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It is always enjoyable to attend a high school or college graduation as it is easy to spot those who are really happy those 12 years in high school, 14 years in a junior college and 16 years at a four-year college or university are over and now only a memory in the past.
Such was the case on Sunday afternoon at Rangely High School, when Salutatorian Echo Campbell and Valedictorian Courtney Bell gave their speeches to their fellow classmates in the Class of 2016.
Both speeches were relatively short, to the point and stressed the theme that after high school it is up to the student to become whatever they can and want to be. Very sage advice.
But it was baseball/softball coach Paul Fortunato who the RHS senior class wanted to hear from and who they chose as their commencement speaker.
It was Fortunato who brought all that was said on Sunday afternoon to the level of reality and focus reiterating that there are no limits to what a young person can do after high school.
Most importantly, Fortunato told the seniors they are now in the real world and that they have to “keep it real” and take responsibility from now on. As the saying goes, they are the rulers of their own destiny.
Fortunato said it is now time to put away the video games and cell phones. It is time to turn off the television and learn how to be “social” in this new world.
The world of video games and texting and talking constantly on the phone should be darned near over. It is time to grow up, people.
Meet people. Talk to them. Interact with the opposite sex. Get out of town. Make new friends and realize the importance of handling life as an adult.
You may be the best in your school at playing video games, but that isn’t likely a skill that will land you in a hot seat on the stock exchange or in a nice new desk in your own office.
You may be the fastest texter on your block, but chances are that won’t be a skill that lands you a good job, helps you with your homework, or that gets what needs to be done, done.
Develop your people skills. Prove you can get along and work with others.
Prove somehow that you can think or work out problems on your own or be a useful partner on a team.
Those are the talents that make you a wise person, a good friend, a useful co-worker and a valuable employee.
Those people skills will carry you a lot farther than burying your head into a book full time or watching TV or playing video games. These people skills are what will make you a well-rounded person, able to speak to and with anyone on any number of subjects and help you understand what it is that makes a person a valuable member of the community.
Who do you admire? Pick five people you know who stand out as pretty good folks or humans of interest.
Ask yourself what it is about those people that draw you to them. Why do they appeal to you? Could it be they are interesting or interested in the same things you are? Could it be that they are always there to lend a hand? Could it be they often have the answer to the question you want answered?
Then ask what it is you can do to make yourself into that kind of person. How can you help? What can you add to society?
There are so many doors open after high school and after college to the person who has a direction and a purpose that the world is truly an endless aisle of choices.
And when it comes to being a physicist, a hotel maid, a dealer in Las Vegas, a fireman, a chef, a mechanic, a hunting guide, a farmer or rancher, a TV repairman, a computer or IT expert or even a garbage truck driver, do what you need to do to become the best darned garbage truck driver in the business.
That’s what life is all about. Doing what you want to do and doing it well. Do that, graduates, and you will have learned the secret to success and a happy and fulfilled future.
One is never too old to learn something new—and surprising.
When you live in the West, it is easy to become infatuated with wildlife.
They run in all sizes from the badger to the moose, they are widely varied in how they get from one place to another such as walk, crawl, swim or fly and they come in all forms of edible from an elk steak that melts in your mouth to various reptiles or rodents that aren’t so appetizing.
I feel fortunate to have seen majestic moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep and even mountain goats and bears in this real world outside of a zoo, all the way down to the wild ptarmigan, a relatively small bird that inhabits the higher altitudes in Colorado.
Certainly I have seen badgers, antelope, sage grouse, partridge, quail, wild turkeys, small and large owls and small and large raptors from the larger bald and golden eagles down to kestrels and smaller birds, foxes, wolves and even was fortunate when I was about 14 to help on an expedition to capture a young peregrine falcon from a fairly large nest on the side of a sheer cliff for use at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The only Colorado native wildlife I have not seen in the wild is a mountain lion. I saw the elusive puma or cougar in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo when I was growing up in Colorado Springs and I saw a recently shot lion when I was sports/outdoor editor at a newspaper in Riverton, Wyo.
But the two critters I really want to see and have not seen since returning to Colorado over the past three-plus years are the mountain lion and the black bear.
I know both of the critters are around here. I know many people who have seen both on more than one occasion. But I know as much time as I spend up in the mountains around here and around Colorado that the day will come—hopefully soon—when I once again see the wild bear or, for the first time, that I see that elusive mountain lion in the wild.
But I will say I was surprised on Sunday to be driving between Meeker and Rangely, at mile marker 28, which is just a couple miles east of Kenney Reservoir, where I spotted what I thought was an uncommon sight.
Many times and many locations in the West have afforded me the opportunity to see bald and golden eagles. Always thrilling, but no big deal.
But I don’t think that it was more that 20 yards away from the eagle that I saw two pelicans land on an open flat that was filled with fairly shallow water—but enough for them to swim in.
So, I was fairly thrilled to see the pelicans, many of which I have seen before all over the world but usually near a salt-water shoreline. Nope, this was in an open fresh-water-filled field in the heart of Rio Blanco County.
I have seen the herons, the cranes and other semi-aquatic large birds on their migratory paths, but I had not seen pelicans in Colorado. I thought that was pretty neat and that I was probably one of the few folks in Colorado who had ever seen pelicans in the state.
I am writing this column on Monday afternoon and in the middle of writing about the pelicans—not five minutes ago—I received a phone call from a woman who said she just saw about 40 pelicans on the big pond opposite the Kum & Go just south of Meeker and just north of the intersection of highways 13 and 64.
Well, I am still thrilled that I saw the pelicans in Rio Blanco County. I apparently just learned I am not necessarily one of a few who were so lucky.
I guess I just learned that one is never too old to learn something.
But I am still looking forward to my first live bear or mountain lion sighting here in Rio Blanco County. At least I know they are here.
Roughly 50 people showed up Monday night for the forum involving the four county commissioner candidates at the exhibition hall at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds in Meeker and roughly 30 people showed up last week in Rangely for the forum there.
There were very few differences between most of the four Republican candidates’ answers, with the exception that challenger Si Woodruff was the candidate who was most cautious regarding major expenditures by the county.
If I were to generalize what the different candidates stood for, I would state that if you like where the county is headed and if you like the way and the pace the current commissioners are doing their thing, then you ought to vote for incumbents Jeff Eskelson and Jon Hill.
If you don’t like the direction the commissioners are going and are not thrilled to death with how they are getting there and think there needs to be more financial restraint, then the challengers, Si Woodruff and Jeff Rector, might be the way to go.
The most important thing about the rapidly approaching election is that you get out and vote and make your voice heard.
This is going to be a very important election for Rio Blanco County and will set the course for the next four or more years.
Learn the more subtle differences in the candidates and pick those who are moving the way you want to see them move. You are going to have to live with it for the next four years.