I’d always catch my breath in the middle of a dance competition for scholarships. Or a faux “pageant” for charity. Or a real pageant. Or a traveling putt-putt-golf tournament. Or a professional rodeo. Or, a college rodeo.
Each time, and each packed Saturday slammed with events — with some fundraiser dinner to still cover that night — I’d always wonder how anyone could say there’s nothing to do in North Platte.
Now, I’m writing a goodbye piece. I’m still counting my lasts. I’ll be moving to Duluth, Minnesota, along the shores of Lake Superior, where yes, it is colder. Part of this is to further my career. Part of this is for a guy, who like me didn’t know if he’d ever love a career in North Platte. The hardest part about leaving for his promotion last summer, he tells me now as I lament about my own goodbyes, was the people.
I didn’t think I’d ever be this sad three years ago, living in Omaha. My hometown newspaper had just announced that a lady I’d met at a conference would be its new managing editor. Then Joan added me to Facebook, and I was excited to follow her adventures and give her food suggestions. Then she offered me a job, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever enjoy living back in my hometown.
To say the least, it proved a great three years. And while some use their goodbye pieces to boast, if we’re honest, a large number of my awards came from days that were someone else’s sorrow.
If anything, I owe a huge thank-you to those who had to watch a tragedy take place, yet never yelled at me or my competitor-colleagues from the TV station for being there. Sometimes I cried with you. I just never showed it.
When they weren’t fighting fires or loading up ambulances, the firefighters were there with wisdom like, God loves you, and, never ignore the trauma you experience — on the days I swear, I just showed up with a notebook for an interview and story.
Cops, troopers and deputies were equally as happy to speak off the cuff, introduce me to their spouses, give me golf cart rides and the most genuine quotes. And trust me: No matter what they say, first responders love when their picture is taken.
On the business beat I met people who opened up boutiques, sometimes with no experience, or used their years of experience bettering their community. Community leaders taught me what “Tax Increment Financing” means. The director of our state festival, David Fudge, had my back when I needed it the most. The mayor told me to call him by his first name. The police chief is a reminder that you can always come back home.
I owe my greatest thanks to those who fed me: Rachael, who would tell me while serving me a gyro that she’d recently stopped to pray for me; “I just felt like you may need it.” I always did.
Rachael’s husband Rick, and across town, Rick Arneson, who runs such a wonderful kitchen, a coworker from Chicago had to take her parents there. Paul, who is always ready with his brew, and always texted me about my Telegraph stories. The folks at Sidelines, who have shown us how to come out of rough times on top. And my past bartenders at a pub that didn’t make it, who had memorized both my drink order and call-in appetizer.
I owe thanks to the defense attorneys, judges, court officials and prosecutors who all wake up wanting to better their community. I’ve said it 100 times that there’s not much more than luck and circumstance that keep me on one side of the District Courtroom, and a defendant or inmate on the other. I was honored to tell the stories of all of them. I was honored to tell stories of inmates, of the addicts, about those who have survived and who help others survive.
Allison and Jill gave me the same assurance they give the women in their Deborah’s Legacy program. Women like Jenny and Jeanie, and so many others in so many community programs just live to make the awful things in our world a little brighter.
To those who help rescue animals, the voiceless faces in society, and to the women who took a chance on me when I rescued my “pitty mut.” Their stories opened my eyes to why those rescues are so picky, and I hope they don’t change a thing.
I learned from the rodeo queens how to “cowgirl up” during the longest but most fulfilling two weeks in June. I was so happy to be a part of their family each year, and so happy to also cover Miss Nebraska.
I learned never to give up from Renae, whose epitaph will likely say something about “Hotel Pawnee.” I learned to fight for success from others downtown, as well as at the Platte River Mall and the North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation (last time typing that thing out).
I found friends in those who wrote at the Telegraph before me. I found a mentor in my “Auntie Reina,” who has shown me that you can be an entrepreneur, a fitness advocate, a mother and a wife — all while having some of the best tattoos and piercings.
And then there was Shawna, who literally advocated for both the oldest and the youngest in our community, both through her work and volunteerism. She was too good for this earth.
Some of my best friends from years’ past ended up working on my beats and gave me wonderful background information.
Of course I owe thanks to my parents who always opened their doors. My dad’s real estate knowledge was a wealth, and my mother knew just which words would humble me: “Oh, yeah, I saw that on the news.”
I’m grateful for my “office mom,” Joan, who wouldn’t publish the articles I never wanted to see again until I edited them, again, making them what they were. Later, she pushed me to take this next step when the nostalgia hit me and I thought I may just stay forever.
To my “office Dad,” Rob Hampton. He’d leave us notes like, “TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER.” My desk will finally be clean enough for Rob, and I hope life gives he, Cal Petersen and Joe Volcek as much good fortune as the work they’ve given to this office.
So many others make this office what it is behind the scenes. Stephen, Hope and Kat make our content look so great, and analyze how successful it is. Jesse stops and talks to me every day while he cleans. Shelley makes usual office processes easier to manage.
Job reminded me that music and faith are always important. Todd taught me what those impossible city council terms meant. George just started last year and is a better journalist than me — he dared to ask why Buffalo Bill cuts his birthday cake with a sword.
And of course, Andrew, whose dark humor makes 10 p.m. clockouts tolerable, who with Susan make our pages look good, who I won’t hug goodbye because then it’ll finally hit me. Derek, who just has a pure soul and with Ismael, has a passion for telling stories of all sports and all people.
Thank you, all of you, and so many more. It’s been three years of fulfilling, joyful work. And I've never been able to say there was nothing to do.