I attended a political meet and greet Oct. 21 for Democratic candidates Mark Udall and John Salazar to take photos. The candidates were making the rounds in northwest Colorado and passed through Meeker on their way to Grand Junction.
While there, I had a woman call me over.
“Lean over here,” she said talking over the noise. “Are you the new editor?”
In answering that question, I never know if I should brace myself for what might be coming. This was one of those times.
“Did you write that story about the Buford Schoolhouse?” she asked.
“Uh, yes,” I said, somewhat hesitantly.
“Well, I was talking to some of the old-timers and they said you got it all wrong,” the woman said, without elaborating.
I winced. That’s not something any writer ever wants to hear.
I tried to explain to her where I got the information, but if something wasn’t right, I would sure correct in the paper.
“Oh, by the way,” the woman said as I stood up to leave. “You’re doing a good job.”
I felt better. Sort of.
What the woman said bugged me the rest of the time I was at the reception. I kept replaying the story in my mind. What did I get wrong?
As soon as I returned to the office, I reread the story. I still didn’t know what it was I got wrong. So I started re-scanning some of the online material I had used while researching the history of the old schoolhouse.
The first online history I re-read of the schoolhouse said Minnewa Bell had donated the schoolhouse to the White River community in memory of her father. OK, I thought, that’s what I had written in my story. Then, I went to another online source. And, sure enough, this one said it was Minnewa Bell, the wife, who had donated the schoolhouse in memory of her husband. Mother and daughter shared the same names.
I looked at the story and photos again that ran in the paper. It was like it jumped off the page. Right there, on the photo I took of a plaque at the schoolhouse, it said Minnewa Bell donated the schoolhouse in memory of her husband.
How could I have missed that? I had looked at that photo of the plaque a dozen times, at least, and never noticed it said husband, not father. Why is it, whenever there’s a mistake in the paper, it jumps off the page AFTER it appears in print?
The next day, I walked over to Fawn Creek Gallery and asked Dee Weiss, who has been instrumental in preserving the old schoolhouse. She confirmed my mistake. It, indeed, was Minnewa Bell, the wife, who donated the schoolhouse, not Minnewa Bell, the daughter. She even produced a copy of an old Meeker Herald article that proved it.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dee said. “It’s OK.”
I appreciated her understanding attitude, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
I was reminded of a movie I saw once about a newspaper reporter who wrote a story about a former boxer, who turned out not to be the person he claimed to be. I recalled lines from the movie, loosely based on a newspaper story by a writer I really like, J.R. Moehringer, which said, in effect, when a writer attaches his name to something in print, he is like a boxer. He is totally exposed and vulnerable. He stands naked (OK, that’s not the image you want in your mind, but you get the idea.) There is no hiding from what he wrote. It is there for all the world to see and judge. He is, like the boxer, alone in the ring.
That’s how I felt. As I berated myself for mixing up my Minnewa Bells, I was reminded of the words of one my college teachers, who was a towering figure both physically and journalistically. In his booming voice, which he used to strike fear in aspiring journalists, he would tell us, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” I don’t think he meant to check it out using an online source. I found that out the hard way.
So, to the memories of Minnewa Bell — both of them — I stand corrected, for all the world to see.
Mr. Moehringer, by the way, lives in Denver. At least, that’s according to sources on the Internet, which, obviously, can’t always be trusted.
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There were some feel-good letters to the editor that appeared in last week’s paper, which pointed out how people in a small town are caring. One of the letters dealt with a woman’s lost dog, which was found and returned to her. The woman, who lives in another state, had been involved in an accident near Rangely and one of her dogs, a puppy, had run away. Eventually, through a rather amazing turn of events, the puppy was found and returned to its grateful owner. As Kay Nickson of the Rangely Animal Shelter, says, “You can judge your town by the way the way they treat their old folks and their animals.” Way to go, Rangely.
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With all of the doomsday financial talk about how lines of credit have dried up, I had to chuckle when I grabbed a notice off the fax machine the other day from a Jim Daniels with Midwest Financial Bank & Trust saying he was following up on the $100,000 equipment line of credit the bank had pre-approved for the Meeker Herald. A second fax soon followed saying a similar line of credit in the same amount had been pre-approved for the Rangely Times.
Sorry, Mr. Daniels, we’re not interested. You also need to update your records. The two newspapers were merged nearly 10 years ago.
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Lost in all of the talk about a possible new justice center, as well as speculation on the future of the Meeker Elementary School, is what the county is going to do with the space in the Fairfield Community Center made available after the library moved out.
“The commissioners want to do a walk-through of the building to get a better understanding of the room available,” said County Administrator Pat Hooker. “After that, hopefully, they will decide how best to use the room, what it’s going to take to get it remodeled for use, etc.”
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There’s been quite a bit in the news lately about oil shale. A headline for a story in last week’s Grand Junction Sentinel started out, “Oil shale views clash …” Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association, who spoke recently in Rangely, said oil shale is a politicized issue.
“First, it is part of the debate over whether the nation needs more supply of domestic petroleum, and oil shale could supply part of that need,” Vawter said. “But some believe more supply in this country is not the solution.
“Also, the recollection of the past boom and bust of oil shale is, of course, a political issue as so many people in the area rightfully remember the bust of the 1980s when firms pulled out of oil shale and oil and gas projects, leaving people out of jobs, reducing real estate prices and leaving communities to deal with the lack of funds to maintain the infrastructure left behind by the boom.
“Lastly, there are concerns over environmental impacts, water supply and population increases that are perceived by some to be unmanageable in light of the already flourishing gas drilling boom in the region,” Vawter added. “Where on the other side of the issue is the belief that all of these concerns are manageable with proper planning, participation with communities and the current regulations that will require compliance with strict environmental codes.”
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Peggy Rector of Rangely is home recuperating while awaiting her next surgery. She spent some 20 days in the hospital in Denver, but is home now. “I’m without a knee,” she said. “I can’t put weight on that knee.”
Rector will return to Denver on Nov. 25 and, if cleared of infection, will have a second knee replacement surgery on her left knee in early December. “They cleaned it out and put spacers in for now,” she said. “It’s a painful deal, but people have been wonderful.” She receives an infusion of antibiotics every day to clear up any infection and is doing physical therapy to keep her strength up. Knowing Peggy, she will be back on her feet in no time.
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Congratulations to Glen and Phyllis Wigington of Meeker who celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last Sunday. Wow, 65 years. Now there’s a feel-good story.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.