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1921 - After living in the future, now is time for present

One of my memories that I like to share is the distinct thought dominating my brain during my high school graduation ceremony.  That thought was: “What is going to happen to me?”

         The speaker was telling us to look around at our classmates. He said we would never be together as a group again. He said several would die at a young age.  “You will be blessed if you live to a ripe old age.”

         That speaker was our Principal Paul Zurbriggen, one of my lifetime mentors. Tough, smart, and kind, he was a moral compass during my high school years.

         Lately I have been thinking a lot about his words.

         The answer to that big question is that now I know what happened to me over the ensuing 55 years.

I was one of the fortunate ones.  Our classmate Harlan Bilden was killed in Vietnam less than a year later. He was a short guy who loved life and would not hurt a flea. How he got into the service and over to Vietnam still baffles me.

         So, here I am, five and a half decades later, looking back on my life. And what a life it has been.

         So to wrap up my thoughts when I was sitting in that graduation ceremony in Elgin, Iowa, in 1964, I was always looking ahead. I have spent my adult life living in the future.

         Now that may have been a big fault. If you are constantly dreaming and scheming about the future, you often forget all the great things going on all around you.

         My kids say I was a good dad but my memories are dominated by all those days and nights away from home trying to make things happen and make money for our growing family.

         Our move to Wyoming in 1970 was the best move we ever made and we have stayed right here in Lander. We have had fantastic opportunities to move to magical places named Jackson Hole, Spearfish, Whitefish, Lake Tahoe, and even Maui.

         Wyoming has been our home and our home base. We have only wonderful memories and no regrets about our commitment to our town and our state. 

         During my business career, we bought businesses and started businesses from Europe to Hawaii. Things went our way most of the time as we planned and dreamed of new opportunities.

         Nancy and I started out with a personal financial statement that showed a negative $1,200 the first time I ever did one. My banker Bill Nightingale actually laughed at me when I asked for a $5,000 loan to buy into a newspaper opportunity in Cody in 1971.  We were blessed when my great friend Dave Moore from Iowa, talked his dad’s bank into loaning me the money. From there we never looked back.

         We rode the booms and busts of the Wyoming economy and around the region and around the world.  Always looking into the future, we also exercised good timing. 

         One of my favorite columns is called “the 20 things I learned in 50 years of business.”  Item number one is “timing.” By living in the future, most of our business decisions worked out. We had a few business clinkers, which were conveniently forgotten. Most decisions were successful.

         We sold most of our newspapers in 1999, which was too early but the price was right.  We sold our last newspaper (Winner, SD) on Jan. 1, 2008, which was about the last time prices were high for local newspapers.

         So enough about the future.  When you are in the fourth quarter of your life, or as I prefer the middle of the seventh inning, it is probably time to quit looking ahead so much. 

         Our 53-year marriage has produced four children with three sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.  We are truly blessed and it seems to me that our life’s work going forward might best be served by making sure we have a place in the lives of all these wonderful people.

         We also recently lost a dear RV friend, Gus Miller of Spokane, which probably was the true genesis of this column.  When someone your own age who looks healthier than you do, collapses and dies, well, then you take a long look into the mirror.

         And you quit worrying so much about the future. Today is what counts.

         Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is a dream. Today is a gift.