Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on September 10, 1972 · Page 27
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 27

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 10, 1972
Page 27
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" J South Mother of Presidents? shooter to discourage the miscreant who burglarized her store. "I don't want to hurt him; just leave an identification mark. OVER IN DEADWOOD Nester Erickson and his wife, Bertha who knew only Sioux for childhood playmates, run a gold panning operation for tourists: $1.50 a pan and your money back if you don't get paydirt. Erickson occasionally pans himself and says "if gold hits $100 an ounce, you'll see a real stampede out here." He keeps a claim or two himself fulfilling the requirement that a four foot hole be dug on them every year. "I do it the easy way. Dynamite." Mrs. Erickson sketches, writes poetry and talks of her father, a deputy marshal who rode into Dead wood with Wild Bill Hickock, helped lay him out after he was shot, was shot himself through the hat by an Indian and once was the target of a man he'd sent to jail who walked 400 miles to shoot him but ended up helping him dig post holes instead. Erickson also knew Calamity Jane. "No morals at all. Same with .Poker Alice Tubbs," he said of the cigar puffing cardsharp who ran a house in Sturgis that was no better than it had to be. Those frontier days shaped a candor, an open friendliness, a work ethic that have branded South Dakotans with an un- complex strength and perseverance to outlast a hard and grudging environment. It is the most agricultural state in the Union in proportion to total income, all on a parched allowance of about 20 inches of rain a year. If he is not looking you in the eye, the South Dakotan, be he farmer or banker, wedded partners in a marriage of necessity, is looking heavenward for rain. ' "When the crops are good, the town's gooel." said Jim Kuehn. editor of the Rapid City Journal. "When they're bad They were particularly bad in the '30s, for instance, when only dust fell from the skies. 40 per cent of the state was on relief and 80 per cent of the banks failed. Even today with few industrial jobs available a young man either waits to inherit Dad's farm or goes West. East or South. There was a net out--migration of 92.560 people in the last decade leaving 660.000 people back home. Of 12,445 children five years of age in 1950 only 7,249 remained 20 years later. Plastic Floicers Rent on furore at If ounded Kme you^are, where you're from and what you do." Probably ask you to dinner, too'. A man. as well, must be self-reliant out here where some ranches are so big that one owner, at least, got lost on his own spread. "A South Dakotan has been raised to cope." said Hoadley Dean, a well-fed Rapid City entrepreneur once described as "the nearest thing the state has to being a big shot." Dean is trying to sell industry on South Dakota, but not too many are buying, in part because the whole state has fewer customers than, say, Denver. Which doesn't displease a lot of folks. They like the air clean and think a place like Meade County where cows outnumber people more than five to one has the right idea. If there was any flaw in the creation of this God's Country, say a number of South Dakotans, it was in not dividing Dakota Territory East and West instead of North and South. The Missouri River makes the division almost exactlv. Sept. 10.1972 :K YET SHARED hardship has bred a striking comradeliness in the South Dakotan. Cosgrove can remember being offered fresh horses at farm after farm in a 100-mile ride to fetch a doctor. And today, a leathery cowboy straight out of Marlboro Country, strides through the screen door into the Buckhorn Bar in Coltonwood, crowded with more people than the town's 16 residents, and orders a round for the house, strangers included, while barkeep Elra "Red" Piglsey cooks up some fresh popcorn. A stranger is a novelty, something to explore, and if he's come that far, he must have something to tell. "You come to a Lions luncheon," said. Ron Campbell, a Rapid City banker," and in 45 minutes everybody will know who THE CHANGE is not only geographic--in East Dakota farmhouses hide behind windbreaking groves of trees to keep out the winter wind that sweeps over the flat land giving way over the river to ranches and prairies that roll on like an endless golf course. The people are different, too: Farmers in the East, ranchers in the West. The farmer thinks himself a conservative, said Alan Clem, a professor at the University of South Dakota. "But he's for electric co-ops, price benefits, government intervention in agriculture. Actually, he's ambivalent even if he doesn't know it." He's also his own man, apt to jump off his tractor and into his car still in his bib overalls and drive off on a vacation, said Leonel Jensen, head of the state historical society. "Yet he's no character out of 'Hee-Haw' plodding behind his plow chewing on a straw," said Struwe. "He's the greatest consumer of technology in the economy." The cowboys are something else. "They're not Democrats or Republicans or Catholics or Protestants," said writer Bob Lee in Sturgis. "They're cattlemen." "It's always good politics to say you're a friend, of the farmer," said Dean. "But don't say you're a friend of the rancher because he doesn't give a damn." The rancher is his own monarch, off on his kingdom, owner of all he can see. God and the bank willing. It can be a splendid isolation for ranchers such as Don Strain, who owns 7.000 acres near White River. His bottomland ranchhouse is three miles from the road, his companions since his wife died are their four children and his 500 Herefords most all of which he can recognize on sight. "It's beautiful out there at five in the morning. Dew on the grass. The birds." A pastoral harmony of greens and browns and blue and meadowlarks' cry that softens the eyes and unlocks the bones. No wonder that the South Dakotan from his outpost in the middle of the continent views with increasing suspicion as he looks East, culminating in that ultimate profanation, the New York banker who. in his estimation, ranks 10 fathoms lower than Jonah. . AND YET, PARADOX. "We kid our ranch friends that they figure they're conservative and independent, but when money's handed out, they're first in line." says Les Helgeland. a statehouse veteran, in Yankton. "They don't deny it." Just about last in line is the Indian, who once was first. "We're still discriminated against." said Mrs. Eva Nichols, a Rapid City tribal worker. "It's just a little more subtle than it used to be. 1 ' Even though there are radio station owners, lawyers and merchant Richard Lee Strout McGovern Airborne at Last WASHINGTON-HOW does the campaign of a nominee for presidency get airborne? .Some of them tah.i to the air immediately. Some stagger or limp or never get into the sky like Goldwater's in 1964. Sen. McGovern was all set to begin his campaign after the convention when he had to go back and change engines. It was one of the most humiliating bungles in the history of presidential campaigns. Now here we are at Labor Day. Sen. McGovern will be on the road almost steadily for the next two months. On a trial run in New York City last week the McGovern campaign, (believe, finally got. on the runway. I was there and watched it. Here are some notes . . . It is a noonday meeting of the Society of Security Analysts in the heart of the New York financial district. This is the second of three confrontations McGovern must make, very much like the confrontation of Jack Kennedy on the religious issue with the Baptists in Houston in I960. The first was with the American Legion to defend his proposal to cut the Pentagon budget $10 billion each year for three years. They were hawks, he a dove: he spoke boldly, they responded politely -- and that was that. He had a face-to-face mission to accomplish and did it as an old bomber pilot should. Now here he is for another confrontation in Wall Street. The hall of the Security Analysts is big. stuffy and inadequate. You can almost feel the amused skepticism. So this is the oddball the Democrats dredged up! But he doesn't look like a wild man. He speaks calmly, mildly. He follows text closely. His speech is detailed, humorless and long. But it is also vital to his candidacy. It is his basic speech on economic policy. He has dropped the $1,000 grant idea which sounded good in economic textbooks (like Milton Friedman's "negative income tax") but was poison in politics. WHAT McGOVERN is here to say is that p o p u l a r r e v u l s i o n against tax loopholes is getting explosive and that the affluent had better do something about it quick or face a lot more desperate changes before long. It just isn't right, he says (and here his moral passion shows for a moment), that Standard Oil pays a lower percentage of its income in taxes than an ordinary worker does on his wages. The funny thing about McGovern is that he presents radical notions in such a mild way that you almost forget they are radical. Now he proposes calmly the abolition of the tax loophole on capital gains. It would save the Treasury about $8 billion. His tone is not casual, exactly, but it is persuasive and sensible. Not for nothing has McGovern survived all these years in conservative South Dakota, he a Democrat, they Republicans and they like him. He ran make revolutionary things seem matter-of-fact; if Karl Marx had been McGovern. South Dakota might be Communist. Well, maybe. Anyway, the meeting breaks up and the well-dressed crowd goes out saying that McGovern is maybe not such a nut after Please turn to page 5C chiefs among the state's 50.000 red men. a representative opinion seems to be that of a Rockerville waitress who says of the Indian's problems: "I guess it's the fault of all of us. but sometimes it gets a little tiresome." Custer and Wounded Knee are not just dates. And yet more paradox: half hidden in the grass next to the gravelled pit that holds the dead of Wounded Knee lies the grave of another Indian. Emile Afraid of Hawk Jr. He had been in Korea, fighting for his-country. That Indians and cowboys and farmers and frontier frugality and Main Street practicality should add up to McGovern seems the greatest South Dakota paradox of a l l . Here's a man from a nice, conservative state where to make a buck is to do a buck's work proposing to dole out $1,000 to all hands, no questions asked, a man would close tax loopholes, a farmer's close friend: a man who, for God's sake, even accepts Eastern money. "He won't get my vote," huffed Maw Burke. "He took all that money from that man in New York." apparently meaning Steward Mott. a campaign sugar daddy. The South Dakotan voter has proven in his 83-year history, however, that he goes in cycles, like grasshoppers. "Every 20 years they're going to throw the rascals out no matter who's in." said Bob Lee. "The populist strain is always there," said Clem, "a belief in the little man.a distrust of the big one. The farmer is particularly strong in this state. Seventy per cent of the population lives on or was reared on a farm. When the farmer feels hard pressed, rightly or wrongly, and there's a candidate who can put it all together, it can be done." TIMES WERE BAD in the 1890s. Dakotans formed the short-lived populist Independent Parly in Huron. Times weren't so hot in the early years nl this century South Dakota elected Gov., Peter Norbeck. a Republican, who outlined a program of state-run enterprises that would have warmed the dark old heart of Karl Marx. South Dakota still runs a cement plant in Rapid City, a Norbeck holdover. And the constitution has a right-to-work provision to help even things up. The Depression was a time when the biggest wage earner in town was often the postman, said Dr. Matthew Smith, president emeritus of Dakota Wesleyan University who knew McGovern as a boy and later student at the school. Pierre got a Democratic governor, the second in history. "The farmer is a radical and a conservative at the same time." said DWl" history professor James McLaird. "Which only makes sense if you accept contradictions as making sense." C o n t r a d i c t i o n b o r d e r e d o n t h e implausible when McGovern became secretary of the state Democratic o r g a n i z a t i o n in 1953. E x a c t l y two Democrats sat in the 110-member legislature. It has exceeded the inconceivable in view of the ascension of Democrats and M c G o v e r n in South Dakota, a not unrelated event since he was the master builder. Travelling the state one hears enough I t ' s Sioux Land anti-George vehemence as to raise the question whether anyone at all voted for this seemingly unfavorite son. And yet. . . "My brother-in-law hates McGovern for his war stand." said McLaird. "He hated him when he stood up w i t h the Black Panthers. And he voted for him every time." This is not perversity. McGovern trudged as long and hard a trail to Miami Beach as any South Dakota bullwacker ever traveled. But almost always there was a thread trailing back to his state's heritage, even if it was often obscured by switchbacks, snarls and running bowlines. It was the thread a South Dakotan could recognize and admire. For one. McGovern had known prairie hardship. He grew up in Mitchell in days when a nickel ice cream cone w a s ' a luxury, when students at Dakota Wesleyan paid tuition in sacks of corn and head of cattle. He fought for his country, and South Dakota is a patriotic state. Yes, he's a g a i n s t the w a r i n V i e t n a m , b u t a predecessor. Sen. Richard Pettigrew. also opposed the Spanish-American War in his day and his law office in Sioux Falls was painted yellow by irate citizenry when he opposed the d r a f t in World War I. MCGOVERN WORKED. Driving his Cnevy up one dusty Main Street and down another all over the state he shook hands. said ' H o w d y ' -- a n d k e p t n a m e s a n d . numbers on a growing mass of 3 by 5 file cards. Once in office he never overlooked a 100th birthday or a no-hitter by someone's son in American Legion ball or any other small triumph that made the papers back home and would be all the sweeter by a letter from a Congressman. And he never forgot the farmer. Never. And. says Clem. "He never has been afraid to talk up to the big boys," an impudence relished on the frontier ever since the first robber baron pushed his railroad across the border. There is also a tolerance, even an admiration, in South Dakota for a man who speaks his mind, providing he has one. "We probably have as many nincompoops as anyone else." said Will Robinson whose father, Doane. first told South Dakota what it ought to do with Ml. Rushmore. "We just don't elect them to higher office." "But if you want to be segregated around here, say something good about McGovern." said Ron Struwe. Yet on election years George comes home. and. like any good farmer-rancher, mends his fences. He must, for in his last election in 19fiS McGovern defeated his Republican opponent by the same margin Rep. E. Y. B e r r y , a R e p u b l i c a n , d e f e a t e d his Democratic opposition. "If you paid any attention to their political philosophies, it would be impossible to vote for both," said Hoadley Dean. "What does this say about the South Dakotan voter? All it does is mystify me." Perhaps. But if McGovern is not a sum of all the parts of South Dakota, he is the sum of enough of them to be identifiable to his people. And perhaps this identity is translatable on a larger scale. "I'm not surprised a number of leaders today are coming out of this region." said Struwe. "It's still one part of the country where you have to have your foot on the ground, literally and figuratively, to get along. There's a common sense and q u i e t n e s s t h a t s t r i k e s a response in people." A basic theory of Frederick Jackson Turner, the late U.S. historian, was that t h e s e l f - r e l i a n c e , i n d i v i d u a l i s m a n d energy of frontier life had done much to f o s t e r a n d c o n d i t i o n d e m o c r a c y i n America. The coming election is not intended to prove Jackson right or wrong--he's having e n o u g h t r o u b l e s w i t h r e v i s i o n i s t historians. But if South Dakota does not add a President to its staple exports of young people and c a t t l e , it will not be because the ground wasn't ripe. Mone Fathers of Country Are Found in Mother Land

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