November 11, 2009



Writing this from Connecticut!
Now, I want you to all admit I am a pretty nice guy. I took Shirley to the northeast to see the fall foliage. Actually, it would have been much better if we had come a couple of weeks earlier. The leaves are beautiful, and the locals say they are much prettier when they are on the trees, rather than on the ground! But at least she got to see them! The truth is, I was playing in a World Poker Tour tournament. Now, I’m not a real smart guy. The highest I ever finished in a tournament before was third at Thanksgiving against my nieces and nephews. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I finished 65th of 353 players. Went out on the third day. But I had won my way in, so I was playing with house money (just so my banker knows I didn’t spend $10,000 of his money in a poker game)!
In the Dakotas, we always talk about the friendly people. Oh, and we are. We wave at each other on the road. If you have a flat, someone will pull over and give you a hand. If you need to be gone, a neighbor will do your chores. We raise each other’s kids and slow down if a dog is crossing the road. We welcome hunters, and buy friends a cup of coffee or a beer. We’re really nice guys!
You know what? There are a lot of nice people all over! I suppose you already knew that. I guess I did, but this adventure reinforced that belief. From the check-in people at the airport, to the cleaners and the  players and the spectators and the guy that  poured the wine at supper, there are a lot of nice people.
Two of the Tour employees, Kim and Beatrice, befriended us when we flew into Providence, R.I. Well, let me rephrase that. I saw a guy with a nice suit and a funny hat holding a sign up with the casino name on it. Foxwoods. I figured it was a shuttle bus. So, I figured that was our ride. (Note to self: It is limo drivers that dress like that. Not cabbies or shuttle bus drivers.) By the time I figured out my mistake, I was sitting in the back of a limousine sipping on a drink and eating funny little crackers. But the young ladies, whom I must say, should have a raise, kindly took us country folks under their wings, and made sure we got where we needed gittin.
I met a couple from Massachusetts that came up to watch the tourney, which, by the way is more than Shirley did. And they befriended me on the first break. I did stand out a little. A big, fat guy wearing the only cowboy hat east of Chicago! I made a wonderful friend from Rhode Island, who urged us to spend a few more days and enjoy their state. An elderly man, which means he was at least a year older than myself, invited us to spend Sunday with him. Seeing more of Connecticut than you could from the hotel window. And that is what we did.
We went to Old Mystic, down by the ocean. Drove along the Thames River and visited Groton, Norwich, and New London. We went through areas where the houses predated the Revolutionary War. They were living in mansions out here a hundred years before we built our first sod shack! We visited battlefields from that war, and could sit and imagine the Patriots hiding behind the stone fences that those first settlers built to mark their property lines.
Our friend was an old submarine officer, and we toured the submarine base and had breakfast in the retired submarine officers’ club. We spent some solemn time at the Memorial to submarine crews that have been lost. During World War II, the submarine corps had the highest percentage of men lost in the service. The memorial has a plaque for each sub destroyed, along with the names and number of crews lost. On most, as you can imagine, there were no survivors. To stand there, reading those names, brought tears to my eyes. On the wall with the names, is a quotation that ends “walk softly ... walk softly stranger, you are standing on hallowed ground.” And I did. I did.
Oh, I would have liked to have won. Or finished in the money. But, as Bruce reminded me when I told him I finished out of the money, “Hell, Dean, at least you got to see the elephant!”