Don Rogers: How we got to ‘yes!’
Yes, I’ve dropped in on you from Vail, at the crest of Colorado ski country, a whole different world aside from some thin lineage as a fellow mountain community.
But I began marriage, parenthood and a newspaper career not so far from here, in Quincy, three decades ago. A lifetime. A fingersnap.
Just yesterday, it seems, we were pushing a stroller with our toddler son through Nevada City’s historic district, talking about what a cool area this was.
“I could live here,” my wife said as we sat on a bench somewhere, licking ice cream cones. That’s my imperfect memory, anyway.
We went the wrong way after that. Mostly east. Michigan, Illinois, upstate New York. Then San Diego and Vail. Such was a second career after a knee gave out, ending plan A for life, firefighting.
Plan B worked out better, though it began at rock bottom as I washed out of smokejumper training while practicing aircraft exits by jumping into a sawdust pit. A sawdust pit! Talk about ignominious endings to careers. What now?
“I know this doesn’t feel that way, but this could be the best thing that ever happened to you,” one of the jump bosses told me.
Turned out he was right on both accounts. Nothing was more humiliating than failure in a friggin’ sawdust pit. Never did jump out of a plane, though I’d done pretty much everything else in wildland firefighting.
I had discovered the northern Sierra during, ahem, business trips with my hotshot crew based in the Santa Barbara backcountry. My girlfriend soon was smitten, too, and we hadn’t even seen Grass Valley yet.
We put Southern California in the rearview mirror and started a whole new life. Pretty soon I found myself at a newspaper, somehow, having wrangled a reporter’s job before I could type.
A guy who worked at The Union years later, Dave Moller, trained me as a cub reporter in Quincy. I had to learn to type on my own. He did the best he could in a short period before he left town. Everything I did right I credit to him, and the vastly more I did wrong of course is on me. Eventually I got the hang of things enough to wind up as editor.
We never forgot Quincy — where it began in earnest for us — and my wife has repeated her sentiments about Grass Valley every time we’ve stopped here ever since.
“I could live here.” Sometimes said pointedly, sometimes wistfully, always heartfelt. I’ve grown just wise enough as a husband not to disagree. Besides, I share her outlook.
Bob Brown, the president of our parent company who once worked at The Union himself, knew this. He hired me as editor in Vail back in 1999 and understands me well. Hmmm, maybe too well. So I believed him when he suggested this might be a great fit for us, professionally and personally.
Reasons for leaving a place you love, a place where you’ve lived for nearly 17 years, are more complicated, of course. Let’s just say if the offer had been to, say, Kansas, our answer would have been different and short.
But I knew we would do this even as I just about spit up my coffee at Bob’s stunning suggestion about seven weeks ago. The professional challenge is too compelling to pass up, there’s too much to learn from this staff and community, and I do think I can contribute even if departing Publisher Jim Hemig’s shoe size is way too large to fill.
These mountains, proximity to the coast, family and longtime friends don’t hurt, either. And then there is that matter of our first grandson, born two weeks ago in Truckee.
Still, my wife had to be sure. It’s one thing to dream during quick visits and quite another when a real choice. She and our daughter headed west from Vail, poked around, saw some old friends, maybe made some new ones.
Finally, she called.
“OK,” she said. “I could live here.”
Don Rogers is publisher of The Union. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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