March 10th is a tough day. On March 10, 2020, South Dakota diagnosed our first 5 cases of COVID-19, including our first death. For many of us across the state, life changed that day as we adapted to slow the spread of the virus. For my family, the day had double meaning. March 10, 1994, is also the day that my dad passed away in an accident on our family farm.
My dad was a cowboy. He was the toughest person that I’ve ever known. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and be like him. When he died, I was just 22 years old, and I had to take over as general manager of the family business. The months immediately after he died were filled with unending challenges and hundreds of questions. I remember thinking repeatedly, “I wish I could just ask dad.” I had no idea how we were going to keep the family business going without him. But I was determined that we weren’t going to fail.
A couple of months after he was killed, I finally got the courage to clean out his pickup. If you have a farmer or rancher in your life, you know that they often live out of their pickups. Everything important can be found in the cab.
I got to his pickup and began pulling items out of the center console and putting them in a box. I found a set of pliers, a Baby Ruth candy bar (that was his favorite), notebooks, pens, tools. And then I found a tiny tape recorder, like the kind that a doctor dictates into.
I pushed the play button and heard my dad’s voice.
My eyes started to fill up with tears. I looked down into the console and saw several more tapes, almost a dozen in all. One by one, I put them in the tape recorder and listened to dad talk about crop decisions, soil types, cows, weather, markets, and what to do if we were ever caught in a tough financial situation.
I realized that here in my hands were all the answers that I needed. Straight from him. In his voice.
In that moment, I felt a strange sort of peace settle over me. Scripture talks about a “peace that passes all understanding.” It was almost as if God was saying to me, “I will provide. Stop worrying. You will be okay. Your family will be okay. I’ve got this.”
I had the answers; I just needed to get to work.
Dad was the hardest worker that I knew. He led by example, by action. But that day, his words changed everything. I made a decision that day to be like my dad: a person of words and of action, because both matter.
That’s why I ran for office. I am committed to always serving the people of this great state with both words and action. I will do what I say, and I will always tell you what I’m doing. That’s why I approached this past year the way that I did.
It’s been a tough year. Some South Dakota families have experienced the terrible tragedy of losing a loved one, and my heart breaks for each of them. But no matter how tough the past year was, South Dakotans are so much tougher. And that toughness has gotten us through this marathon, together. May God bless you and your family in 2021.