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Filling CBT's space -- for a day

Jul 11, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

This spot is supposed to be Carolyn Tyler's. She wrote a Wednesday column in The Ranger for 51 years.

And a Friday column too and a Monday column for as long as we had a Monday edition. And a Sunday column for a while.

All told, I'd say she wrote more than 7,200 newspaper columns. Go ahead, Wyoming journalists. Try to match that.

While she worked productively as an editor and news writer for us during those 51 years, I suspect the woman we often referred to in the office simply as "CBT" will be best-remembered for her column writing. Columnists usually are the best-read writers in any newspaper and always the most prominent. Many times I've picked up the telephone and been asked "Who wrote that story about the car wreck?" or "Who wrote the story about the Riverton-Lander game?" even when the writer's byline is right there at the top.

But with a columnist things are different. When readers talk about columns, they never say "Did you read about the Boston terrier?" or "Did you read the article about the owls in their nest?"

Rather, it's "Did you read Carolyn's column?" The columnist becomes known by name and face, not just by content. In that way, it's more than reasonable to say the Carolyn Tyler was the face of The Ranger. When you write two or three columns a week form 1961 to 2012, almost all of them with your picture, that's what will happen.

If you read Carolyn's column through the decades, then you probably felt that you knew her. You knew "Husband-bob." You knew "the Becker Bunch." You knew the neighbors, her parents (especially her mother, Bess, who lived to 102). Of course you knew the dogs, the "Boston terribles," as she wrote of them teasingly: Buster, Kit, Scout, Rita, Samson and BonnieBlue among them.

Gradually, if you read faithfully, you came to learn of her great physical challenges -- the polio at age 20, the falls, the breaks, the hospital visits, the surgeries, the home health visits. These were never the focus of her writing, but her health sneaked in from time to time as she told of her electric trike, her power chair, the giant computer screen, her (st)rolling partners and her adjustable bed.

She wrote about her friendships, new and old. She wrote about births and deaths. She wrote about getting older. She wrote about staying young. She wrote about regret and loss, and she wrote about hopes and dreams.

A dozen times she was named Wyoming's best newspaper columnist, the first time in the 1960s, the last time in the 2000s. In recent years she hadn't entered the Wyoming Press Association contest, ceding the field to others. I'll be sure she's represented in this year's competition. Maybe there's one more trophy for her.

As the Internet arrived, she often produced columns supplied by "an Internet friend," collections of jokes or puns, odd facts or historical differences between today and a century ago. When you've met your column-writing deadline more than 7,000 times, you can be allowed a few borrowed ideas.

But that never lasted long. Her imaginative well always gave sweet water. Her last column, published Wednesday, June 27, was fitting. It was about the dogs and how they found ways to communicate without barking. It was classic Carolyn: good-natured, homey, sweet, familiar and comfortable.

Some readers might remember that Carolyn arrived in Riverton to work at The Ranger on the day I was born. Sometimes she mentioned that in her column, but she always made note of it to me personally on "our" day -- March 10. Her final column was published on my 25th wedding anniversary. Her death came on Wyoming statehood day.

These are the kinds of facts Carolyn Tyler always enjoyed. They are the kinds of facts a good newspaper columnist learns to embrace as the next deadline nears.

CBT faces no more newspaper deadlines. We've lost her. But through those 7,200 columns, we'll always keep her too.

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