I will not cry because it’s over – I will only smile because it happened
The Wheatland years (with a minor 10-day vacation to Arizona). They were defining years for me. I learned things here that I never knew before. I slept more soundly on my pillow each night knowing I was in Wyoming and I was making a difference in lives of those around me. Now as I am really leaving, I realize that all of those lives that touched me so deeply made a difference in me.
I am better for having known all of you. You made me feel like I was home. You made me smile when I felt lonely and sad when I had to go away from you. Better because of you.
They say that all good things must come to an end, and my time in Wyoming with Wyoming Newspapers has been a very good thing. And so it is with a bittersweet smile, I pack and I am off. This is my final column to you.
If you are reading this, then, the rumor has come true and I am gone. But hopefully not forgotten.
Oh yes… I know about the contest predicting how long I will be gone, and that makes me smile right out loud. I’ve had more laughter in Wyoming than I’d ever experienced.
And for all my time-management skills and organization expertise, these past four weeks have flown so fast that I have not had enough time to finish all my assignments and reach out to each of you in Platte County who have been so instrumental in my journey and my healing.
When I came to Platte County, I knew absolutely nobody. All I knew was the voice of my publisher Rob Mortimore who hired me sight-unseen to be a journalist for both the Record-Times and the Guernsey Gazette. I had been away from the newspaper business for over a year and wondered how or if I could “get back on the horse,” so to speak.
The destined point to getting back on the horse of course was to move me to Wyoming and turn me into a cowboy. It made no sense, but somehow it worked. And oh am I going to miss my horses at Rafter MB.
How can I ever repay all the kindness, the respect, the love you have given me? I simply cannot. You have been my Camelot and although there are minor skirmishes and small blow-ups from time to time, it reminded me of family where those things happen. We are not a perfect community, but there really is no such thing and to me, we are basically as close to perfection as I’ve ever been as far as places I have lived. The grass will never be greener than it is here.
You care for outsiders as if they were your own. You defend to the death, the ideals that made America great. You made me feel as if I’d hung the moon when in reality, all I did was publish words and tell stories – and LONG stories at that. But you must remember I was trained in long-form journalism.
And as I look back while I take the seven-hour plane trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, I will cry a little. I’m not gonna lie. I will ponder what it all meant to me and most of all I will have a big, dumb smile on my face as I remember dancing on my desk to Timmy the Trumpet.
I will remember the parades through town, honking horns and shouting people and people embracing this crazy photographer who stood in the middle of South Street in full blown cruising traffic – or who stood in the middle of a demolition derby arena and almost got hit by a rollover. I will remember fireworks that rocked the neighborhoods and Salsa fests in hellish heat and Sip n Shops in full snowstorms. And how the faces of our children changed so much so that we didn’t recognize them… after they came out of the pig wrestling arena. I was privileged to be a part of these classes of kids the past three years – they became like my own kids and I am amazed at how they’ve grown.
I’ll never forget walking into my office on a very hard day and hearing about the student that dressed up like a famous person on “dress like a famous person day,” – and it was me… from shirt to jeans to boots. She made me famous for a day and lifted my heart out of feeling inadequate.
Whether it was the “truckin” cheer in Wheatland or the student body calling my name as I’d walk into the Guernsey Gym. It was planting trees with students in Glendo and eating hot chili and running 5Ks with the kids in Chugwater. It was all so surreal.
We went through COVID together, we sang together in the senior centers and at Lewis Park in 102-degree weather. We watched bears run down the streets of Wheatland and cruised in the face of a pandemic. We weathered a historic snowfall and witnessed the power of community to dig each other out. We were part of top-ranked school system that has more kids gathering more trophies and hardware than any school I’ve ever been associated with.
I can’t possibly get to all of you to thank you and if I began to answer all of your well-wishes on Facebook, I’d never get these last stories out. Messenger and my Phone blew up with over 400 messages and well-wishes and kind words that brought tears to my eyes. Never before had I ever met a people or a county of people who made me feel more like family.
We wear our hats with one hand on top of them when the wind is contrary. We wear our hearts on our denim sleeves. We marvel at skies and sunsets not seen in any other state. We have a Facebook grapevine that is second to none. Sometimes that is a good thing… sometimes. We love hard.
That is the most powerful thing I can say about Platte County. We know how to love hard. You taught me that. And as a result, I shall never forget you and shall take our memories long into my last chapters.
I told a thousand stories. I took a million pictures. I harvested memories of a very special time.
To quote a famous journalist… And now you know… the rest of the story.