standing strong, albeit naked, on a winter's day.
And I love watching wildlife in winter. There is something to be said for the wylie squirrels and various birds that choose to stay in the area. I put out bird feeders and love to watch the locals come to the perch for a meal. Its fascinating to see how word travels in the bird world there's a new "restaurant" in town and to literally watch the pecking order. Of course as a millet producer, I would highly encourage you to put out all the bird seed you can afford!
It would be easy to launch into an appreciation of winter because of the festive holidays, and the many memories associated with family gatherings. Those are for another day. I hold up winter on its own accord. I think I'll stir up a pot of soup for supper.
"Honey, I'm jumping out of the pressbox."
It was a funny line on a not so funny Saturday in college football. Nebraska was losing to Northwestern, in the 3rd quarter, when retired linebacker coach John Melton called his wife at home to see how she was weathering the game. "She's not even watching," he told his old friend Ken Fisher, "She turned off the TV....couldn't take it anymore." "I don't blame you", he added...."Fischer and I are thinking about jumping.....yeah its that bad" Melton said, smiling as he put down his cell phone.
Folks like me nearby in the Nebraska press box got a laugh from the witty old coach, who hasn't lost his sense of humor, nor timing. It was just what we needed to break the tension and frustration. It is after all just a game, but it was a disappointing one to Husker fans who thought perhaps the team had turned the corner with the thrilling win over Michigan State just a week earlier.
"Sloppy", "inconsistent", "lack of focus", "Taylor's best day"......these were just a few of the lines uttered by fans as Bob Anderson and I made our way from Memorial Stadium out into the throng of people on 10th Street. "Why didn't Nebraska stop the clock sooner?" "Boy the turnovers killed us!" Big Red Reaction....or as I like to call it, Big Red Bitch and Moan live and in color right there on the street. Although more subdued than angry, the mood seemed disappointed more than anything.
Ahead in the crowd some Northwestern fans were making their way. A couple of Husker fans came along side complimenting their team and thanking them for making the trip to Lincoln. Earlier, I saw a Wildcat fan shooting video of the west side of the stadium with his cell phone, praising the Nebraska experience and calling the locals the best fans in America. That warmed my spirits as the harsh November wind chilled my hands and face as we made our way toward the car. Nebraska had not played well on this day, the outcome the only downer of an otherwise fun Husker football trip.
It was weeks in the planning. My one and only annual trip to a Husker game. Arriving Friday evening, I took my traveling partner and long time Gering teacher and coach Bob Anderson to Misty's in Havelock for dinner and a chance to meet up with my son Jeff. Saturday we headed downtown early to shop the University Bookstore in the Student Union, stop by the radio pregame at the other bookstore, and head across campus. As usual, I made sure we stopped by the little known grave site near Architecture Hall (I'll leave you in suspense on that one) and headed for the stadium. Flashing our press passes, we gained entrance to the field level and milled around taking pictures and frankly standing in awe in middle of one of college football's great cathedrals.
All in all, including a trip to the original Valentino's near my old stomping grounds on East Campus, it was a great time. Yes, I'm a traditionalist, Misty's, Val's. Time may have passed but its still special to me to visit those old haunts. Too short, too seldom, but perhaps the scarcity of the experience makes it all that more enjoyable. When I think back to the days of child hood, listening to the games on the radio, and studying the game photos in the Sunday World Herald, its surreal at times to consider I'm standing right there on the 50 yard line, or looking on from above in the press box.
Good thing you didn't jump coach......its a long way down. We'll get em next week. Go Huskers!
A sea change in the Ernest household this month. I traded trucks.
Big deal? Well for me it is.
Nearly 20 years ago, in April 1992 I laid eyes on a little white Mazda B2000 pickup. I took her home for a "look see" date, fell for the "we have someone else looking at it" bait, and bought it. It was a clean little truck with an after market radio, amp and speakers. Hey when you're selling to a radio guy, that sort of thing can seal the deal and it did.
While short on creature comforts, the folks at Mazda had perfected the utility of a dependable small pickup with great gas mileage. That little truck could get it done, and it did for years and years. And when the Mrs. was no longer the Mrs. and she took the car....the little Mazda was all I had left. Two kids, a dog and me up and down the highways and byways. Spring, summer, fall and winter, like a Timex it took a lickin' but kept on tickin'. It went to Casper, it went to Kearney, it went to Denver. Wherever we needed to go, it took us there. Not the most spacious, comfortable ride you ever had, but it never left us stranded.
As the years went by and the cloud of white smoke grew larger, it became clear I was going to have to do something. By then there were other vehicles in the family....but the kids were driving them and I was still depending on the old Mazda truck as my daily driver. I remortgaged her title, put a new engine and clutch in and kept on truckin'. That was about 5 years ago. And until this year when a new radiator, fuel tank, and gas gauge had nearly completed her makeover, I thought I would just keep on rollin'. Alex Marsh at Morrill Repair had done a master mechanic's job of keeping her going despite having to search farther and farther for parts. I kept thinking well I've come this far with it, and it costs so little to insure and they practically give me a refund when I to renew the license......but there comes a time....and that time had finally arrived this summer. On going engine cooling issues finally left me frustrated enough to consider putting her down for good. That and 7 dollar a bushel wheat.
It almost felt as if I were committing a sin. Browsing the internet, looking at.....a possible replacement for her...... while she sat ....right out there along the curb unaware of my intention. But hey, I'm just lookin'....right? No harm there. Just... lookin'.....maybe something similar, you know, a little younger, prettier, shinier, a little less worn in the seat......I'm mean after all, I haven't had dash lights in years. And well, I'm not saying I will, I'm just .......wait a minute... Look at this one. White, 2006, 2 wheel drive, long bed, clean, low miles, AM FM with CD, and a V-8. She had me from hello.
I almost talked myself out of it as I explained to the sales person all I done with old girl. Then I hoped I could get it over there and not blow up on the way to the dealer's lot. I went home to break the news to her. Found some interesting stuff under and behind the seat, the pull of nostalgia was real as I took her away and left her there. She proudly started right up, though I hadn't driven her for over a week. She bravely steered to course toward the auto center, hitting on all 4 cylinders in perfect harmony, the troublesome cooling system keeping her temperature in check as if to say....don't trade me bro, don't trade me......but the deal was done, the papers were signed. The keys were exchanged. The time had come.
Like a death in the family from a long illness, you think you are prepared, but when the time comes you find out you're not. Its not quite like that, my God, I'm just trading off an old beater whose better days were long since behind, but there is a particular fondness we attach to our vehicles, at least I do. Like the astronauts aboard Apollo 13, who said of the lunar lander turned life boat, "She was a good ship."
In a few weeks, Buck O'Neil would have been 100 years old. In just a few days, he will have been gone from this earth for 5 years. The legendary Negro Leagues baseball player, manager and Major League bench coach and scout left an endearing mark on baseball and on me.
I have but a few sports collectibles. Its just not something I pursue. But of the ones I have, a signed baseball scorecard with the signature of Buck O' Neil is most treasured. I had the opportunity to meet Buck outside Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City back in the early 90s. As always, I had arrived with my family at the ballpark as soon as the gates opened. Approaching the main entrance I saw this older man standing near the door. I said hello...."You're Buck O'Neil....I'm so honored to meet you" He responded with his genuine kindness asking where we were from, and when I told him western Nebraska....almost in Wyoming, he said, something to the effect of "You have come a long way....let's get a win!" His enthusiasm and kindness to pose for a picture later in the press box is not to be forgotten, but the more I have learned about him, the more genuine a man I have found him to be.
This was just before the Ken Burns documentary Baseball had come out. Burns latched on the indomitable story and style of Buck and made him a big part of his film, unleashing Buck O' Neil to America. Prior to that I knew a little about the Negro Leagues and that Buck had been a player and manager and that he was a scout for the Royals and always had a special seat behind home plate...but that was about all I knew.
What I have come to know later was this amazing man from Florida loved the game of baseball and played it, coached it and groomed it will all his heart and soul. He was instrumental in founding the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame and Museum in Kansas City. He spoke and wrote about the discrimination he lived through, and the pain was palpable. Yet he harbored no anger or resentment about it. Instead he spoke proudly of League he played in, the negro owned businesses where he and his teammates were welcomed, the hotels, restaurants and night clubs. You could see a certain sadness in him that it faded out, as the major leagues began to include the black players and take the top talent from the Negro Leagues....and with them the crowds. But he fully supported Jackie Robinson and the trail toward integration and the role sports played in breaking down color barriers in society in general....a work still in progress.
Somehow the Baseball Hall of Fame did not vote Buck O'Neil into Cooperstown. But Buck O' Neil came anyway and spoke proudly of the new inductees.....which didn't include him.....by one vote: "Don't shed any tears. You think about this: Here I am, the grandson of a slave. And here the whole world was excited about whether I was going into the Hall of Fame or not. We've come a long ways.........Don't weep for Buck. Be happy, be thankful"
I am Buck, I am. I am so glad to have met you in person, and to come to know your spirit. God Bless you Buck O'Neil.