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A Stray Moment : Everybody wants a happy ending
November 03, 2011 Doug Harris   

Read more by Doug Harris
In this, my final (for now) column, I want to express my gratitude to the Gering Citizen for their endless kindness to me, and for allowing me to occasionally share my views and opinions in this wonderful and important newspaper.

My words have not been selected to flatter or to over exaggerate. The concept of local ownership of a community newspaper should not be underestimated. Iím not suggesting our staff is eligible for a Pulitzer Prize or anything, but this modest voice has for over two years now celebrated and reported on Gering and the surrounding area.

The editorial oversight has always been self guided and does not answer to stockholders and other mighty out-of-town forces. So yes, if I say I was proud to be part of this time-honored American tradition, of reporting the news directly to those it was about and meaningful to, I hope you will forgive me that small indulgence.

I have great respect for my peers Ďacross the riverí and intend no insult; but the idea of true local control appeals to me and I suspect I am not alone. Whether you deem it good or bad, it is fully authentic. It is not the (AP) wire.

I am glad I had a chance to participate. I would not claim a lofty title as Ďjournalistí but it was my great pleasure to explore the happenings and events of our community and share them with you. I did my best to be fair.

So I also wish to express my gratitude to you, dear readers. And while I have no idea if my moderate to somewhat left-leaning approach was appreciated when allowed to express an opinion over a fact, it was always my wish to keep a gentle voice and avoid any ranting and raving. I believe it is important to show the reader respect at all times, regardless if they agree with me. Perhaps many of my words have ended up unread and on the bottom of a birdcage, but even then they seem to have served some useful purpose.

Whenever I wrote anything, article or opinion alike, I felt ever aware that these documents contain our unfolding history. I think it is very likely future scholars and historians will value our small contribution. The very words I am writing now will be hardcopy printed, saved, archived, and offered on the Web. All the local writers and print reporters share that unique quality. It is just how it works. It isnít all that special (but God, yes it is!) a total privilege.

Iím not suggesting I am particularly good at playing Ďjournalistí but someone, someday, may like to recall the Gering summer of 2011, and I had the opportunity to tell them about it. When I worked for Jack and Carol Ann Lewis at the historically locally owned Ďother paperí back in the Ď90s, the sense of timelessness was thick and palatable; you could almost taste and smell it. I loved all the cigarette burns on Warren Woodís old solid wooden desk (a desk you can still see at the North Platte Valley Historical Museum, a desk that is still in use, serving us and assisting still as we preserve our heritage and protect the beloved memory of all who have gone before us.)

So I believe I was guilty at times of being a little flowery with my words. Was it important to mention the cloudless sky and heat when Senator Harms addressed the Vietnam veterans during their wonderful reunion in the summer of 2011? Was it important to mention the laughter of children as they pedaled miniature tractors during the FARM Harvest Festival? Was it important to note the strange debris that floated past as we worried over a rising river? Probably not, yet these small observations pepper the story and will hopefully let my imaginary future readers drink in the moments with a finer clarity.

Everything Iíve ever written in a public forum kept a watchful eye on that fact. Someday, sooner than we wish to believe, those little children will be all grown up and have little children of their own. Someday, alas, as we are seeing with the ĎGreatest Generationí who gallantly and selflessly defeated tyranny in World War Two, we will one day lay to rest the last veteran who served with equal honor in Vietnam. It is just how it works.

At times it makes me sad considering the delicacy of the mortal condition, but often as not it makes me happy when I see how well we carefully remember. And we do our best to preserve NOW; so when NOW becomes yesterday we will have a record of it.

Of course it is important to stay current and to keep people informed. It is the noble purpose of the First Amendment: the freedom of the press. We take it for granted. We assume and expect accuracy in such affairs. The Ďjournalistí is the banner-carrier of truth. Some have even died in dangerous faraway lands helping the world know truth. Yet sometimes this trust is betrayed and it is always wise to consult varying angles and perspectives. One hundred people can witness the same event and we may well end up with one hundred slightly conflicting recollections.

So it is no small thing the privilege and trust you placed in me. I felt the weight of this responsibility. To do the best I could to get it right. I am not Clark Kent. I am not a bastion of solid gold integrity hiding my cape beneath my disguise in a mild mannered business suit. So if mistakes were made; misquotes, or outright misunderstanding, it is with humility I accept them.

Words have a funny way of gathering more weight when published. The font, the setting of the type, the straight rows of words we find in books and magazines and newspapers. But the words are the same and we should not assume they somehow become more valid when presented in official looking format. The words are the same scribbled in some flap-eared notebook, or typed on a laptop; they can be written BIG and plastered on billboards. They can be written small, like fairy Christmas books. Iíve heard tell the entire text of the King James Bible has been reduced to the size of a thimble. The words are the same.

I would like to end on a personal note. It was heartbreaking to lose our cartoonist Randy Sides and fellow columnist Herminia Flores during my brief tenure with the Citizen. They were generous and wonderful people. It was a joy to be associated with them. Iíve told our publisher we are basically a gang of misfits and oddballs; but I meant that in the best of ways.

The eccentric and varying views of my colleagues and the others who place words in this paper, I have a great fondness for them. I encourage you, dear reader, to see their open hearts as they share their thoughts as well. In that respect I was a good match for this enterprise, and Iím going to miss it.
Thank you all for your trust. I did my best to honor it. Again, I can only speak for myself; Iím a sentimental type. I like hot and cloudless days, and the laughter of children is the meaning of the world.
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