Endurance of the stories

Tony Bender
Local Columnist

The calendar reads November. How'd that happen? One minute the bars are overflowing with Halloween costumes—sexy nurse, sexy cop, sexy town drunk—and the next thing you know turkeys are running for their lives.

The great country singer Roger Miller, who philosophized, “You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd,” said he grew up in a town so small, they didn't even have a town drunk. “We had to take turns.”

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It's kinda that way with Frederick, SD, where I grew up, only we take turns being the town writer. It started with the late great Dick Pence, who it seemed, was fiction, because I always just heard about him or just missed him—never actually witnessed him.

We finally had “The Great Summit” about 20 years ago with a six-pack under the water tower. Dick passed the baton to me, smacked me over the head with it, metaphorically, and now there's a new kid, Lance Nixon, who I'm pretty sure wants my damn baton. If we grew up in a bigger town, we'd have more batons.

Lance reached out to me last week looking for some thoughts on the differences and similarities between the two Dakotas for an article he's writing for some high highfalutin' magazine, which I dutifully pecked out on my phone in the dentist's waiting room and in the chair between tortures. I'm not going to reveal too much of what I said; you'll have to pay Lance for the work I did by buying the magazine. In case I said anything controversial, I'd like to preemptively denounce Lance and the magazine for misquoting me. Besides, I was hopped up on Novocaine.

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It was a good exercise to think about who we are. In two words: enduring stoics. In one: maniacs. As I sit here, having fallen asleep in my sexy Danny DeVito costume, I am where I dreaded I'd be. No, not the third-best writer in Frederick, rather at the dining room table with a laptop, having been up for 90 minutes while it's still black as a lawyer's heart outside.

I fought it every inch of the way. This year, I wrote outside at sunrise and sunset, in searing heat, in drizzle, through mosquitoes, and in perfect weather with a pug rolling in the grass beneath my feet. You drink it in, guzzle it down, because winter is inevitable. I know that because I got a call from Britton, SD, wondering if they should service my stand-by generator, which indeed, sometimes stands by when it should be doing other things. I misheard them when I bought it. I thought they said “auto-start,” when in fact it was “ought to start.”

I also know winter's coming because subscribers are coming in with their change of address. I've abandoned all pretense of objectivity. I just tell them to their faces that I resent them. “Fine, leave

me here to deal with your winter. You think you're so smart. Just like Lance Nixon. I hope you get a sunburn.”

Once we've finished flipping off the snowbirds, we settle into our stoic endurance. Frostbite ain't so bad, we tell ourselves, and moving tons of snow out of the driveway gives you a sense of accomplishment until the wind changes and you have to do it again.

Have I cheered you up, yet? Oh, get over it. There you lie on the couch passed out in your sexy nurse outfit while Lance Nixon and I've been slaving away trying to get other people to do our work for us, and let me tell you something, Bob, next time shave your legs.

I know it's over because I finally made myself roll up the hoses this weekend, all the while cursing that I signed a contract for the pipeline when it's clear to me I have enough hose to connect to a spigot in Bismarck myself.

I put away the “zero gravity” outdoor recliner that was grounded up against the fence along with some tumbleweeds. I also dragged in half a dozen planters which I have no room for, but after nursing those plants along all summer, I'm not letting them die. Theoretically, I should put them out in the spring, but I won't. I'll just buy new ones, and eventually, there will be so many oxygen-producing plants in my house it will become a hazard, and one spark will make it look like a Die Hard movie.

This is the part, according to standard column-writing formula, where I write something uplifting and meaningful. Well, it's 20 degrees outside with an expected high of 36. But in two months that'll seem like a heatwave. You're welcome.