A trip down broadcasting’s Memory Lane: Faces of Country Morning

I hope you all are aware of this, but just in case you aren’t – Phil Parker and Mark Armstrong are back on the air on KFYR-AM 550 with their “P.M.S. in the Morning” show. It’s fun, it’s local, it’s clean, and for me it brings back very fond memories.

I put in around 14 years at KFYR-TV, and during a part of that we used to simulcast the Country Morning program from 6 to 6:30 every weekday morning. Al Gustin would go down the hall to the AM radio studio, where we had a couple of cameras, and the guys would bring their combination of local news and weather as well as a dose of frivolity for the last segment of the half-hour. It was a blast and a privilege.

One of Phil & Mark’s trademark contributions to the show was an intentionally low-budget “camcorder” segment where they’d take a VHS camcorder with them on visits to small town activities and then show portions of the resulting footage on the air. This was an homage to that shooting style. One morning I decided to grab my old VHS camcorder (this was twenty years ago, after all) and do a little “behind the scenes” segment for the program. I’d all but forgotten about it, but I came across it this week while I was going through some old tapes and thought I’d share:

Al has since retired from broadcasting, Phil and Mark are back on the air, I haven’t spoken to Crystal in a few months, Mike passed away several years ago, and Reed and I are out saving the world one day at a time. Even during my tenure at KFYR-TV I moved on from overnights and mornings, working primarily on video production work and the afternoon and evening newscasts. I’m glad I got to work on Country Morning when I did. Currently you can catch the same ol’ familiar spirit in the revived Phil & Mark Show, PMS in the Morning, even if only on the radio side of things. Be sure to give it a listen.

Just pedalin’

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I like throwing my little guys in the truck, our bikes in the back, and venturing into town (or across the river) for some bike riding. Tonight I had my youngest with me and was surprised to find the car show going on at BHS. I believe it was a fundraiser for Camp of the Cross. We got there as things were winding down, but not before my little fella could point out his favorite cars. Then we took a ride up through the capitol grounds, back down, and south a ways to where the truck was parked. What a great night to spin some gears!

If I had a boat

I’d take it to the river with my boy! As luck would have it, he had his own boat, which he bought with his own money at a rummage sale today. We were on a mission: get some fresh river water for the tadpoles they brought home last week, see if the new-used boat floats, and (of course) throw rocks into the water and see who can make the biggest splash.

I’ve been so busy for the past several months that I have barely had time to breathe, but this little excursion tonight marks the beginning of something I haven’t taken in a long, LONG time: a vacation. My little guys have already given me an itinerary for the week that is pretty ambitious, but I hope that some of the time will involve cameras. Naturally the fruits of any such photography will show up here.

By the way, the title of this post is an homage to the song by Lyle Lovett, but best performed by Tucker’d Out. They’re my favorite bluegrass/folk band from Fargo, originating from the guys I worked with at KVLY/KXJB TV. Check ’em out here.

Keeping my word

While we had a busy weekend planned, I had mentioned a couple of times to my youngest little guy that I’d like to take him to Fort Lincoln. He had asked a few days ago when it wasn’t feasible, so I really wanted to make it happen.

I don’t make promises; I prefer to mean what I say. That doesn’t mean that I’m 100% dependable, but I do my best. In this case, I had an object lesson for my boys. I said that I wanted to take ’em to Fort Lincoln, and I was set on doing just that. Events Sunday evening pushed the envelope, but we loaded up their little bikes and took off anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The Bible says, “let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay” – in other words, say what you mean, mean what you say, and you don’t have to promise or swear to anything. I told them how important it was for me to keep my word to them.

Thankfully, we arrived with a good 20 minutes or so to explore and even had the blockhouses to ourselves. We got in some riding, the weather was nice, there were no mosquitoes, and we actually loaded up just a couple of minutes before the rangers headed up to close the site for the night. Awesome!

My little guys, like any little boy, love their bikes. They especially love riding them with Daddy at sunset in very scenic places. Sometimes they even weasel one of Daddy’s “black cameras” for a few shots of their own. It’s precious time, and we haven’t had a lot of it lately. I’m really hoping that this weekend is the beginning of turning things around and getting them back into the proper balance.

Still mourning Gentleman Wade


I miss Gentleman Wade Westin, a man who personified the term for which he was known. Fond memories of Sunday nights at the Chinese restaurant, or ribbing him about being the world’s nicest guy, or watching him on stage in the Medora Musical. He passed away four years ago today. It was an absolute privilege to have been his friend.

I met Wade when he joined our production staff at KFYR-TV back in the 1990s; since then I’ve had many noteworthy memories, even though our opportunities to see each other grew farther and farther apart. Guys get busy, you know…that’s just how it goes. I wish it wasn’t so. A while before his passing, Wade and I met up at Taco del Mar and chatted it up about what we’ve been up to, fatherhood, and that kind of thing. We even talked about a possible project we could collaborate on, an idea I relished. That’s the last time I got to spend time with Wade.

When we worked at KFYR-TV together we did a commercial for a furniture or mattress store, one where Wade played a guy who snuggled in under the covers of a comfy new mattress. It took a while for the nickname “Snuggly” to wear off. I had a printout of that shot somewhere in my souvenir box, but in my search for it tonight I came up empty handed. Bummer.

The photo above was from the Medora Musical on my honeymoon trip with my wife. I’d booked front row center tickets of course, planning a Medora weekend on our way back from a week in the middle of nowhere back in my beloved Rocky Mountains. We drove past the turn to Wade’s home near Grenora, ND and it prompted me to call his cell phone and say hi. When he heard we were coming, he arranged the VIP treatment and a backstage tour for us, and we got to chat with him and his family briefly before he left to prepare for the night’s show. He then congratulated us during the show. That’s just the kind hearted, generous guy that Wade’s friends will all remember.

We used to hit the China Wok restaurant in Mandan on Sunday evenings, striking a friendship with the owners over time. When their visas came up for renewal, Wade took it upon himself to get his friends from the Sunday night dinners to sign testimonials to aid in their renewals.

It’s a shocker to have a friend and fellow family man snatched away so suddenly and so early. Of course one tries to make sense of it, but there’s no sense to be had. What we can do is take comfort in the message from his CaringBridge page: “Thank you for your love, support and prayers. Wade is at peace with God His Father and Jesus His Savior in the healing presence of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible talks about a peace that passes all understanding…I pray for that peace for his family and everybody who misses Gentleman Wade.

I have a copy of a TV commercial Wade did for KNDX (Channel 26) back when they first went on the air. It was a “dance contest” making fun of contestants with the numbers of other local TV channels. It features Wade being Wade. I attached a brief tribute at the end. It isn’t much, but it’s a token of my respect for a friend. The music is a portion of “In the Sweet By and By” performed by my friend Sarah.

I know there are lots of people out there who are touched by Wade’s passing as they were by his personality. Hopefully this will trigger some of your best memories as well.

Three dudes silhouette

I’ve been working insane hours for the past several days and kept an aggressive schedule for the past six weeks. I hope for things to taper off a bit now, because I haven’t had a lot of leisure time lately. Not only do I want to do the usual motorcycle, camera, remote control truck, gun, and mountain bike stuff, but I also want to get back to time with my sweetie and, of course, “three dudes time.” That’s what my little towheads call it, and they love it. Me too.

Fort Lincoln frisbee frolicking

My little guys have really been looking forward to a trip to the blockhouses at Fort Lincoln lately, so last night I made that happen. One boy had his bike, one boy had his frisbees, and Daddy had his camera. The winds aloft were pushing all the nice clouds away to the southeast, but I was able to catch a few before they moved off. Then it was on to the fun.

I fancy myself quite the proficient frisbee thrower and catcher. I don’t do the frolf thing very often; my favorite frisbee pastime is to do lots of running, jumping, throwing, and catching on the capitol lawn. My latest favorite is throwing multiple frisbees simultaneously and seeing how many little guys can catch ’em! We took that show on the road last night as I threw frisbees up to the roof of the blockhouse and darted around as my fellas threw them back down. All the while trying not to spill camera gear.

The evening came and went quickly, as the fleeting sun darted over the horizon with September velocity. At that point it was time to grab a couple shots of clouds reflecting a pinkish hue and bolt back to the truck for the long ride home. Not a bad little adventure for a weeknight, and since that pesky sun sets so early this time of year I think we all made it to bed on schedule!

Sickle mower vista

I had the opportunity to spend some time at a friend’s house in rural South Dakota last weekend, and I was delighted to find this old artifact in their back yard. It wasn’t just the implement, a McCormick-Deering #6 Horse-Drawn Sickle Mower if you’re wondering, that impressed me; the view was amazing.

One drawback to photography in the “energy corridor” of the great state of North Dakota is the ubiquitous power line in almost any landscape. Seriously, they’re tough to escape. No problems in this photo…just wander out in the backyard and snap away. I did manage to find the hidden rusty barbed wire in the grass, too…but thankfully my tetanus shot is up to date.

Bridge sunset with my lil’ photogs

I love sharing my hobbies with my little boys. They’re now at the ages where we can start doing “guy stuff” together, and I’m reveling in it. I’ve been waiting for this since the time I blurted out, “You’re WHAT?” The time for “three dudes” activities is upon us, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m especially happy that they like cameras, some days more than others. I think they’ve actually outgrown the picture quality of their little Fisher Price and V-tech cameras, but unfortunately they aren’t ready to handle something more fragile on a regular basis. That’s okay, there are lots of things we do together; photography is just one of them. The most important thing is that we three dudes stick together!

Double Ditch, triple dudes, and 21,000

We reached a milestone this week when I passed the 21,000 photo mark on my newest camera. Above is photo #21,000…a shot of us “three dudes” enjoying Double Ditch at sunset. It was also a mission as we were taking a photo to use in making an anniversary card for Mommy, which she thoroughly enjoyed (along with the flowers).

My boys and I really enjoy those “three dudes” times, and being Daddy is an honorable pursuit. I’m glad that my little guys are becoming old enough to share a lot of the things I like to do, and we can give Mommy a break by going out and roaming (my favorite pastime). Their little cameras are in the truck and ready to be deployed, so between the three of us we’re always ready to get the shot.