West Fairlee, Vt. Father's Day conjures up memories of a father I never got to know because he died when I was young: 16. He was young: 41. He never got to know me. He never saw me succeed as a journalist, spouse and father. He never met my wife or his grandchildren. They know of him from my stories, but never knew him. With my mother and sister gone, and members of his generation having long since died, I am the only living repository of the record of his life; and the record is incomplete.
West Fairlee, Vt. We got here, but not until experiencing air travel frustration in what United Airlines used to tout as "the friendly skies." A 4 a.m. start got us to Fargo's Hector airport in time for a flight that not only was on time, it was ahead of schedule. TSA screening was efficient. The officers were as helpful and morning bright as the job allows. They do good work.
As high school graduation season winds down, I am thinking back (way back) to my graduation in June of 1964, and the teachers who made a difference. I didn't get it at the time, but with the passing years I've come to appreciate their work in the classroom and their influence on me, and what that meant for my later academic achievements and success in my chosen profession. I was fortunate to learn from excellent teachers at Pulaski High School in New Britain, Conn. One stands out.
How was it that the North Dakota Republican Party did not ask a candidate for secretary of state the essential question? "Is there anything, in your history that could embarrass the party and scuttle your candidacy?" How could it be that savvy political operatives did not have the perspicacity to probe Will Gardner's personal and professional life before he made his pitch to the endorsing convention? Why did an honest(?), go-to-Mass family man leave off his resume a crime that was sure to be exposed?
Let us plumb Stygian political waters for bad ideas. Fargo City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, a proud craftsman of bad ideas, has outdone himself with absurdities about special assessments. Yes, there is a problem. "Specials," as levied, are indefensible. But Gehrig's remedy is worse than the malady. It's claptrap that would unfairly shift specials from those who benefit from utility and street improvements to every property taxpayer in the city. His fix would add to Fargo residents' costs by jacking up rates for water, sewer and other services.
My mother was a widow at age 40. She became the sole provider for my sister and me when my father died of alcoholism and smoking-aggravated heart disease. He'd had a heart attack at age 39, and several more before he died weeks short of his 41st birthday. It was a tough time. He was a hard man when he drank. A "functional alcoholic," he was violently abusive and frightfully mean. When sober, he was charming, witty and a good dad. In retrospect and introspect and in conversations with my sister and mom, we confessed his death was a relief for us.
Don't ever doubt Americans' love for the automobile. My April 22 column about my mother's 1963 Chevrolet Impala brought a profusion of rejoinders: stories about vintage cars, restorations, nostalgia for that first car, and opinions on the quality of contemporary autos vs. classics. Here's a sample: An acquaintance from my Devils Lake, N.D., days wrote: "Great article, Jack. The fifties and sixties were my favorite years. I rebuilt several cars in the fifties era ... and enjoyed all of them.
Near the Custer Trail, west of Medora, N.D. The North Dakota Badlands looked bleak and colorless. Winter was reluctantly letting go, but spring had not yet asserted herself. Ancient junipers and the occasional stand of ponderosa pine had not yet brightened with warmer weather, instead were hunkered down against the chilly wind, their branches dark with the muted green/black of winter. Gray thickets of twisted and broken ash trees in the bottoms showed no new leaf buds, even as snowmelt from mottled drifts on the north and east slopes of the canyons burbled in the deepest draws.
I overheard a conversation at a Fargo coffee shop. Two oldies (like me) watched a vintage 1957 Chevrolet pull into a snowy parking slot outside the window. Beautiful machine. They gazed in awe as the car glowed in the winter sunlight. I silently joined their admiration for the marvelously restored classic. "Don't make 'em like that, anymore," said one. "They don't," said the other. "Great car. Takes me back." "Yup, don't make 'em like that, anymore," the first historian repeated. And that's a good thing.
Observations in the wake of the North Dakota Republican Party endorsement convention in Grand Forks: Secretary of State Al Jaeger's defeat for the endorsement by Mandan businessman Will Gardner was a blot on the party. At the convention, Gardner ramped up his campaign of misrepresentations and untruths about Jaeger's office. For example, he quoted one of Jaeger's "employees" as saying technology needed upgrading. But she's not worked for Jaeger for three years, during which time tech upgrades were funded and implemented—to be operational this summer.