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All Points West: A prairie pursuit of happiness
March 04, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Some days are better than others. Itís about 5:17 p.m. on a beautiful Sunday during the shortest month of the year in west Nebraska.

I donít know about you, but I thought those winds would never die down.

Sound like a recent conversation?

The weather. One of those fall back topics.

Just donít ask my opinion about politics. Donít be disappointed if I donít comment on the incredulous Presidential race debates made worse by the speed of Social Media. Got to say itís entertaining and scary at the same time. I might be inclined to run for president because I can, but I wouldnít have much of a campaign headquarters Ė no silver spoon and no Super PAC. Hence, I probably wouldnít last one speech, never mind a debate. If I did though, Iíd preach fairness, and doing the right thing. A friend of mine called my leanings Libertarian. He tried to explain away my penchant for aligning myself with certain rights, philosophies, and favoring avant garde policies, which I admit are a mixed bag, and certainly confusing to him. Without it, thereís a fear of instability or varying degrees of it. Face it folks, do you know what your own party stands for?

Yes, I favor a robust military; moderate taxes, especially if youíve been afforded the right to earn money in our free market system; a pay-your-way infrastructure ala toll roads; the right for you to have your rights but not have them impinge upon mine Ė along the lines of donít hurt others. My friend commented that my outside-the-box ideas such as mandatory civil service and my voting record cut across party lines. If you want to apply any label, Iíd be a self-made liberal conservative Geo-crat (If we take care of this earth, it will take care of us. Oh yeah, that also means taking care of each other. Letís refrain from hate mongering racism). I still wonder if Earth is trying to shake the human race like some nasty virus that just wonít go away. The sludge that bubbles up out of cracks and fissures is like the mucous pooling on our collective upper lip. Sad thing, even with all that we have done to improve our environment, itís a thin Kleenex tissue splitting right down the middle, which allows the refuse from our noses to drip down our chin. Downright embarrassing, considering weíre an example for the rest of the world, a super power tripping over its own heels.

For the record, the Gering Citizen will not endorse any one Presidential candidate as some other newspapers have traditionally done. Having a voice, though, weíd like to make one thing clear: We do without a doubt have the utmost confidence and trust in the people of the United States of America, with the emphasis on united. Individuals, not so much. Some of them can become a little too full of themselves.

During our Sunday hike across the prairie, Lisa and I bounced worries off each other about the state of affairs, great and small, fully appreciating how we have been blessed and called to run a newspaper, a responsibility we take seriously, and on occasion, comically. Our concerns focus on the well-being and survival of a community we have called home for decades, reporting on what it means for those of us who live here. My heartís here, so I donít plan on leaving, except for a few mental breaks and to play sun king in warmer climes. Therefore, Iíll keep a close watch on anyone trying to cause us harm here at home.

Beyond our hopes and dreams, we talked about changes in our lives, and the social spasms which affect our neighbors, many of them farmers and business owners, our governance and our adherence to it, notably the recent meth bust which included the indictments of seven Panhandle residents. Many of us have concluded that the drug industry, and this does not exclude the pharma industry, has evolved into some form of insulation, what some Americans see as a way of coping with struggles. Or, said another way, itís a good way to hide your head in the blue grains of sand, or consume other mind-numbing substances, permanently. Evidence points to near epidemic drug abuse. Though you canít make an addict quit, catching them early might make more of difference than allowing teachers and law enforcement to become surrogate parents. This tells me, in no uncertain terms, we werenít looking out for each other in the first place.

Thereís a stark difference between D.C., where Iíd been living for 2.5 years, and Gering, not just big and small collections of humankind, but a concentration of misinformation. Life can get downright confusing if you wonder too much about it. In Gering, we look and shake our heads, almost in unison, as we watch reality TV taking over our news Ė How I long for the days of Paul Harvey and the simplicity of radio. Preparations for my sixth overseas trip with the Army, this time for annual training, reminds me thereís still a big wide world out there. Itíll be another leap year before I hang up my uniform.

Otherwise, Gering has only undergone cosmetic changes. A long look in the mirror would force me recognize fresh creases, similar to cracks on the Monument which caused a rock slide two months ago and may keep the hiking trail from reopening anytime soon. Sad change. Symbolically, a closed-for-business sign would be hung on not just the monument this summer, but a town full of nostalgic pukes like me who enjoy breaking a sweat in climbing the 800-foot wall, which culminates in the breathtaking views of the valley.

Mortality has been eying me in a number of ways. A trip to the doctor was another wakeup call. I was diagnosed with a condition common to guys over 50. Thankfully, nothing too serious, but enough to remind me life is but fleeting. Parts are wearing down, and maybe Iíve lost a step or two.

As the sun started to hang low in the western sky, my nature loving wife and I concluded our Sunday hike, satisfied with our inspection of the prairie. On the easterly trip home, we opted to travel the ditch road (private property, yet we see beer bottles on it) to save my fragile legs (a side-effect from medication), and decided, despite the world going to H Ė E Ė double-sticks in a handbasket, weíd promise to cherish these perfect moments, always, in the pursuit of happiness, enjoying even the slower trip that gets us there.

Iíd say thatís the perfect remedy to anything, including thawing out from bizarre winter weather, and bearing mudslinging political campaigns.
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