Good Morning Wyoming! I would like to welcome you to my first column. In the coming weeks, I will be introducing myself to you and letting you get to know me. I am hoping you will stop me on my journey and respond in kind.
As a columnist in Minnesota and in Iowa, I got a chance to interact with some incredible people. In southern Minnesota I was the managing editor of both the Steele County Times and the Dodge County Independent and my column was named “Little Thoughts on the Prairie.” I moved on to be the managing editor of a paper in Sioux Center, IA and my column there was “Sioux Whisperings.”
As I was relocating to Wheatland to focus on my love of writing and photography, I began wondering what my new column name would be. I wrestled with it. From “Cowboy Corner” to “Meadowlark Lemon,” my brain was losing focus on the highway because, quite frankly, I was struggling to keep my car on the road with the 65 mph wind gusts that I had only experienced in the tornadic conditions of the Midwest.
Then it hit me. Both a gust and the name. “In the Wind.”
I was born in Milwaukee, and have lived and worked in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and most recently, Chattanooga. I have also had other job offers in the past four weeks to live and work in warmer climates and graze in greener pastures.
I am a published author, a respected educator, a successful basketball coach and a veteran writer and left a place where people begged me to stay. So, as I sit here tonight, wind-blown and confined to my little two-bedroom apartment in an obscure town in the southeast corner of Wyoming, I of course need to explain why. Why Platte County.
Those of you who live and work here already know. This is for those who have never found a “Brigadoon” or perhaps even tasted their own slice of “Mayberry.” Not in the sense that Wheatland is a mythical, mystical land that disappears from time to time, (although I venture to say that it is overlooked by most of the world) nor is it a backwoods town of ignorant hicks that live here because they don’t know any better or have no other place to go.
On the contrary. It is representative of its name, full of life, full of promise and when I think of wheat I think of harvest and provision and plenty. When I think of Guernsey, I of course think of the milk that I grew up on that came from my grandfather’s cows. The county is full of these incredible little gems. In the short time that I have been here, it’s all that I thought it would be.
It brings back warm memories of my childhood. Life at a much easier pace, surrounded by all the emboldened best nature has to offer. The elderly couple who smile and greet you on the street or the teenager delayed from his mission for no other reason than to hold a door open for you as you are scrambling to get into a building.
The toddlers dancing on the hardwood gymnasium floor as the high school jazz band is pumping out a jam. I don’t know if you realize it or not, but most of the world has become a microwaveable society. We want things hot and shiny, big and new and impressive... and we want it NOW.
We are missing life as we turn the treadmill speed faster and faster to the direction of a world that resembles a merciless personal trainer. We’re spending money we don’t have to obtain things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. We turn our heads and the children are grown, and our life has passed us by.
When Rob Mortimore called me and offered me a job to come to work as a writer/photographer of a county newspaper in Wyoming, I was already considering taking an editorial position in Texas and even considering staying with National Geographic where I had been doing photography for the past year. Something deep inside told me that if I passed on Wyoming, it would be like closing a door on a moment that had been prepared and saved for me all my life.
It was that inner child longing to come home. Thank Goodness that Rob is a man that is both persuasive and persistent and convinced me that I needed to be here even more than he needed me here.
I suddenly remembered the sunsets as a kid growing up in Wisconsin when we’d go to Grandpa’s farm for the weekend. Do you know that I can’t remember one sunset in Los Angeles? And there was a LOT of sun out there.
Although I earned a journalism degree, up until five years ago, I hadn’t read a newspaper in years. I was just too busy.
I look forward to watching the Wyoming Prairie awaken this year. To see it bloom. I look forward to sitting on my front porch with my grandkids playing in the front yard and my head bent, reading the Platte County Record Times and the Guernsey Gazette – looking up and taking time to catch the smiles on the children’s faces and then holding them close while we watch the sun go down over my mountain that sits so majestically in the front yard of our town .
It’s a wondrous thing to find a small town. It’s a gift when you can call it “home.”