For those of you wondering who this new guy named Mike Siefker is, writing and shooting photos for the newspaper, here is your answer. Some may remember me from my time at The De Smet News so it might not surprise you that I'm writing for the Kingsbury Journal. But my path to journalism was not a straight one.
I was born in Florida in 1964. My dad was a career Army Sergeant. We moved between Florida, Texas and southern California when I was growing up.
My maternal grandfather was a good old-fashioned Baptist minister. As a result, I grew up in a religious home and am grateful for that upbringing. I have one younger sister, Karen.
In school, I was content to be the class clown, and because of that, I had frequent trips to the office. I could get good grades when I applied myself, and that was probably about 90 percent of the time. From eighth grade to my senior year, my mother enrolled both my sister and me into a Christian School in El Paso, Texas. I graduated in 1983.
After high school, I attended seminary in San Dimas, California, at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College. I was going to be a minister. After my first year, I broke my mother’s heart and told her it wasn’t God’s will for me to be a minister.
So, I worked as a garbageman. It was hard work and taught me a lot. I then became a manager of the custom framing department at a Ben Franklin’s Craft Store. I am a perfectionist and enjoyed being creative, which made this the perfect job for me.
I soon got the urge to buy a red Mustang, and that meant I needed more money. I started working at Domino’s Pizza delivering pizza part-time at night. A hard-working, courteous, smiling driver could earn some serious cash.
While I was there, the manager talked me into becoming a manager-in-training. Soon, I was a manager of my own store and was offered a “challenge” store in Amarillo, Texas. I worked hard building the sales of that store. I ended up working with Domino’s Pizza for close to five years.
At the Domino’s in Amarillo, a cute girl came in and applied for the manager-in-training position. She kept staring at me, so I hired her. We eventually got married in 1988 and have been together ever since. Looking into her eyes still melts my heart. I know she would do anything for me, and I would do anything for her, too.
Once we were married, I thought it would be practical to attend college. I went to West Texas A & M University and worked toward a degree in accounting. I was a custodian in the afternoons and evenings. This gave me time to study and attend school in the mornings.
We had two children. The oldest is Kristin; she teaches nursing at West Texas A & M University and works labor and delivery at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I am super proud of her. Our next child was Justin. He was a great little boy who blessed Rhonda and me tremendously. Just after his first Christmas he turned two months old, and we found that he had passed away during the night from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. That was hard. I would not wish a child’s death on my worst enemy. Justin’s death caused me a lot of anger toward God. It took years before I became accepting of his death.
Shortly afterward, I took a test to join the Amarillo Fire Department. I did well and scored a 98 percent, but I wasn’t military and did not receive five points added on to my score. It turns out I ranked 13th out of 430 applicants; that was good. They were only hiring 11 new firefighters; that was bad. I got to do the physical agility test, physical and psychological profile. Two guys above me got moved out, and I was in.
I started that career in 1991. I made it through the six months rookie school and became an emergency medical technician (EMT), too. On the fire department, about three quarters of our calls were medical. This was my dream job. I loved the excitement; I enjoyed the guys I worked with and got to work just three 24-hour shifts in nine days, which is roughly ten days a month.
When you worked a 24-hour shift, you trained, worked around the station and completed lots of other jobs. You ate, slept and showered there. It was like your home away from home. Some nights you got to sleep, and others you never slept.
After every shift, I wrote in my journal about what we had done. This allowed me to process my thoughts and keep a record, which I could use to jog my memory if I ever got called into court about a specific call. I enjoyed writing back then, and it relaxed me. Maybe someday I could write a book about my experiences.
I particularly enjoyed the medical calls and tried to work into a paramedic school, but there were no schools that would work around a fire department schedule. Texas would let you challenge the paramedic test if you were a nurse. So, I decided to be a nurse.
Now, do I become an associate degree nurse or a bachelor’s degree nurse? I decided to go for my bachelor’s. If something happened to me, and I could not be a firefighter anymore, I had a nursing degree to fall back on. If I could not be a nurse, I at least had a bachelor’s degree that would help me get a better paying job.
I graduated from nursing school in 1999, and for most of my nursing career, worked in the emergency room. Those experiences helped me be a better EMT on the fire department, and the medical experiences I had on the fire department helped me through nursing school.
While a firefighter, I had the opportunity to become a wildland firefighter. The physical agility to earn your red card is tough, but I did it after the second attempt.
The fire department was just a Basic Life Support first responder, and they wanted to slowly incorporate some Advanced Life Support crews. I signed up and was accepted into the class. I got paid to become a paramedic. Through my 24 years on the fire department, I was promoted to Lieutenant. I enjoyed being an officer, teaching, working with my guys and making calls with them.
In 2014, my wife and I took my dad to Mapleton, Iowa, for a high school reunion, to visit family in Sioux City and catch up with some old Army buddies. We dropped him off and toured South Dakota for a week. We visited De Smet so my wife could see the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites. I liked the area, and for some reason, I subscribed to the newspaper.
I had been thinking about retiring soon and had been looking at small farms, ranches and land in Texas. Even though the land was drought-stricken for the last five years, they were all asking a pretty penny. One day The De Smet News had an acreage on Jack Jensen’s old place for sale. The price seemed good, there were trees and lots of outbuildings.
We ended up purchasing the property, and I turned in my papers to retire from the fire department. I had over 24 years of service and retired with a nice monthly pension. My guys at the fire station helped me move up here in April of 2015.
Since I have been here, I found I miss work and cannot stay home. I have worked at Avera De Smet Memorial Hospital. Then I worked at Sanford’s ER in Sioux Falls, where it was busier than De Smet. I worked at The De Smet News for a while, then at The Good Samaritan Society in De Smet shortly before COVID broke out.
Now, I am back to writing for the newspaper, except this time it is the Kingsbury Journal. I enjoy interviewing people and sharing their experiences. I hope you will enjoy reading their stories as much as I enjoy writing them.