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    The 1997 Freeman football walks off the field in Burke after a winning 46-0 in the second round of the Class 9A playoffs. Those whose numbers can be clearly identified are, from left, Garrett Pfeiffer (24), Alex Schmidt (59), Ryan Sorensen (84), Ryan Klenner (72), Nathan Waltner (9), Jeff Schultz (32), Ryan Pidde (29) and Mitch Wollmann (24).

I learned starting from a young and impressionable age that, when it comes to doing community journalism well, just being there is a big first step. Even before I became actively involved with the Courier as a teenager, I remember my dad often being on the go, driving who-knows-how-many miles to cross-country meets and basketball tournaments that I knew virtually nothing about. All I knew is that it was just part of my dad’s job, like punching a clock.

Pretty soon I was riding shotgun at his invitation, and I loved every trip. On one of my earliest outings with my dad, I remember him recalling a conversation he had once overheard between a runner from Freeman High School and that runner’s coach, Laverne Diede.

“I see Tim’s here,” the runner told her coach.

“Tim’s always here,” Laverne replied.

Talk about leaving an impression.

My first official “assignment” for the Courier came in 1990 when I made the five-hour drive to Rapid City for the State Track Meet. Many similar trips have followed, and many I have forgotten, but I remember that first one so very well because that was the year my dad put a Nikon FM2 in my hands and sent me down to the starting line to photograph Dean Herrboldt coming out of the blocks to start the 100. If I can pinpoint the moment I fell in love with photography, this is it.

I can’t even guess how many miles I’ve put on with and without my dad in the years and decades since that first trip to Rapid City, but it is easily in the thousands. Trips to the Black Hills and to Pierre, up to Watertown, Aberdeen and Brookings, over to Huron and Mitchell, across to Sioux Falls and down to Yankton have been regular occurrences over the years and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every one of them (or at least some part of every one of them). There’s something about crossing paths with the students and the parents who have also made the trip that is special.

The travel that goes along with good community journalism comes to mind this week because of my upcoming trip to Onida to cover Friday night’s Canistota/Freeman semifinal playoff game against Sully Buttes. Believe it or not, I’m looking forward to that 3½-hour drive that will take me about a half-an-hour northeast of Pierre. It takes me back to the late 1990s, when my dad and I chased after the Flyers when they were in the midst of their four-year football championship run. I remember those trips fondly — particlarly a snowy game in Burke in 1997 when I captured one of my favorite pictures of all-time; it’s posted along with this column at 

Times have changed, of course. The Flyers are the Pride, my dad has turned over the steering wheel to me and my own children are in my shadow.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Drive safely, everyone.