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Is writing a column a job?

Sep 6, 2012 - By Betty Starks Case

I'm starting this column on Labor Day -- a non-working day for most folks.

We did our holiday excursion to Boysen Park yesterday, and we're so glad we did. That was the day two yearling mountain sheep came down from the high peaks to munch on green campground grass and wash it down with a cool drink of water from the Wind River. We were just leaving the campground when the young animals darted from behind a pile of rugged rocks to cross the road before us. We stopped to watch them, fearing certain disaster when a big truck came roaring down the road toward us -- and them.

The truck driver slowed and activated his left turn signal. I don't know if he turned into the campground later. But the cars behind him stopped. The "kids" safely crossed the road. And all the travelers shared in this rare sight of Wind River Canyon wildlife.

Today, the young mountain sheep may not be there. So on this Labor Day, I'm working at my job and celebrating it in the process.

You think this may not qualify as a real job?

It's in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

According to The Ranger's holiday editorial, "We define jobs by category, by geography, by income, by longevity, by workplace safety, by the age and gender of the people doing them."

So I'll subject myself to the test.

Category: I'm happy to be classified as a columnist, but a number of feature stories have been included in this job. They, of course, are much longer and usually center on specific people, places, or events. I love doing them too. People's ideas, adventures, problems and joys appeal to readers as well as to we who tell their stories.

I've done a news story now and then, and admiration for my reporter and production friends is boundless. Their work demands an amazing (to me) ability to put stories together and offer them to the public quickly and factually each day. I'm not geared to that pace, but I deeply admire their ability to get it done so the rest of us can know what's happening in our world, here, and now, and sometimes why.

Geography: We all love the geographic location of our work. That's why we live here. And that's where my mate comes on the scene. I'm quite aware that many of my Ranger columns, books and other freelance efforts would not be nearly as readable without his need to roam the wild reaches of Wyoming.

Longevity: I feel specially privileged to have had a bi-weekly job for more than 25 years. This schedule has given me time to share in things my outdoor man loves, while lending challenge and a fulfilling commitment to what some would call "retirement."

Workplace safety: If I worked in the newsroom of The Ranger, I presume my safety would be assured. That, however, remains debatable, probably dependent on my own behavior.

Modern electronics allow me to complete my work in the comfort of our home where I'm safe, except for the fact that I've commandeered my mate's new computer for the job. We'll see how that all shakes out next winter when he can't spend so many days outside.

Age: I may have been married a long time, but I'm olderly, not elderly. That means this sometimes scattered brain still bubbles many kinds of thought -- inspiration, humor, questions unending. Yet this column experience has taught me that publication is also a vehicle demanding reliable steering, brakes and compass.

Reminders came when I was told that one recent column had been used in a church service, another in a marriage ceremony. I'm both awed and honored.

These are the types of response that keep me grounded. I've always felt, or maybe hoped, that some ideas or expressions might find their way into my writing through a divine nudge.

If that's possible, maybe this is how and why it happens.

I don't know how anyone could find a more rewarding job than that.

Or one more worth my Labor Day time.

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