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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | Dec 25, 2009

Another year is sliding under the bridge, which means it’s time for my annual review.

2009 was an eventful year, one that brought innumerable changes. For instance, I once deemed golf a boring sport, but recent developments in the pro golfing world have caused me to reevaluate.

I began 2009 in pain, which was due to “angry scar tissue” in my left shoulder. I found that diagnosis hard to swallow because I am not an angry person.

In March I underwent arthroscopic surgery on the affected shoulder. During the post-op period I became reacquainted with my old pals, the opiates. They don’t actually relieve my pain; they just cause me to no longer care that it hurts.

The surgery left me with a couple of nifty new scars, which enabled me to have a little fun.

I might show someone the fresh and angry scars, one at the front of the shoulder, the other at the back. “The arrow went clean through,” I would intone solemnly. “My wife pulled it out, but first she carved a groove in the shaft and filled it with gunpowder”

At that point people of a certain age would grin and say, “Two Mules For Sister Sara.” Other people – specifically, those younger than me – would say, “Whoa. That musta hurt!”

The post-surgical period involved P.T., which I learned stands for Pain and Torture. Much of my P.T. was administered by a sadistic guy named Chuck. I recently ran into Chuck and instantly thrust my left arm above my head to demonstrate my range of motion. It must have been a Pavlovian “please don’t hurt me!” response.

Last spring our youngest son graduated from college, which is really cool because we can now say that we have an engineer in the family. Woo, woo!

Actually, he’s not that type of engineer. His forte is construction engineering, and getting a job in that field in this economy is about like selling popsicles at a winter carnival.

Even so, he managed to land a position on the construction crew of an Illinois wind farm. My wife and I paid him a visit this fall and marveled at those colossal wind towers. I probably could have gone to the top of one had I asked, but the 300-foot-tall towers lacked elevators and I lacked the will. Also the physical endurance.

One of the more interesting events took place last summer when I received an email from South Dakota Humanities Council asking for writing contributions for a book entitled “Life on the Farm & Ranch: South Dakota Stories.”

I submitted some of the stuff that has filled this space. The pay was exactly zero, but I figured, hey, at least I’m not going backwards on the deal. Which is often what happened when I farmed.

When the book came out I was thrilled to see that a couple of my essays had been included. One was about my county agent Mel Kloster, the guy behind this whole “Dear County Agent Guy” thing.

That particular story was about my friendship with Mel. It touched on how I first met Mel and the many ways that he had helped me throughout the years. Most would agree that that was just the sort of county agent guy Mel was: friends first and county agent second.

Mel remained one of my biggest boosters. A few years back, he began to suffer some serious health problems. I am deeply ashamed to admit this, but our visits gradually became fewer and farther between.

Two Christmases ago my wife and I went to Hawaii to visit our son and our nephew. I called Mel shortly before we left and he seemed to be in good spirits despite his numerous health issues. As I bade him goodbye, I told Mel I would give him a full report about Hawaiian agriculture upon my return. He said he was looking forward to it.

Mel passed away while we were in Hawaii. His funeral was over by the time we got home.

I recently sent a copy of the South Dakota stories book to Mel’s widow, Barb. She soon responded with a card and a nice note.

Barb said she was deeply gratified by the tome. She wrote that their youngest daughter had worried that folks would forget Mel now that he’s gone and that the book and my essay about him would be especially meaningful to them at this time of the year.

There must have been something wrong with that card because I had to wipe my eyes several times while I read it.

All the best to you and yours during this holiday season. And I won’t even think about trying to duplicate Tiger’s off-course activities. After all, he’s a pro.

You can learn more about the book mentioned at: www.sdhumanities.org.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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