Opinion: This is the county’s newspaper … and both towns’

phjeffburkheadDee Weiss, who has strong ties to both ends of the county, which is appropriate, given the topic I am writing about this week, recently shared a publication with me I had never seen before.
Published in the mid-1970s by the Rangely Museum Society, the piece was titled, “Rio Blanco County: United It Falls, Divided It Stands.”
Obviously, the rivalry between the two towns in Rio Blanco County is a long-running one.
As the “Divided It Stands” publication said, “From the time in November 1889, when the first county elections were held to determine a county seat and Meeker collected 276 votes to a mere two for Rangely, the town has taken a second position to Meeker in receiving county services.”
The publication went so far as to propose that “it would be … in the best interest of all, if Rio Blanco County was split into two counties.”
There was even a name proposed for the new county encompassing Rangely: Centennial County. The two counties’ boundaries would be defined by school district lines.
The proposal went on to suggest that Centennial County annex within its boundaries “those areas now in extreme Moffat County and northwestern Garfield County, which presently have little voice … in their existing county governments.”
Historically, the publication pointed out, Rangely residents have felt slighted when it comes to receiving county benefits and services.
“Over 80 percent of the county revenue is generated from Rangely oil fields, but Meeker streets, for instance, are paved and curbed almost entirely, while Main Street in Rangely marks the extent of its smoothly paved and curbed roads,” the “Divided It Stands” publication stated.
I had been on the job all of two weeks when I received my initiation into the Rangely-Meeker rivalry. Someone e-mailed me to complain that there wasn’t enough Rangely news in the paper.
This week, I went back in the files and checked, and the third personal column I ever wrote for the paper dealt with this very subject.
“We strive to cover both Meeker and Rangely in equal measure,” I wrote. “But, we do so knowing that circumstances beyond our control as well as events and the natural ebb and flow of community life will dictate to a large degree what is covered in the newspaper.
“Coming into this job, I received ample warning there would be times when I would hear from either Rangely folks or Meeker folks, who felt slighted by the newspaper’s lack of coverage from their respective town.
“Unfortunately, it’s bound to happen. Not because we favor one town over the other, but because it depends mostly on the news of the week, the availability of space, and what stories and photos we have to work with.”
I wrote about how Mitch Bettis, who owns the paper, used to keep a running tally of the number of stories and photos from both Meeker and Rangely that appeared in the newspaper. The results varied from week to week, as you might expect, but over the course of time, the coverage evened out.
“Sometimes, the perceived coverage is different from the reality,” I wrote exactly a year ago. “It can be hard to change or overcome people’s perceptions. But, because we are aware those opinions exist, we make a concentrated effort to balance out the coverage from both ends of the county, as best we can.”
Both towns used to have their own newspaper, as did just about every other small town. And I still hear people refer to the Rangely Times or the Meeker Herald, when talking about the paper today. But the county’s two papers were merged about 10 years ago, prior to Mitch buying the paper.
I have had people from Rangely refer to the paper as the Meeker Herald, when their intent is to take a jab at me or the paper. And I’ve had people from Meeker do the same thing, calling the paper the Rangely Times, to make a point.
There’s a lot of overlap between the two towns — I see Meeker people at Rangely events, and vice versa — and many people in the county have ties to both towns, either through family or business.
It seems to me people in Meeker should be interested in what’s going on in Rangely, just like people in Rangely should be interested in what’s happening in Meeker. Whether it’s Rangely news or Meeker news, it’s all Rio Blanco County news.
The flag at the top of the newspaper reads Rio Blanco Herald Times for a reason. Because that’s our coverage area — the county, both ends of it.
So, whether you live in Rangely or Meeker, we are all part of the same Rio Blanco County family who call this area home.
••••
Rangely’s Shayne Armstrong, a delivery driver for the Herald Times and other papers, is recovering from an early morning accident on June 7. He was on his way to pick up papers when he swerved to avoid hitting an elk on Highway 64 and crashed into an embankment.
Shayne hoped to be released this week from a hospital in Denver, where he underwent two surgeries: one on his ankle and one on his hip. “They had to completely rebuild my hip,” Shayne said.
His son Bo was with him at the time of the accident, but suffered only cuts and bruises.
“Basically, he saved my life,” Shayne said of Bo. “Once we came to a stop, and he said he was fine, he walked about 30 or 40 feet to get phone service.”
Bo called 911 and emergency services personnel from Rangely District Hospital responded. Shayne was later flown to the hospital in Denver.
Typically, Shayne would have been driving alone, but he had had hernia surgery on the Tuesday before the accident, and wasn’t supposed to lift heavy loads, like bundles of newspapers.
While excited to be coming home, Shayne is facing a lengthy recovery time.
“I’ll have to use a walker to get around,” he said. “It’ll be a year from now before I’m 100 percent.”
••••
While visiting with Shayne on the phone Sunday, I could overhear someone talking in the background.
“I have to hang up, because there’s a tornado outside,” Shayne said, clicking off the phone.
“Turns out it was just a funnel cloud, but it was close enough they had to implement emergency procedures, which is why I ended up in the hallway for half an hour,” Shayne said Monday, after we reconnected.
••••
Billy and Marty Estes of Rangely were sitting in the right-field bleachers Sunday at Coors Field watching the Rockies play when the game was postponed for about an hour because of tornado warnings in the Denver metro area. They took pictures of the funnel cloud.
••••
County Coroner Ran Cochran is back to work after suffering an accidental gunshot wound in the stomach March 11.
“I’m feelin’ good, almost back to normal,” Ran said. “But I’m feelin’ pretty good.”
••••
There will be a public meeting at 1:30 p.m. June 24 in the Johnson banquet room at Colorado Northwestern Community College about developing a source water protection plan for the town of Rangely.
“The source water protection plan is a document that defines the area above our water intake structure on the White River for the purpose of ensuring a safe and contaminant-free source of freshwater for the town,” said Peter Brixius, town manager. “Meeker recently completed their source water protection plan as part of a grant fully funded by the USDA. Rangely would be utilizing the same program for the development of their plan.”
••••
Rio Blanco County rancher Paul “Buckshot” Sheridan will be one of the local vendors at the new farmers’ market, scheduled to open Saturday, July 11 and run weekly through September in Meeker.
“I will have a brochure explaining the fact that the beef has never left our control, except when we take it to a USDA-approved processing plant,” Buckshot said. “And it will have pricing, available cuts, thickness, and that it will be available by the half or full beef.”
For information about the farmers’ market, visit www.foods-are-us.com.
••••
I could relate to Ellen Conrado’s letter to the editor in last week’s paper about the problem of dogs being allowed to run loose.
I had a bad experience myself a couple of weeks ago, not even a block from my house. I had taken my dog for a walk, and she was on leash, when another dog — a much bigger dog, I might add — which was in the back of a truck, jumped out and attacked her. It happened so fast, even the owner of the other dog was caught off guard. But he was able to eventually pull the dog back.
Thankfully my dog wasn’t hurt, and to the other dog owner’s credit, he stopped by my house later that night to make sure my dog was all right. But it was a scary experience.
••••
After the incident, I considered buying a can of mace to take with me when I walk my dog, just in case.
I asked Stan Wyatt at Wyatt’s Sports Center in Meeker if he sold mace. He said he sold bear mace, and he could vouch for its effectiveness. Not because he had used it on a bear, but because he accidentally got some in his eyes while on a snowmobile trip — don’t ask how, it’s a long story.
“My son asked, ‘Dad, are you going to be blind?” Stan said, laughing as he told the story. “‘No,’ I said. ‘I’m just going to cry for a while.’”

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.