Thursdays are banner days for Linda and Wally Stephens in Buffalo, South Dakota, but any celebration slips under the radar. The Nation's Center News is on the street and this duo is deeply immersed in the next edition of their newspaper. This is a real ink and paper publication. A treasure.
Tonight a Harding County rancher will hunch over the kitchen table exhausted from a long day of haying. If the haying is finished, ranching always offers some task to keep a rancher out until after dark. The object of this rancher's attention is a late meal, beef is a good guess, the best hamburger, roasts and steaks known to mankind, locally raised and locally dressed ... and the Nation's Center News. Not so different from 100 years ago when each Thursday the Govert Advance reported the news of southeastern Harding County, except the early prairie homesteader's meal may have had more resemblance to a can of beans.
I live 550 miles from where Linda Stephens edits the Nation's Center News in Buffalo, South Dakota. The newspaper hits my mailbox by Monday most weeks. Not so different from 100 years ago when the Govert Advance was exported to the friends and relatives of the small community of Govert just north of the Butte County line, all of whom were eager to follow their loved ones in the news.
The Nation's Center News is always welcome in my house. The small-town newspaper falls open, and the noise of houses built too close to each other recedes. I think of my grandmother snapping open her Govert Advance 100 years ago in Govert, South Dakota, the evening quiet after a day of baking bread and cleaning a weathered frame house that would never completely succumb to broom or mere soap and water. Together once again, Gram and I catch up on the activity of the town, activity rotating in spiraling circles around the country store. I cheer on the Brink daughters and their rodeo exploits. Chat with South Dakota Representative Betty Olson, who writes the Grand River Roundup for the Nation's Center News, sharing her love of the people of Harding County and of the County's history. Not long ago Delbert Blume reminded me how painful a "snoot full of [porcupine] quills" must be. And, when I read reprints of the Old Inkslinger's column, I am conscious of how confusing the world can be without him.
I mention these three journalists because, in one sense or another, we've met. Betty Olson introduced me to researching Harding County in an exchange of emails a few years ago. Delbert Blume told me stories one hot summer day over lunch at the senior center in Buffalo, where everyone who is anyone gathered each week. I once wrote a fan letter to the Old Inkslinger, whom I consider to be a rockstar among historians. I feel a kinship with Alice Holcomb, but we've never met, except on the pages of the Nation's Center News. The mere mention of peach bread in her column one week will always be associated with her name.
So here's to you, Linda and Wally, and all of your journalists. Thank you for giving us the gift of the Nation's Center News. Yes, I received my renewal notice. I feel certain you don't need a large paper bag of zucchini during the zucchini harvest, but would you take two chickens? The Govert Advance was a dollar a year and the editor, Charles Laflin, accepted food and fuel in payment. No worries ... the check is in the mail.
Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate