What if this was my final farewell to Platte County?
The move from Tennessee to Wyoming has been like a dream come true. To quote a very fond verse most likely penned by a man named Ezra in ancient times, it is paraphrased, “When we were released from our captivity, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing.”
It’s represented for me a change in my life where I have been able to take a deep breath again. I found my smile again. I feel as if my purpose has been restored. Instead of heading out to pasture I found a path to see my passion restored through my writing, my photography and my music.
Now, some journalists go from writing newspaper articles to writing autobiographies, creating novels and expounding on prose. I did it the opposite way. I wrote my novel, prose and other books before I went back to my roots as a journalist.
The stories I write here may have a buried lead. It may not be 100% journalistically sound. It may be a bit long, sometimes emotional and filled with opinion. I may have studied too much on the merits of long-form journalism that can tell an interesting story without the ramble.
I am a creative writer, and for that I can and will not apologize. I have won both state and national awards with my writing and my photography and have been published in many newspapers and magazines. And it surprised many people that the style with which I write can be so embraced and foreign to my mentors at the University of Wisconsin school of journalism that put forth strict journalistic boundaries. It elevates their ire when I color outside the lines.
Good gunslingers shot from the hip. I write from the heart. I don’t really know if it is in me to just write the facts without at least the input of a little creativity. Not opinions to sway the public per se, but what I read between the lines of the person I’m interviewing. Sharing with my readers the emotions conveyed beyond the facts from the one who is bearing their soul to me.
So, instead of saying, “The grass is green,” said Mr. Jones. Which to me is a colorless statement, I say, rather, “The grass is green,” said Mr. Jones with a tear in his eye because his grass had never before taken root.
Now THAT gives HIS emotion to the story. It speaks of the poignant. It describes the essential.
People here in Platte County know that I will give them an honest days work. I don’t ever just “phone in” a story or throw some letters to a page. In the way I was educated as a creative writer, I want to paint images with my words and I want the story to come alive. I want the sadness to put tears in your eyes and I want the humor to make you smile right out loud. And I want it to seem as if you were right there in that interview with me.
An interview that doesn’t take 5 questions and 10 minutes. I spend time with people. I want to listen to what they have to say. I want to convey every bit of who they are and bring out the highlights so that even they are amazed at what I saw in them.
People invite me back for dinner. Some want to “hang out.” This is the greatest compliment I have received here. I always taught my children, you cannot walk out your front door of opportunity tomorrow morning and just make an appearance in this world. You simply cannot just take up space. You have the chance to make a difference and though you may not be able to change the world, you may be able to change a little portion of the world of those you come in contact with.
Someone wrote about me on a Facebook post, “He is making ordinary people famous.” Now, I don’t know how famous I make anyone, but I love to make them feel as if they’d hung the moon.
And when I put my pen down for the final time, I wonder what they’ll say about me at my funeral. I would hope here in Platte County that people would say that his work ethic was tireless, his reach was long and penetrating and his heart loved us above all things. But most of all, I would hope that just one person would say, “he made me feel better about myself and he made a difference in my life.”
Because that is what I say about the people of Platte County. You all have truly made me feel better about who I am, about what I accomplish, and you’ve made a difference in my life. You, Platte County are my defining moment and my finest hour.
It is an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this battle of life as together we create the legacy of an unforgettable tapestry.