Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

My best day

Wick's World

 


All 365 days of each year is celebrated by someone as “the best day of my life.” Often that favorite day is your birthday. Sometimes it's a wedding anniversary, a first kiss or the first time Dad put you behind the wheel of his 1953 Chevy pickup. A driver’s license with all its freedom tacked on is close behind.

My best day of the year is January 30. On that special day in 1970 I was discharged from the Army in Columbia, South Carolina, and hopped a plane to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I lay in bed the other night and began to question why that day was so special. The memories failed me. I could hardly remember a thing. I knew there would be no more yelling from ornery sergeants, although I was a sergeant myself and had been for over a year. To make things clear, it wasn’t that I hated the Army. After all, it taught me discipline. I got to parachute from the sky, rappel down mountainsides and waterfalls and I saw a lot of the world, but I missed the one thing I cherished — my freedom.

I left home the day I graduated from high school. Four days later I was walking the streets of Tijuana, Mexico. I spent the next four years posing as a college student while traveling most of the lower 48 states. When I was drafted, I lost my freedom entering the restrictive world of the military.

When I thought about the details of that day, my mind went blank. Where did I fly? A vision entered my sleepless mind of a new airport facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My wife was born and raised there so I asked her if Sioux Falls had built a modern airport then? She replied that indeed they had. My next big question was who picked me up?”

It had to be Mom and Dad, didn’t it? Even now, I cannot remember the ride to my hometown of Chamberlain, South Dakota. I hadn’t seen my parents in over a year. The weather was cold. I had been living in a tropical jungle. I wrote letters home frequent enough to at least stay in touch. So it still boggles my mind as to why the ride home is a complete blank. These were the most important people in my life. How could I forget this?

The past week, I spent many hours lying in bed digging up memories. I was absolutely delighted every time an old one returned. Then a strange thing happened — the return of one old memory would open the door to another. Soon I had reconstructed my final goodbyes to my compadres I had bonded so strongly with. Then I remembered the boat ride across country to the airport that eventually put me on a C-130 transport plane I rode back to the states. I had to wait a week to get my discharge papers but I only remember one single event from that entire period — I spent one night partying in Charleston. Everything else is a blank to remain empty.

So why is January 30 still my favorite day of the year if I hardly remember anything from that day? I remember the two bottles of wine called Mateus that I drank the previous night, giving me a January 30 hangover. Who’s favorite day of the year would begin with a hangover and why do I still celebrate it?

The answer to that question came on January 30, 1972. For a while now, I had been dating the prettiest and smartest graduate of the University of South Dakota. On that date we hitchhiked to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. We have remained together for the next 44 years.

Ironically, the threat of jail almost interrupted our fairy tale. We got our first ride on I-29 heading to Sioux City, Iowa, in a black car carrying two guys in black suits. We climbed in the back seat and without saying a word, my future bride pointed at the doors. They had no handles.

I mouthed to her, “cops.”

One pulled out a badge and asked for our IDs. It was clearly marked FBI. He spoke to me as he looked at the pretty young-looking brunette with braids in her hair.

“We’re looking for a 15-year-old runaway from the reservation,” as he returned our IDs.

They took us to the last exit out of Sioux City. As the agent opened the back doors for us, he wished us a great time at Mardi Gras. It was, as so was the next 44 years.

 

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