You often hear people say, “I have a fear of public speaking,” or “I have a phobia and break out in hives if I speak to a group.” Have you ever asked yourself how people know that? I am here to tell you, they either don’t know for sure, because they’ve never actually tried it, or they did what I did.
I am only telling you Murdo Girl readers this story, because I am a person who likes to help other people. I want you to know in advance what a humbling experience it can be if you do what I did.
In the fall of 1974 (I think), my mother-in-law and I had a little ladies sportswear shop where the old Buffalo Bar had been. I was living in Draper, SD. (This happened before I snagged the job at the Draper State Bank.) I had a baby, and life was busy, but good. I lived up to what Mom always told everyone. I was as happy as if I had good sense. I don’t see that as a bad thing anymore.
One day, I got a call from Mr. Harold Thune. This was before they named the auditorium (not including the floor) after him. It was also several years before “The Home of Senator John Thune” sign was erected. Mr. Thune’s call was in regards to the upcoming homecoming events. He said he called to ask if I would be one of the alumni speakers.
What I should have said was, “Let me think about it no.” Instead, I said I would be very honored. Big mistake. You see, I didn’t know I had a fear of public speaking. I had been a cheerleader. One of my very favorite classes was Mrs. Peter’s speech class. I didn’t have the sense to even be a little worried. I had a couple of weeks to prepare, so I basked in the honor of being a Murdo High School alumni speaker.
I put a few notes together, and ran it through my mind a couple of times. I picked out a new outfit from the store, and bought some new black flats. Now that I think about it, those shoes were Connie Jackson like, but the outfit sure wasn’t. It was blue and green and it had big chevron shapes that zigzagged every which way. It was polyester of course. Let me put it this way. You could not look at it for more than 10 minutes without feeling a little nauseated. I hadn’t thought it through.
The night arrived and off to the “no name yet” auditorium I went. When I arrived, I searched out Mr. Thune to greet him and let him know I was there. He smiled, handed me a program and showed me where I was on the agenda. Then.. he said the words that made one of my eyes start twitching.” Oh, by the way, we’re trying to get away from everyone getting up and just talking about where their old classmates are and what they’re doing.”
“What??” I thought. That was all I had prepared for. I had been to more than a few homecomings, and that’s all anyone ever did! I privately thought the change was a good idea, but why make a fresh start with me? I had made 3 or 4 phone calls and I knew what everyone in the highly revered class of 1970 was doing. All but one anyway, and I had a pretty good idea what he was up to.
It was too late for me to protest. I will do almost anything to avoid conflict anyway. I sat there with a spinning mind and a splitting headache and prayed for a miracle. “Please give me the words,” I said.
My time arrived much too quickly. I walked toward the area below the stage and in front of the bleachers. There were several rows of folding chairs lined up in front as well. Next, I saw something that caused my throat to constrict. There was a wooden platform for me to stand on. I remember thinking I had to stay conscious because if I passed out and fell off that thing, I could get seriously hurt.
I looked to my left at all the high school students sitting in those bleachers. I saw my cousin Greg Miller staring at me. To tell you the truth, that was the first time I had thought about Greg being in High School. He looked stricken. Of course he did. His cousin was standing down there on the wooden platform with an outfit on that was hard to look at, and one of her eyes was twitching.
I knew I couldn’t delay anymore, so I looked straight ahead, and took a deep breath. That’s when I noticed all the people in the front row looked very nervous. I could tell they had no idea what was going to happen, but they knew it couldn’t be anything good.
My feet started shaking. I looked down at my black Connie like shoes and they were a virtual blur. Of course, thanks to the creaking wooden box I was standing on, my feet were way too close to being eye level to those already traumatized people seated in the folding chairs. The ones in the very front row looked at my shaking feet most of the time. I guess my outfit made them dizzy. The twitching eye probably wasn’t fun to look at either. They had no place to look.
I started by saying a few things about myself. I told them after high school, I had attended Black Hills State College. My plan was to become a Journalist. Unfortunately, I had walked in the front door, and went right out the back door.
With that bit of information revealed, I went on to tell about every single classmate I had graduated with and even threw in a few from a couple of other grades.
I would like to say that in the midst of all this, I recovered my composure, but that didn’t happen. I was twitching and shaking just as bad when I left my post as when I got there. Can you imagine shaking blue and green chevrons?
I knew I had to sit there for the coronation. I can honestly tell you, I have no memory of who the King and Queen were that night. I remember a few of the people who sat in the front row. (I bet they never did that again.) I’m not going to say who they were, but if any of you front row people read this, I just want to tell you how sorry I am for what I put you through.
When it was finally time to leave, guess who I ran into? My cousin Greg. He said, “I liked your challenge.” I stared at him with what must have been a dazed look. My eye was also still twitching. He went on. “You commented that your class played the Falcons on homecoming, and you beat them. You challenged our team to do the same.”
“Really? I really said that?” I was starting to come to. Now it was his turn to look confused.”We probably won’t though,” he said.” Our team isn’t very good.” We said our goodbyes and I found my way to the door and left.
I had decided to skip the burning of the M and the snake dance. My eye finally stopped twitching, but I had the hiccups all the way home.
If I did say what Greg said I did, then the audience and the students probably didn’t appreciate it. It must have sounded like I was bragging on the 1970 team. I didn’t know anything about their team, but apparently, they were lousy. Maybe I saw something in the program that was now wadded up in my hand. That’s the only way I could have remembered the Falcons.
I’m going to ask Greg when I get to Murdo for the reunion if he remembers if I really said what he said I did. Don’t anybody worry, I won’t be giving any speeches. I only know what a couple of people from the class of 1970 are doing now anyway.