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The Bison Meets the Harley

by Rich Wilhelm

Dennis Rounds, a member of ASTM’s Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action, likes to tell stories. These stories, in addition to being very funny, reveal much about the values Rounds learned — specifically a love of family, a love of country, and a sense of service to both — while growing up with 13 siblings in South Dakota. “I don’t know any different and I couldn’t imagine things any other way,” answers Rounds, when asked what it was like to grow up in such a large family. “A lot of people are lucky to have one or two very close friends. I have 13, along with my friends outside my family.”

One of Rounds’ favorite stories concerns the way his family came together as a team to support his brother Mike’s 2002 run for governor of South Dakota. Mike, who had served as a state senator for 10 years, decided to enter the Republican primary in late 2001. Facing stiff competition from a former lieutenant governor and the state attorney general, Rounds was seen as an underdog in the race. However, through many public appearances, his poll numbers grew steadily. Dennis and other family members, along with many other volunteers, did much of the legwork that would ultimately result in a primary win for Mike, who went on to win the general election.

When speaking of his brother’s campaign, Rounds is quick to point out that he was just one of many people who helped make it a success for Governor Rounds. He feels the same about his contributions to the Korean War veterans’ memorial that was dedicated in Pierre, S.D., on Sept. 18 — he says he was one of over 900 people who worked on bringing the memorial to South Dakota. Rounds says that meeting the vets, many of whom wore their uniforms to the dedication, was a profound experience. “It made us all feel good to participate in it, and it made us feel good to know that we made the day for these people,” says Rounds.

One of Rounds’ favorite real-life tales concerns a bison. Rounds was in the Black Hills on a motorcycle trip with three of his riding buddies in June. They were headed back to their cabin around 10:00 one evening when... well, let’s let Rounds tell the tale:

“Out of the blackness jumped this bull bison,” Rounds says with a laugh, “First it went after the guy in front of me, but he accelerated, so the bison spun around and ran towards me. I wasn’t sure what to do, there was no place to run. When you see bison in the daytime, they look like cattle, slow and lazy, but they’re actually very agile, like a deer. This became very apparent when I saw this bison so alert.”

According to Rounds, the bison stared into the headlight of his Harley for awhile and then turned and stood behind a pine tree. “I couldn’t tell if the bison had run back into the woods or was waiting behind the tree for me to pass, so I got off the bike, but kept the headlight on. I wasn’t sure whether to wait it out or run and jump in the creek behind me.”

It was just at the moment when Rounds was convinced that the bison had retreated back into the woods that “I suddenly saw this horn and eye peeking out at me from behind the tree.” Eventually, Rounds was able to make it back to the cabin when the bison wandered off, though it made a brief reappearance a little while later at the campfire Rounds and his friends had made.

Rounds, who is the director of the South Dakota Petroleum Release Compensation Fund, began his participation in ASTM in 1993, when he was invited by Committee E50 to participate in a task group on risk assessment at petroleum release sites. The standard that emerged from that task group, E 1739, Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action Applied at Petroleum Release Sites, has proved to be very successful and Rounds says that working on it opened his eyes as to what ASTM is about. “It really clicked with me how important the consensus process was,” Rounds says. “It makes for a much more solid product when the standard is finished.” Rounds is currently chair of Subcommittee E50.04 on Corrective Action.

In addition to his E50 activity, Rounds is a member of the ASTM Committee on Standards. “I’ve found that to be very engaging,” says Rounds. “COS gives people the opportunity to express their views and makes sure the process is working. I think that’s so important at ASTM. It also gives me an opportunity to see the wide
variety of standards written for ASTM.”

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Dennis Rounds (r) with his brother, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds.