By Dave Simpson, columnist
Joe and Carol were as western as a couple could be.
He rode bulls in his younger days. They raised horses together. And they had a beautiful place in Northwest Colorado.
When it got cold, they had to shoo elk out of their barn.
Carol was a crackerjack sales person, the advertising director at the small paper I was running. She and another guy created the daily paper out of nothing, taking on an established weekly paper and succeeding. At one point, a guy paid for his ad with live chickens.
One evening I got a call from the emergency room at the hospital. Joe was there, and it didn’t look good. He died that evening from an abdominal aneurysm.
Joe and Carol had saddled their horses earlier in the evening, and had a ride around their place, soaking in the beauty of their land, and what they had created. Right before he died, he was enjoying what they had created, together. On horseback.
I often think of Joe and Carol when I take my dog Mitch out for his afternoon romp through the prairie, rooting out jack rabbits. From one side of an old bench I can watch trains go by. From the other, I look over our place, and what we have created, together.
It didn’t come easy. When I started out as a reporter, I made $100 a week. We agonized over whether we could afford $90 a month for a basement apartment.
I worked hard, loving every minute of it, and moved up to editing. And at age 33 I was given the opportunity to run a small paper for a family that owned 18 of them. We moved around for that company, and at one point owned houses in three states. It took a long time to unload two of those houses.
We bought old houses and fixed them up. I spent two years of weekends stripping the beige/pink paint off the ornate woodwork of a wonderful old Victorian house in Illinois. My wife got so good at putting up fancy Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper that a real estate broker said she could make a living at it. (She wisely stuck with nursing.)
Over the years, bit by bit, we were able to buy better houses, fix them up, and make a little money when we moved on. In the town where we now live, we’ve had three houses, and I finished the basements of all three.
Meanwhile, up in the mountains, a friend and I built a cabin back in the 1980s out of native logs. If we had asked an expert, they probably would have told us we didn’t have the time, the expertise, or the money to build a cabin. Thank heavens we were too young and self confident to ask. I still have that little cabin today, the culmination of a lifetime of summer work.
As I write this, I don’t know what the results of the presidential election of 2020 will be. These words will appear on election day in one on-line publication, and in following days for several newspapers. I have no idea who the ultimate winner will be.
I have never been so worried, however, over the results of an election. I’ve always had faith that our country was strong enough to withstand any election results.
This year, however, is different. The threat of fundamental change is real. There is talk of adding new states to the union, to enlarging the Supreme Court, and to doing away with the fossil fuels that have powered this nation for most of its history. There is rioting in our large cities, a rejection of capitalism, shocking bias in the news media, and a demand for equal outcomes, instead of equal opportunities.
This is a great country, where a kid can start out at minimum wage and work his way up to a comfortable retirement. I want that for my kids and my red-haired, blue-eyed grand daughter, who is two.
However this election turns out, I want her to have her own Joe and Carol moments, looking over what she has created, and counting her blessings that she was born in this great country.
Whatever we do, let’s not mess that up.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at email@example.com