By Alan Sorensen
We've gone beyond Havre's first 100 years and the end of the century and millennium is still a year away. My buddy Gary, boss Matt and others have pointed out that our A.D. began at year 1 and that the third set of 1000 years in that A.D. will begin at year 2001.
Let's not let that diminish the importance, though, of the only 100 years of Havre's existence that belong to a 4-digit series beginning with a 1 and a 9. Likewise, it was the age that led us to a computer glitch which spawned such mundane and arcane flicks as "End of Days," in which, get this, 666, the sign of the devil, is really 1999 upside down.
Rather, let's have two great millennial parties instead of just one.
Do reporters ever make mistakes? You betcha. I made a doozie about a year ago.
While gathering information from court records, I wrote down the correct name and age of a man who pleaded guilty to a felony. When I got back to the paper, I wrote the man's name in the body of the story correctly. The problem was that he had a name similar to a friend of mine -- their first names were the same and the last name started with the same letter.
Somehow, on the opening line, I wrote my friend's name instead of the felon's. Since he was the same age as the man who was correctly identified later in the paragraph and lived in the same community, there were repercussions.
My friend's supervisor even called to get the story straight.
I have no excuse for my blunder other than unconsciousness and carelessness on my part.
I put a correction in the next day's paper and tried calling my friend (and victim) once. He wasn't around at the time I called, so I let it go.
I didn't see him again from the time the story appeared until our paths crossed a couple of weeks ago. I was red faced and chagrined when I made my apology.
He took it with good but tempered humor. He said he thought that was where the rumor that he'd participated in felonious activities had originated, but that he wasn't sure. He told me that he was able to squelch the story and save his career (no thanks to me).
I decided to come clean on that story as an example of the pressure I and other reporters sometimes put on ourselves. When you're cranking out five or six stories a day and some of those stories involve multiple characters, it's easy to make a mistake.
The hard part is admitting it. The impossible part is making amends. Like a spoken word, a printed word can't be retracted. It's out there and no number of corrections or apologies can erase it.
I went to the high school trophy case last week to check on the 1941 and 1955 state championship football teams. What surprised me most was that nearly all of the members of the 1941 team stayed in Havre and raised their families here.
Besides Ray Kato, team stalwarts who remained in Havre (and these are just the ones whose kids I grew up with) were John Callahan, Ben Kampf, Dick and Bill Cole, John Leeds, Chuck Zartman, Ray Seidel, "Red" Nelson.
Only two seniors on the '55 team -- Ken Wattam and Alan Alex -- have stuck it out in Havre. That's nothing like the '41 team.
Why is that it? Do we have World War Two to thank for making Havre seem an attractive place to raise a family and grow old?
I was thumbing through an old Playboy last week and I found a trivia tidbit about the sale of arms in the United States. According to that particular issue of the magazine for men, a total of $4.7 billion worth of firearms and ammo were purchased by the American public in 1987. That figure rose to $9 billion in 1992. My guess is that that made the civilian population of the United States at least the third most heavily armed force in the world.
I looked back at my column from Nov. 12 and found that I had quoted Playboy as saying that Saudi Arabia led the world in arms purchases in 1998 with $7.4 billion.
My newest guess is that our civilian army is buying more arms now than it did seven years ago. If so, the only people more heavily armed than our civilians are our military.
The deer and the antelope have no chance.