It doesn’t take a seer to imagine what’s happening throughout the towns, villages, and hamlets across this vast Alpine School District. Children are filling their backpacks with pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, calculators and rulers in preparation for tomorrow’s first day of school. Clothes are spread out over beds while boys and girls make the most important decision of the day - what to wear. Does this match that and does that go with this? Some mothers stand by as consultants, others wouldn’t attempt to get involved in a clothes discussion with their teenager - It’s too risky. Dads are blissfully and permanently excluded from ‘What to Wear’ discussions. Most men are not blessed with the correct rods and cones in their eyes to see the subtleties of fabric and color required for clothes matching. Best to stick with what we know best; sports, electronics and television.
I dreaded the first day of school as a child. I dreaded what my new teacher would be like. I dreaded the thought of learning new math. I mourned the loss of my freedom. No more carefree days spent on my bicycle exploring the streets and avenues of Rapid City, South Dakota. No more lazy afternoons at the public pool. No more long walks home from a day of swimming with my friends. No more treasure hunting under the bleachers at the ball parks. No more sugar stops at the Dairy Queen on Cottonwood Lane filling up on 1 penny Red Vines with our 'under the bleacher' findings.
The end of summer meant an end to our summer backyard sleep overs, and with them went our double dog dare midnight romps through our Canyon Lake neighborhood. Those early 1970's midnight adventures bring fond memories of my gang and I. We prowled our turf - finding imaginative and unholy matchings of toilet paper with trees, cars, fences, bikes and other things best left unmentioned as per instructions issued by the Rapid City Police Department.
We made our own fun in those days. You had to. There were no DVD’s or video machines. There were no iPods or computers. You got up, put on your swimming suit and Tshirt, did your chores, scrounged for money in your mom’s purse or between the couch cushions and hit the road with your friends on your bikes. If we had enough money we cycled several miles to the Kresge's at Bacon Park. Kresge's had a diner with 50 cent hot fudge sundaes. If you got bored waiting for the pool to open you cycled to the spillway on Canyon Lake Dam. Who needed a Lagoon when you had a mossy, slimy dam spillway to slide down? What a blast it was tumbling down the spillway into the creek below, then crawling back up, sometimes making it and others slipping and toppling back down - taking your friends with you.
It was important to our mothers to come home for dinner. As soon as supper was inhaled we were back on our bikes, setting a course for the dirt hills. The dirt hills were magical. We split into teams, staked out our forts and proceeded with vicious and sometimes bloody dirt clod fights.
Those were the good old day of my summers........
Now, its time for school. Summer is over so we put summer things away and get down to business. I urge all of you to work hard in school. Set good goals and do everything you can to reach them. Remember, you’re in school to learn and teachers are there to teach. It is a partnership. The vast majority of teachers really do care about you and your grades. They want you to succeed but can’t force you. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. That saying applies to you and your education. Drink deeply. Satisfy your cravings for knowledge. Learn to think and reason so you can become a productive member of society. That’s is all we ask. Is it too much?
Remember, us old timers are not going to be around forever. You will grow up and take over for us. That can be frightening. Do a better job than we are doing in the way you care for this country and planet when its your turn to make decisions. America’s best years are before us, not behind us as many might say. Find a way to make the world a better place because you’re here......now.
Enjoy this year. Make new friends. Grow and develop into the kind of person you want everyone to think you are.
And to our young volunteers and staff - I’ll see you here in the trenches.