The funny thing about this pandemic forcing people inside and giving them enough free time to redefine stir crazy has been finding out why people from your past think of you.
One of my favorite former employees and I always think of each other when something crazy happens. Most of our conversations begin with some version of shock about something that just happened. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of chances to talk to each other because there have been a lot of shocking things happening lately.
Another funny contact came from my former Vice Presidential candidate. When I found out that official write-in candidates had to have running mates, I figured the best running mate was one I would trust with my life. My friend Todd was my storm chasing driver. We spent a lot of time under wall clouds waiting for funnels to drop. There was one incredible tornado that came down in western Kansas that we tracked all the way through to our coverage area just east of Wichita. There is a good way and a bad way to chase tornadoes. The good way never puts you in danger.
In rural Kansas, roads don't always go the direction you need them to. At one point in the 81-mile chase, we were so close to a rain-wrapped tornado that we couldn't see past the windshield. I told Todd he better stop until we had visibility. He told me not to worry about it since his job is training pilots of corporate jets.
"I'm instrument rated," he said. "I don't need to be able to see." I reminded him that we didn't have "instruments" in the minivan so he slowed down just in time to see the tornado cross the road about a quarter mile in front of us.
This week, he was driving in a bad thunderstorm, so of course he thought to call me. I don't know whether to be insulted or complimented.
One of Dawit's friends from Oklahoma called and talked to him for an hour. Only God knows what they talked about and I'm not sure how many things they talked about that were true. His friend is a very creative storyteller.
When we had a stray dog wander into our yard and refuse to leave, we sought the owners. It turns out, Dawit’s little friend knew the owner. He said he had seen a man in a yellow Lamborghini dump the scraggly little Chihuahua in our neighborhood. We knew it wasn’t true, but we let it go.
This friend was also invited to Dawit’s birthday party at our local public pool. On the way to the pool, he talked about what a great swimmer he is and how much he loved diving off the high dive.
We got to the pool and just as I got all of the boys’ towels and shoes settled in a chair where I was going to sit while they enjoyed the afternoon, the friend was suddenly standing beside me.
“Mr. Kent, the lifeguard wants to talk to you,” he said.
“What happened?” I asked, thinking he had been running or violating some other pool rule. He isn't a big rule follower.
“They had to save my life,” he said. It turns out that he had never jumped off a high dive before and swims as well as bag full of rocks.
After we realized that there is literally no limit to what he will say in any situation, we used his tendencies to entertain each other.
Once the boys were playing a card game. I thought it would be funny to ask him if he had ever played cards in Las Vegas.
“Oh yeah, me and my brother went,” he said.
“Did you win a lot of money?” I asked.
“I won like a thousand dollars,” he said. Don’t all gamblers claim to win?
“What did you do with the money?” I asked, seeing if there was an end to the story.
“We bought a new car,” he said without missing a beat. I doubt it was a yellow Lamborghini, but who knows? Imaginary money sometimes goes further than real money.
I miss that kid. He was a lot of fun to talk to. I wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him, but it was always entertaining. There were football games he won for a team he never even played for, video games he loved that had never been invented and even countries he had visited without leaving his own zip code.
I was always too busy to listen to him too long when we lived nearby. Now that we have more time, all of Dawit's friends are more normal.
Hopefully, he will call more often so I can get some fun and fanciful updates.
Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.