Farewell To The Hi-Line
Twenty-two years ago, a retired Army doctor and his wife rolled into Glasgow, wondering if a cow town on the prairie was really a good choice to set up a new practice and a new chapter in their lives. It turned out to be a wonderful decision.
Mike came with a purpose, to set up the first orthopaedic practice in northeast Montana. I didn’t have a job outside the home and wasn’t looking for one. I joined the Fort Peck Summer Theatre the first year we were here, performed for several seasons and served on the board of the Fort Peck Fine Arts Council. I wrote the occasional publicity piece for the Courier.
That’s how I knew Scott Ross, the editor. When Gladys Silk, the long-time reporter and editor, took medical leave in 1996, Ross asked me to fill in as a part-time reporter. Those were exciting days, when the Freemen and Peck’s Rex were making national news. Ross told me not to get used to it. Usually nothing happened around here, he said.
I didn’t know what I was doing but it was fun. I was putting in more hours, finally full time. After Stan Sonsteng got the paper printed, we all went in back and stacked bundles for the post office. Stan tied them with the cranky antique machine that still eats up the string.
When Ross left in 1998, manager John Stanislaw asked me to handle the editor’s job while they searched for a replacement. I had no idea how to do that, but everyone helped. Two editors were hired but didn’t work out. Finally Stanislaw asked me to just do it.
That’s how the Summer Theatre set me on the primrose path to the editor’s chair.
The chair is in front of a computer, unfortunately, and it is sometimes all our designer Terry Trang (the queen of the office) and publisher Jim Orr can do to make me deal with it. Terry, a focused person, laughs at me for being easily distracted by shiny things. She’s right. I would rather talk to a farmer about going organic or look up the AP style for semicolons than study inDesign.
If you’re open and curious though, the newspaper is the best job in the world. I learn something every day. Sewage treatment? Spaying heifers? Seriously, it’s really interesting. People will talk to you and answer all kinds of questions, even busy, important people. Where else could a small-town person meet the state’s governor, senators, congressman and state legislators? In Glasgow, the hub of northeast Montana.
There are other fun perks. I’ve ridden in an Army helicopter, wrestled a giant snapping turtle, walked through the turbines in the powerhouse at Fort Peck Dam, climbed to the top of the Harvest States elevator, held the 65-million-year-old tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
This job has been a continuous civics lesson, for a military wife with no off-post community exposure. County commissioners, weed districts, school boards, mills, the Zoning Commission – what do they do? I voted absentee in the presidential election every four years and thought I was a good citizen.
I do know one end of a horse from the other, but I had a lot more to learn about the country. County prices, chem fallow, replacement heifers, EPDs – it’s a whole language.
Lucky for me, the generous people in Valley County taught me what I needed to know. With their contributions we put out a paper every week about births and deaths and weddings and cribbage and floods and snow and lawsuits and benefit dinners and bull sales.
I’m putting my last paper to bed this week. I never expected life to offer this and I will miss it terribly. Thank you for 22 years in the last best place.