Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Ten years of journalism
Ten years ago this week I was hired as the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.
I moved into a third story, one bedroom, walk up apartment painted lime green. It was located next to one of the busiest lights in Casper, Wyo. The parking lot was on a side hill, with angled spots that ensured my 2wd diesel pickup repeatedly got stuck on the ice; I was the number one cat litter customer at the gas station next door.
This is also the week of the Wyoming Stockgrower’s annual meeting in Casper. On my second or third day the editor and I headed to the meeting. I was given a Mac laptop, voice recorder, and directions to the Water Committee room.
Perhaps you’re one of the 10-20 people on earth with a firm grasp of Wyoming water law. I was not. The chair of the meeting had much to cover, and talked fast. I was so busy googling acronyms I took very few notes. I did not know multiple words spoken, let alone their meaning or the general context of what was being said.
Upon emerging a couple hours later, the editor asked how it went, laughed that yes, it was one of the more in-depth committee meetings, but the lady who left the paper was who had covered it previously, so it was my topic from then on, and good luck. Go home to start writing, as she needed the article on that meeting by the next morning.
Arriving across town mid-day provided the opportunity to ask the next door elementary school about plugging my pickup into their exterior outlet. It was cold that winter. Come to find out, you did not just walk into elementary schools ten years ago. The custodian finally got me drug out of there before I was dubbed a terrorist and the cops were called. I explained what I was trying to do, and he gently suggested I stay out of the school, and have my pickup gone by 7 a.m. each morning, as the morning custodian showed up about 7:15.
Back to the article, and a crash-course in journalism. Thankfully, I had grabbed several editions of the paper I just hired on with, to read and reference. I dove into hours of transcribing the meeting, then on to hours of piecing together my first article. When my eyes began to blur, I would switch to editing photos. Being me, I had photographed back-to-back-to-back weddings the three weekends prior to starting my new job, and had more than 5,000 pictures to edit.
The next day arrived, and the article was sent off to the previous editor, as she was helping edit the paper and do a few other odds and ends after officially leaving.
It came back red. Not a little red, but completely covered in red ink. Across the top it was written point blank that if there was anything at all that could replace it in the paper, she highly suggested going that route. It was unsuitable to print.
I was frustrated, to put it mildly, and it must have shown, as I was given some insight as to how articles were to be composed after my initial review.
A couple weeks later, I called a threatened bird endangered, and got to know several of the state’s higher ups in the wildlife arena. A couple weeks after that I was given the topic of perpetual conservation easements, and told who to call and visit with. The angle those people spoke to made the article sound pro-conservation easement, and I got to speak with a few ranchers I didn’t know, and tell them that while I agreed with them wholeheartedly, I had to print what I had been told.
It was not easy moving to town and learning the intricacies of a new career.
Fast forward a year or two, and I was familiar with Wyoming water law. I could whip out an article in an hour if all went well. I knew who to call on nearly any topic, whether to use them as a source, or to ask them who should be used. I had gained experience.
Often the best things in life are premeditated by the hardest. While the job itself didn’t stick, the work did. I fell in love with writing, and haven’t stopped. I was able to take all I learned, and turn it into a wonderful career that melded perfectly into the ranching lifestyle I love.
Looking back, God’s hand is apparent in it all, and I feel very blessed at all he exposed me to, and taught me, during that time. And for the special people he put in place for me along the way; including the custodian. It shaped so many things for good in the long run of my life.
If you feel like you have been jerked out of your comfort zone through a knothole, may I encourage you to press on. A decade from now it will likely make since, and God will use it to make your future better and brighter. He may even be setting you up to realize something you were made to do, in a context he knows will get your attention.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
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Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the March 6, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News