Woony Memories


By Dan Hagman, Corona, Calif.

A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook. It was a shot of her son walking with an older uncle in a pasture out in western South Dakota. It showed a rolling prairie on the edge of a crop field. I instantly felt a homesickness break out in my brain. It was such classic South Dakota that I was propelled backwards 40 years in a flash. The young boy and the gray-haired farmer could have been my Grandpa and me out in Jackson Township. The pasture captured in the Facebook post is most likely common to hundreds, if not thousands of family farms in the upper midwest. It is that commonality that binds us together… us South Dakotans.

I don’t pine away for times past, but I do have such an appreciation for our history. I wish I would have sponged up more when I was in the moment, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize those future memories when they happen. Isn’t it fascinating how people or groups of people come together to create these certain memorable events? Families have moved in and out of Woonsocket forever, but the timing of those moves created friendships that have lasted a lifetime. People have also scattered to the far reaches of the globe. Social networking like Facebook has pulled some of those lost relationships back together. When you grow up in a place like Woonsocket… or Artesian… or Alpena, you share a kind of pseudo-genetics that keeps us connected no matter where we end up.

I consider myself lucky being a Sanborn County kid in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We didn’t need cell phones and video games. We had each other. Oh, sometimes we punched each other in the face, but the next day we’d be friends again. Now, we may have stepped out of these childhood friends’ lives for 20, 30 or 40 years, but we are able to pick right back up where we left off. Why? Because we’re bonded by those Dakota roots.

The young boy who spent so many mornings riding along on the back of his grandpa’s tractor may now be a middle-aged baby boomer looking for a good deal on a convertible Corvette, but his blood is still South Dakota country. I can close my eyes and smell the pine of the Black Hills. Once you get a whiff of silage after it’s been tarped for a few months, you’ll never forget it. I haven’t. I can hear the Woony whistle and the pheasant call from the tree strip. The taste of the artesian well water coming out of the iron pipe at Lake Prior is a special memory for so many of us. These are all local bonding events that tie us together. If you’re reading this, you know all these things… well, except maybe the silage one. But even then, it’s not a stretch. We’re the same.

Satellite television and wi-fi have made it to Woonsocket. The gooey black muck on the bottom of Lake Prior is now covered with a layer of cement on the swimming section. Growing up in the new millennium is a tad bit different than it was in our generation, but I suspect that the roots still grow the same way. There will still be kids who went to kindergarten together graduating a dozen years later. These same kids will then scatter to the winds like we did over 30 years ago. Home base will still be Woonsocket. The Redmen will always say, “Hello.”

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