From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 13 - 11/22/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Learn to Read

by Gary Neely

As I reflected on this question, my thoughts began to drift back into childhood. I began to recall many good times I had growing up in Pinedale. Growing up in a small country town - what a good life that was: fishing, hunting, camping; the huge family gatherings over the holidays; the picnics and fish fries; the Sunday dinners at my grandmother's.

Then I began to recall some of the many stories of my grandparents and great uncle: stories from the Great Depression and how they were forced to move from their lifelong home, some to California, some to Wyoming. We were, of course, among the Wyoming "Okies." These stories told of hard times, followed by good times. And one by one, as these old-timers disappeared, we were reminded of the good life they had.

And they did have a good life. My mom and dad both grew up in large families. They were surrounded by siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, oftentimes too many to count. There were many mouths to feed, but they had a great family life. Everyone helped with the work and the teaching of the younger children. Then when dances, picnics or holidays came along, they all joined in. As my father put it, you worked hard and you played hard.

Now my thoughts drift to my growing up years. We did not have much money. I had very few worries, and those I did have may have concerned getting a good grade in school or wondering if the tires on my old truck would hold out for a couple more months. Even at that, my father always had a couple of old tires out back that I could have used. When I was growing up, Pinedale had not heard of the term "crime rate" (at least I know I had not); there was no traffic; school was fun; life was fun. I had no worries.

My mother and father both worked very hard to make sure we kids had the things we needed. I worked in the hay fields and my sisters worked cleaning houses and waitressing in the restaurants. We all worked, and we all enjoyed life. All of these moments help make a good life. I believe you have to struggle at times so you can recognize what is good when it comes along, so you don't take good times for granted. My mom and dad both look back and tell me those were hard times, but good times.

A decade later, I found myself married and we had a little girl. We were concerned at that time with how we would make ends meet. My wife and I were both working, like most couples today, and we were getting by. We were repeating what many generations before us had done. So, we were going to be fine.

Then, disaster. I had a snowmobile wreck, and almost died. I spent many months healing, and a couple of years rehabilitating. We were faced with no income from me. I could not work. What would we do if I could not be at my business? My business was doomed. I was doomed. We were all doomed. I remember these thoughts as the doctors told me how bad it was and how long it would take to heal. I was worried now. What did all this mean? Was I now paying the piper? Had I enjoyed life too much? I had all these thoughts and worries and some depression. Then I came home from the hospital. I was greeted by many friends and family, my daughter, my wife, and even my mother-in-law. She is a nurse, and had flown from Minnesota to help out. She stayed with us for weeks, doing daily chores and caring for me so my wife could continue to work. Our friends from church brought meals over day after day. The winter of '86 was a heavy snow year; and people shoveled and plowed snow for us and brought wood up onto our porch from the backyard woodpile. My mom and dad stepped right into my business and ran things for months until I was able to come back to work. They did a great job. My wife worked hard every day, and then worked harder mornings and evenings to keep me as comfortable as possible.

I was in a hospital bed in our dining room, in traction for what was to be six months. I really thought my life was going to be miserable.

Then something extraordinary happened. My three-year-old daughter came to me with a book and asked me to read to her. She sat in my bed with me, and I read to her. This went on for hours, then days. We read so much that she got to know the words in her books. She had her favorites, and if I dared to miss a word or shorten a sentence, she knew, and she would catch me. We would read a lot, and talk a lot. We were together.

I began to realize that I had an opportunity that few fathers ever got. I was spending a lot of good quality time with my daughter. And I say good quality because it was just the two of us. No interruptions, no job to go to, no meetings. Just the two of us together for hours and days. We read books, played games, and discussed life.

I spent the next two years very close to home, as I couldn't really get out and do anything too active. As I look back now, though, I know those were two of the best years of my life. Sometimes I believe you need a twist of fate, or a major jolt, to stop you in your tracks, to slow you down for a while, so you can take time to look around and see what you really have - to see what is really important in life. You need to slow down sometimes to be able to see what really makes a "good life."

So many of us are just too busy worrying or working to realize this. A good life comes from family, friends and neighbors. And all is a gift from God. Just slow down a little so you can see this and be thankful.

Photo credits:  Sue Sommers

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