MyStoryYourStory: Where roosters once crowed and neighbors were family

"This is my story, this is my song…"

Six-twenty-two Lakeshore has changed, ever since Lloyd Thompson passed away two days after Christmas. His wife, Nancy, died 10 months earlier.

Uncharacteristically cheerless, the Thompson's house now sits sullen and dark, save a gas lamp burning eternally in the front yard. Someone removed the sole air conditioner from a window on the south side, leaving a weathered piece of plywood in its place.

Even though I've read their obituaries, I am bothered by the empty silence their absence has formed. With heavy unsearchable loss, I still expect their place to possess a semblance of what it was when we moved here 36 years ago. Back then, the Thompson's had a rooster that crowed every morning, an assortment of chickens, a pig, cats galore and several litters of dogs that romped about in a constant circle of life. It's where our children also played.

For many years, a possum was a regular dinner guest at dusk, slipping through the garage's side door always ajar, helping itself to an open bag of dog food. I think Lloyd, an animal lover, purposely kept that bag wide open and accessible.

Their place was a veritable buffet for squirrels who would camp on bird feeders loaded down with peanuts that Nancy would pile on.

Funny how most mornings my heart still pans across the way to see if their curtains are opened yet; how any minute I expect her to come through their front door and shuffle across the street in her fuchsia bathrobe and bedroom slippers to retrieve the newspaper.

Evenings, I strain to see the soft white light in their big picture window along with blinking strobe-like images from "Wheel of Fortune" reflecting on their tiny living room walls.

"Nancy was born Dec. 11, 1938, Bakersfield, Calif. She was raised in Nebraska until she moved to Rock Rapids, Iowa, in 1948. She graduated from Rock Rapids High School in 1957. She moved to Sioux City and attended the Lutheran School of Nursing, where she received a registered nursing degree in 1960. She worked in hospitals and nursing homes in Sioux City, Iowa, and in nursing homes in South Sioux City, Neb. On Jan. 7, 1966, she married Lloyd P. Thompson in Elk Point, S.D.  Raised in the Lutheran faith, Nancy enjoyed doing crossword puzzles, caring for people, summering at Lake Travis, S.D., and spending time with family and friends."

I have images of Lloyd getting around on his riding lawn mower, sitting in afternoon shade, sipping ice cold beer or heading to our house with a large paper sack stuffed full with sweet corn from his garden. Occasionally, when I'd stop by, he'd strum his Les Paul and sing a melody for Nancy and me.

"Lloyd was born Jan. 7, 1924, in Ute, Iowa. He was a well-known lifelong area musician and singer who led the Sons of Sage band. His ability to play 23 different instruments led to him recording a record, backing up the likes of Kitty Wells and being featured on KTRI radio. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Lloyd worked at Sears, Wincharger, Zenith, managed a farm store in Mapleton, Iowa, and drove truck for a while. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and was well-loved by many friends."

The Thompson's weren't your everyday people. No, they were your grandmother's people – uncommonly neighborly squared. Their warmth brightened the darkest days, their generosity made us family.

"We love you, kids," Lloyd always said, teary eyed.

Those were the days; back when 622 was a rest stop of sorts, a place we went to slow down and refuel on nourishing small talk. It's where we replenished by swapping stories and recalled what was truly important.

I'm afraid to say the path between here and there is overgrown from disuse and hardly visible now. Yet, my spirit still dashes to that little white box of a house with its slightly bent white aluminum awnings and sagging roof.

I used to bring dinner so they didn't have to cook, a snow shovel so they wouldn't need to scoop, a slice of my time so they wouldn't be lonely. This doesn't mean I'm a good person but rather a fairly good student of their stewardship.

"Nancy Lu Thompson, 72, died Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, at a Sioux City hospital. Lloyd P. Thompson, 'King of Country Swing,' 87, died Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, at the Veterans Administration Regional Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D."

Dedicated to Lloyd and Nancy: "Echoes of mercy, whispers of love… Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love."

SOURCES: Sioux City Journal, "Blessed Assurance," a hymn by Frances J. Crosby

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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