Brokaw’s book proves it’s a small, small world

Brokaw's book proves it's a small, small world by Bob Karolevitz I just finished reading Tom Brokaw�s fourth book, A Long Way from Home.

In a way it�s more of a tribute to his parents than just a chronicling of his �growing up in the American Heartland,� which, incidentally, is the subtitle of the book.

Actually I�m much, much closer in age to Red and Jean than I am to Tom. I, too, am a product of the Great Depression of the thirties. Maybe that�s why I especially enjoyed his telling of their hardships in the �olden days,� as our daughters call them.

I can relate to the straightening of used nails which Red stored in an old coffee can. Shucks, I have enough of them to build a house, which I�ll never do. I don�t know why I�ve saved them. I just do, that�s all!

And our kids tease me about salvaging the bows and wrapping paper from Christmas gifts just like Tom says Red and Jean did. We also don�t throw soap away when the bars get too small � although Phyllis is trying to correct that shortcoming of mine.

I guess that�s a carry-over from what Tom calls the �waste not, want not� generation. Which brings me to a story which wasn�t in the book.

It seems that when Red was the outdoor foreman for the Corps of Engineers at the Gavins Point Dam complex, he and his men used to provide free wood for the tourists� campfires. He was forced to cut up driftwood from the Missouri River to meet all the needs � but the sand imbedded in the logs which washed ashore wreaked havoc with the chainsaws after a few swipes.

That�s when I casually mention to Red � I think it was at the Elks Club � that we had a lot of dead trees in our shelterbelt which had fallen victim to Dutch elm disease. He could have them if he wanted them.

He was delighted with the offer of free wood which wouldn�t have sand in it, and he dispatched a crew to our farm to take advantage of the gift. And that�s when his boss � now dead � heard about it!

He just knew that Red and I had some sort of deal cooked up, that maybe money would change hands in the process. He couldn�t imagine that it was strictly a freebee to save chainsaws. The upshot was that he ordered Red � who wouldn�t be part of any deception � to stop immediately!

Red called off his guys, and it was a lesson for both of us to learn: that people in high places find it hard to believe that an ulterior motive isn�t always involved in every deal.

Heck, years later there remains evidence in our overgrown shelterbelt of the work Red and his men started to do before he got the cease and desist order.

Like us, Red and Jean were fans of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and the Dorsey brothers. Tom tells about that too, in his book which is easy reading. It could be that there was so much that I recognized which kept me glued to each chapter.

I have been to Bristol, Andover and Pickstown in South Dakota, and I knew many of the people who were mentioned in the story, even though they were often remembered just by their nicknames. For instance, I have known �Dirty Glennie� for a long time, but I never knew that Tom was once called �Kawbro� by his contemporaries.

Phyllis and I were well acquainted with Merritt and Vivian Auld, parents of Tom�s wife, Meredith. As a matter of fact, Phyllis was even a secretary for Meredith�s grandfather, Guy Harvey, when I first met her in my hometown of Yankton.

The younger Brokaws have been to our farm, which, of course, is my second �touch of Venus.� (I had once gone bullhead fishing in the Jim River with Lawrence Welk.)

Yes, it�s a small, small world, and that is made especially clear in A Long Way from Home.

You�ll enjoy reading it. I certainly did!

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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