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How things change

Isn't it funny how perceptions change? I can remember when I thought my older sisters were tall, Nixon was honest, Clinton was too, Bush was smart, beer was gross, girls were pests and days were long.

Now, my sisters are short, Dick, Bill and George have shown their true colors, beer can really cut the dust, girls are hard to live without and years zip by like white lines on a highway.

When I was 26 I took my first wide-eyed cab ride from New York's LaGuardia Airport to 34th and Lexington in Manhattan around midnight on a cool early spring evening and was dropped off in front of a tall building with trash piled high everywhere. Thinking that my California employer had found me an apartment in a New York slum, I wondered what I'd just gotten myself into until a doorman in full uniform called me sir and informed me that it was simply trash day in the Big Apple and the piles would be gone by morning.

In addition, I discovered that Macy's, the Trump Tower, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building and a great many other things were all within walking distance. Plus a lady friend, who lived in what amounted to a converted hallway that she shared with two other girls, thought my one-bedroom pad, with mostly unused kitchen, was a gymnasium in comparison and that changed my perceptions of my one week a month abode immediately.

I once rode in a rodeo in Boca Raton, Fla. that took place on an all grass, perfectly groomed polo field in a neighborhood filled with elegant mansions. In the stands female fans were wearing leopard skin tennis outfits, manicured nails, big sunglasses and enough perfume to mask the significant odors that steers, calves, bulls and broncs can make. At first I wondered what I'd gotten myself into until I won second place in saddle bronc, had a nice time and expanded my notions of what a rodeo and its fans should look like.

One time I met with a big wig at a big company in Richmond, Calif., just north of San Francisco and thought I was a pretty cool dude until I left the appointment and looked in my rearview mirror at the same tiny wad of toilet paper on my chin that I'd put there when I cut myself shaving earlier that morning.

Can you imagine having some dork come into your office with a piece of blood-speckled toilet paper stuck on his chin? How he kept from losing it I don't know but I sure did when I got back to the parking lot and immediately cut up my cool dude club membership card.

In a related story, I once had a rodeo friend who was bound and determined to introduce me to a young lady that he thought might be perfect for me and indeed, she'd have been perfect for anybody except me after I backed over a square bale of hay positioned right behind my heels just as he was starting his introduction. I disappeared so quickly that when she put out her hand to shake mine she got nothing but boot heel and that forever altered my notions of being her or anyone's Prince Charming.

In high school I played in the band and we went on a short, overnight tour to other high schools to put on concerts and at the beginning of the performance, our program called for me to start out with a solo trombone part in an eight person ensemble.

Now since the big metal stand holding the music was not positioned at the right height, I reached down to pull it up in the midst of complete silence only to have the top pop off, nearly hit me in the face and drop to the gymnasium floor where it bounced around for longer than Jimmy Carter was president and sent a resounding clamor echoing throughout the halls, nearly breaking out windows and waking up the janitor napping in the boiler room, which was another occasion when my ego altered its opinion of who I was.

I dated a girl whose father owned a big farm and a big dog and when I picked her up all five of her little brothers were peeking out the window so that they had a front-row seat when that big dog took a big chunk out of my rear end. Now I really liked that girl but I liked my rear end even more and I didn't think I could survive regular butt bites so I adjusted my long-terms plans with regards to that little cutie before she was the death of me.

And I used to think that discovering giant oil reserves in North Dakota would be as good for folks here as it was for Jed, Elly May, Jethro and Granny until I realized that most of the mineral rights were obtained by people who haven't been around since FDR was president and their kid's kids are so spread out across the land that a lot of oil checks divide themselves enough times to look like ashes in a fireplace once they get passed around.

Too bad too because our landscape is starting to look more like a cribbage board, acne on a teenager, holes in a dartboard and one big expensive prairie dog village than the prairie oasis it used to be. But that's progress, I guess, and I'm hoping it's worth it.

-- Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation communications director.