There are some things one simply must do in life— attendance when your dad/BopBop sworn in as Speaker of the House of the South Dakota Legislature is clearly one of them. Better yet to tell The Speaker that you cannot possibly attend — and surprise The Speaker with your arrival.
Eight years ago, for Dad’s first term in the Legislature, my brother, Bo, Mom, and I conspired for Bo and me to surprise Dad on the first day of Session, as he was sworn into office. Bo arrived first and told Dad that he needed to shower, went to his hotel room, and promptly slipped out the door to come pick me up at the airport. My plane was 45 minutes late and by the time we arrived back, Dad was ready to break down the door to Bo’s hotel room, convinced he had fallen and knocked his head in the shower.
This time, we got the kids involved and Bo and family headed the 10-hours west from Wisconsin and our family (minus Wyatt in the midst of an avalanche course and Wynn who needed to be in Santa Fe) headed the 17-hours north from Santa Fe. We arrived in Pierre, South Dakota within minutes of one another at the Capitol building. We threaded our way down the hall in single file, whispering, peeking, and finally arriving to Dad’s office, where we entered en masse. One look, two looks, a triple-take later, Dad believed his eyes.
The South Dakota Capitol building is simply gorgeous. We explored the building, looking for the famous cobalt blue tiles amidst the 30,000 square feet of tiled floor. Legend has it that the Italian craftsmen who laid the tile were each given a single tile to place wherever he wished (South Dakota Magazine). Apparently, 66 tiles lie within the terrazzo floor and 55 have been found. The cousins roamed the halls found four, including some hearts.
I loved the miniature replicas of each dress worn by a First Lady of South Dakota for Inauguration and the soaring stained glass ceilings above. The cousins were not nearly as taken with these and ditched me to keep looking for tiles.
We arrived prepared. “Oddly,” Bo said, “the Winks were the only family to show up to the Session Opening with sideline signs…”
Dad took the Oath of Office and my heart overflowed with pride and love. Life is so very busy and so often we fly through days in a blur of all that must be done. It was a rare moment to sit and allow all that Dad has done in his life to wash through me. When your dad’s a cowboy there is never a dull moment. Of the many life lessons that I’ve taken from my parents, one of the largest has to be their steadfast determination to create goodness in life, no matter the circumstances life may toss their way. This moment in time reflected Dad’s strength-of-character, integrity, resiliency, vision, leadership, hard work, and sheer generosity and goodness of spirit throughout his lifetime. I burst with pride.
After Dad took the Oath, he acknowledged each of us beautifully. I was doing okay until he started talking about Mom. He spoke of their 50-year marriage, of what an incredible mother, wife, friend, and all she’d done for our family, all while creating an international career and writing five books, with a sixth on the way. He spoke of the emails she receives from students around the world who tell of the difference she’s made in their lives. “And,” he said, “on top of all of that, she’s a GREAT dancer.” At this point, tears streamed down both of my cheeks. So much for legislative decorum…
Noé, Luke, and I slipped out right after his speech and started back to Santa Fe, via the ranch. It had been far too long since I’d been there and I savored those precious hours. As we made a final trip to the car, I looked up to see horses on the ridge above the ranch house and drank in the beauty.
We headed up the lane and out past Mom‘s Little Free Library.
I give thanks for every single second of the journey. The photo of Dad and me below was taken on the Cascabel Ranch in 1977. I love this photo for many reasons; the sense of fun, our Wink eyes that close when we laugh, that this was clearly a break in the shade on a hot ranch day of work. What I love most about this photo is that my love for my dad shines through.
Some things never change.