News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel What's the best thing about South Dakota?

An old-timer once told me we have two "best things" about living in South Dakota: long cold winters and hot dry summers.

At the time, I thought he must be crazy, but he then explained that if we did not have those, every darn fool in the nation would want to move here.

I don't know what single thing I like the most about our state, but the arrival of fall is one we country folks cherish and celebrate in many ways.

There is nothing like that last string of 90-degree days followed by the sudden arrival of brisk damp air from the north to make one feel grateful for its arrival.

Small grain crops are mostly in the bin or elevator. Silage is being cut. Plums are being made into jelly. Kids are thinking about football games and homecoming. Yellow school busses are on the roads again. Pheasants have changed color. The trees are working on it, and calves recently weaned are bawling all night for their mothers.

Old-hand legislators are already having fun brewing the arguments they will fling at each other during session. If you have an issue, now is the time to pitch it to them.

Late summer and fall rains are a special blessing and reason to celebrate for us this year, because we know the land dearly needs to rebuild moisture for next spring after years of drought.

Fall is also "bragging rights time." In many a small coffee shop around the state you will hear hunters bragging on their game taking, fishermen bragging on the big one, farmers bragging on their crops, cattlemen bragging on their prices, and all of us bragging on our kids.

It is a special time, a time when satisfaction with things accomplished and anticipation of things to come trip all over each other for the center of our attention and dominate the mood of our people.

I have a vivid memory of being at a conference in the Black Hills when the first early snow hit one year. It was one of those calm-day early wet snows with large flakes that float down like leaves from a giant white tree. I had a terrible time focusing on anything but the view out the window.

Our focus on all the things we love about fall helps to create another thing that we don't like about fall. It is a very dangerous time of the year for rural people and especially for children.

As we celebrate the arrival of fall and all the special things that go with it, let us not give all our attention to those things and thereby create a needless risk for someone else.

Focusing all your attention on a falling leaf or snowflake could turn this fall into a tragedy for some school child dashing across the road, or some young hunter, or young person working on the farm or ranch. Look out for them. They certainly are some of the "best things" we have.

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