The week gone by shows why we should all embrace life
There are weeks in this business that can’t end fast enough, and then there are weeks like the one I am just coming off.I’ve been in one of those “poor me” moods as of late, and even though most of the reasons I’ve been fighting the blues are self-induced, I needed last week. I mean I craved one of those and God delivered one.From writing some stories that I’ll never forget to watching one heck of a Division III football game to seeing a little boy with absolutely no fear of anything or anyone — including a 7-foot puppy — I’m fortified for the week ahead. Heck, last week might just get me through the rest of the year.•••••Let’s start with our annual Veterans Day Commemorative Edition, which includes three long pieces detailing the life of Vietnam War veteran Don Dixon, the experiences of U.S. Navy veteran Howard Campbell and the amazing story of “Finding Loren.”I’ve known Dixon almost from the first day I moved to New Hampton, for he was involved in the Honor Flight Winnebago program that allowed me to go on its first flight back in 2009.Campbell, though, was an unknown to me, but I purposely sought him out because I felt it was an important to do a story on a veteran who served but didn’t go off to war.There are millions of them, and they, too, have made plenty of sacrifices to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.Still, as I made way to Nashua last week, I will be honest. I was a little worried.What if his story didn’t have any drama whatsoever in it?So we talked for a while as he told me about growing into a teenager during World War II before getting to his Navy story.He mentioned to me that he served in the engine room of the USS Curtis and I asked him what kind of ship it was?“Well, it was a sea plane tender,” he said, “but that wasn’t what we were hauling.”What were you hauling?“The first hydrogen bomb.”“Paydirt,” the thought bubble above me read.Yet as I made way back to New Hampton that day, I was reminded of one of the adages I’ve long lived by in this business.Years ago, Tom Thoma, my sports editor at the Globe Gazette in Mason City, told me, “The most ordinary people have the most extraordinary stories to tell. It’s your job to share them.”It’s been almost 30 years since Thoma shared that little gem with me. And last week, I once again was reminded how right Tom was.•••••And then there is the “Finding Loren” story that revolves around the family of former New Hampton High School secretary Gert Hintz.This is a tale that I’m not sure even Hollywood would believe, but as I finished my interviews and sat down to write it, my palms were sweaty and my heart was racing.“The only one who can mess this up is yourself,” I told myself.I hope to God I didn’t blow it.And I also hope that New Hampton will turn out for both the Veterans Day program to honor all those who have answered the call and a “Finding Loren” program the New Hampton Rotary Club and the American Legion are hosting at 6 p.m. on Friday at the New Hampton Community Center.•••••On Saturday, Noah and I headed to Waverly to watch the “Holy War” football game between Wartburg and Luther.I shot some pictures of former Chickasaws who are now playing for the Knights, and did so wearing shorts on Nov. 5.Although the rivalry has been one-sided in recent years — Wartburg had won 24 of the last 25 meetings going into Saturday’s game and Luther hadn’t beaten the Knights in Waverly in more than 30 years — it still means something.When the Norse scored a touchdown on its overtime series to cut the deficit to 27-26, Luther eschewed the tying extra point and went for the two-point conversion and the win.The Norse got it, and although “my team” lost Saturday afternoon, the reaction of the Norse players is something I’ll remember for a long time.They literally stormed the field, raced to the end zone and celebrated like they had won the Super Bowl.And as bummed as I was for the former New Hampton players who now call Waverly home, I realized that moment is what college sports — big or small — is supposed to be all about.•••••And that took me to Sunday, when I met a 2-year-old named Kael Sanford, the son of Dr. Nick and Emily Sanford.Let’s face it, for most kids, there is no middle ground for kids when it comes to Santa Claus. They either love him or are frightened by the jolly old fellow.Kael is definitely in the former camp, and I wrote about watching him interact with both Santa and “Percy, the Mercy Puppy” elsewhere in this paper.And I realized something: We, including me, can all learn a lesson from little Kael and embrace the world in front of us.It was the perfect ending to a heck of a week, and as I write this on Sunday, I’m ready for Monday. And that, folks, is saying something.