Reporting road starts, ends in River Falls
The adage "time flies when you're having fun" rings true for me as I wrap up eight years of reporting in River Falls.
A happy kind of job-location change for my husband leads us to Zimmerman, Minn., this week. As much as I try to be a look-forward kind of person, I admit to a quivering lip as I drove away from the Journal office Friday, my last day of work.
The run here - wow. I never could have imagined all the ways in which I'd be enriched.
Readers, sources, people interested in this community, and all those who work hard daily to keep the newspaper going helped me achieve that.
Thank you all sincerely.
A lady stumped me recently by asking, "What's the most-fun story you've ever worked on?" I stood there speechless, my mind racing through hundreds of different local experiences.
Those who know me well realize I'm not speechless that often. I told the nice woman there was probably no way I could give one answer to that question.
I remember a feature story for which the family offered me a beekeeper's suit and took me into honey-making central, the hives. It was a privileged, priceless perspective - and taking pictures kept me from wanting to swat the bees flying around my face shield.
The first feature story I did for the Journal was an assignment to float the lower Kinnickinnic River with a land-trust director who served as a fantastic tour guide. That trip led us to buy a canoe and take more trips, down the Kinni and other rivers.
Another local family once welcomed me onto their land to see an amazing tree-clearing machine at work; I even got to climb aboard. I visited with many veterans, environmentalists, artists, politicians and other professionals who patiently explained their angles.
I've watched countless community events and celebrations - parades, graduations, proms and other events - through the lens. Living in those moments drinking in the energy, sights and sounds, was always fun and sometimes really cold.
The range of businesses small and large, technical and not here is amazing - their stories of success and failure hold inspiration and lessons for all.
Covering City Council made many new wrinkles on my brain. It's the minority among us who knows our parliamentary procedure, and I admire the hard-core service of the guys and gals who serve on the city's boards, committees and commissions.
They give generously to sort through issues from business development and zoning to liquor licenses and a new city hall.
If anyone ever asked me the most fun I ever had covering city business, I'd say it was when the council had to decide whether to allow "urban chickens" inside city limits. That issue provided and provoked many opportunities to giggle inappropriately.
As River Falls and its uncommon experiences work into my rearview, I realize the imprint of its people will be with me always. It would take many columns full of names to list all those who have impressed me, whose stories I will remember and retell and whose courage/enthusiasm/dedication...I admire.
From the bright-eyed youngsters to wise elders, River Falls holds many human treasures.
The harder news makes an impression as well - fires, road calamities, things closing or being demolished. None of them are necessarily fun, but when your job is to gather information about things people want to know, you go, learn, write.
I'll not forget the stories I covered that involved someone's life ending.
Dustin Turtle died on his bicycle crossing the highway, where crossing isn't allowed anymore. Teen passenger Sara Goldbach died in a car accident.
Terry Dubois died after a brave fight with cancer. I can barely think about any of them without the quivering lip coming back.
From bartenders, city officials and college kids to a matriarch reciting memorized poetry on her 100th birthday, people have helped me tell the community so many great stories. That's another experience I'll carry with me and value always.
Please remember, readers: A community newspaper offers a perspective that no other kind of media will. I encourage supporting it - a for-profit business that took no bailouts - through advertising, subscription and readership both in print and online. Yes, there have been many rough years for the industry; however, we're here and gathering local information for those who value it in their sea of options.
I've worked many different jobs, some as a young teen and some as a struggling college student trying to be some kind of writer: Pizza-place and direct-mail grunt, grocery-store checker, law firm receptionist, tile manufacturer's credit assistant, waitress at three places, candy-store clerk, newsletter writer, technical writer...then to the RFJ, which welcomed me to its midst even though I have a Texan's accent.
I'm glad my first experience at writing news was here. Thanks, River Falls, for an interesting segment of my life's journey.