Letters

Letters Daschle praises local fire departments

To the editor:

I want to commend the Vermillion and Wakonda volunteer fire departments for their extraordinary efforts to help fight the Jasper fire in the Black Hills.

This year's disaster was the worst on record for the Black Hills. It has presented our people with unprecedented challenges and tested our resolve.

One of the few bright spots to emerge from the disaster has been the extraordinary generosity and compassion shown for those in need. There are literally hundreds of stories of people sacrificing their time and money to help friends, neighbors and South Dakota as a whole. Volunteer firefighters are paid, not with money, but with the thanks and appreciation of those that they help.

Please relay my appreciation to all of those who helped, they are among the many reasons why Vermillion is such a caring community.

With best wishes, I am

Tom Daschle

United States Senate

Unique experience nurtures respect for nature

To the editor:

I am not a tree hugger. I don't chase whaling boats. And I don't set mink free. But I found myself buckling my toddlers into our Blazer last Tuesday saying, "Sit tight, guys. Mom's gonna go save some butterflies."

I hope you have seen the monarchs. They are making their annual trip to Mexico, and can be seen decorating trees and lilac bushes all over town and in the country. On Tuesday, several hundred of them chose to cluster on the south end of the gravel road that runs from Pamida to the by-pass. The main mass of the group formed a living puddle of orange and black. Others seemed to evaporate from the group, rising into the air just above their comrades on the ground. The sight was breath-taking as I carefully steered around them and pulled off to the side of the road, relieved to see the truck in my rear-view mirror turn off Princeton Street instead of waiting impatiently behind me.

"Wow, Mom! Did you see that?" Joe, my four-year old, exclaimed.

"Let's get out and get a better look," I suggested, already envisioning my children with their arms outstretched in a cloud of fluttering monarchs. It would be unforgettable.

As I reached to open my car door, my stomach dropped. The truck I had seen turning the corner was now backing onto the gravel stretch of Princeton, intending to park on the side of the road near a fire hydrant. Unfortunately, the mass of huddling butterflies lay directly in his path, and they seemingly had no intention of moving.

If it were possible that the driver just hadn't seen them, I would have witnessed this pitiful scenario with only a sense of regret. But even if a person hadn't noticed the dark collection of monarchs on the road, I was sure the sight of swirling butterflies would have been impossible to miss.

The driver soon affirmed my initial accusations. I stepped out to check on his intentions before letting my kids go near this big rig. He greeted me on the road grunting, "Geez, what's with all these butterflies?"

"They're monarchs," I answered stiffly, "and they're migrating," you dolt, I swallowed, trying to remain civil. I told him I wanted to show my children what was left of the group, and he agreed to postpone spraying down his truck for a few minutes.

Joe and his little sister joined me out on the road. We just stood there, not looking up into a whirlwind of butterflies as I had hoped, but looking down at the still, flattened bodies of insects whose traveling days were over. Instead of being fascinated by a swirling cloud of butterflies, my kids were curious about the yellowish insides smeared in the gravel.

As soon as we turned to load up into the car I could feel the mist from the hose on the back of my legs as the driver lost no more time getting his truck washed down. I buckled the kids back up, still stunned and seething, when Joe made a suggestion.

"Let's put him in jail, Mom!" he pronounced. Now, usually his sentence of jail is reserved for a dad who forgets to take his shoes off before walking in the living room, or for a little sister who carries our cat by the neck.

"No," I sighed, "we can't do that, Joe." Then I added, "But it sure makes me mad."

"Me too," he agreed. He didn't even really understand what he had just missed, but he knew it would have been something neat.

After the kids were safely secured in the car, I went back to the remaining butterflies, stepped into the spray and tried shooing to safety the ones still sitting in the gravel. They were undaunted by the water and sat there like lobsters in a pot on a stove.

My efforts weren't enough to label me an "environmental activist" and I'm sure the truck driver thought I was a lunatic, but I knew he wasn't the one who would leave this scene changed. My four-year old watched me. He watched me scoop up butterflies and toss them away from danger. He saw his mother enraged by a thoughtless action that ended a natural phenomenon.

I'm pretty sure my little boy will still step on ants and aim his slingshot at low-flying birds. But a basic respect for nature is being nurtured as he probes for hibernating ladybugs at the base of our silver maple ? and when he sees his mom doing what she can to rescue defenseless butterflies.

Lisa Swanson

Vermillion

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