‘It Was 20 Years Ago Today’

Those words, of course, kick off the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and they’ve been in my head quite a bit lately.


For some reason, I’ve always made mental notes of key dates in my life. I’m quite confident that a past “Tales” entry made note of July 29, 1991; that’s when I started a job at a publishing house in New York City. And perhaps I’ve written this at some point a few years back, but Jan. 28 marks another milestone of sorts.


Through most of 1996, I was working as a general assignment reporter at a daily newspaper in Dunkirk, N.Y. I loved the job and worked with some great people, and — as it turned out — the experience I got there would be valuable. The pay, though, was about as lousy as it got at the time. Faced with mounting debt thanks to low wages and rent and car payments — plus some carelessness with money, I should admit I started wondering about alternatives.


Sometime in the late fall, my mom  who had recently finished her master’s degree and was looking for work at a college or university sent me an envelope in the mail with a job opportunity she had cut out from the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was an opening for the position of News Bureau Manager/Sports Information Director at Dickinson State University, and an accompanying note from Mom assured me I’d be perfect for the job. A move to western North Dakota from western New York seemed wildly improbable, but I figured there would be no harm in applying.


I never expected to get that job, and when it wound up being offered to me, I figured I had to take it despite the huge change it would bring. “For some reason I’m being called to North Dakota,” I remember thinking. “There has got to be some kind of plan here I’ve just got to go with.” I shipped off several boxes to Dickinson State and packed my little Chevy Nova as tightly as I could, and I left for my new adventure on Jan. 22.


A couple of quick notes about the trip. On the third day of driving, I remember stopping somewhere near Detroit Lakes for gas. I thought I had bundled up appropriately, but I don’t think I had ever gotten so cold so quickly before that point. I spent several minutes in the gas station thawing out. Then, the next day, my first in Dickinson, I went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. Surprisingly, there was no cash machine — the closest one was a few blocks away. No big deal; I’d walk. Well, given the wind chills were about minus-50, I was later told, that was not the best idea. I walked a short way and thought I was done for. Thankfully, some small business owners took mercy on me, gave me some hot chocolate, took me to the ATM, gave me a tour of the town and then drove me back to the grocery store. This new home was frigid, but the people certainly friendly.


On Jan. 28, 1997, I started my job at Dickinson State. I worked there a little less than two years before moving over to that community’s newspaper, the Dickinson Press, as a sports reporter. The Press, like the Daily Globe, is owned by Forum Communications Co., and in April 2001 I was offered a post as the Globe’s sports editor. Nearly 16 years later, here I am, with a job — and wife and children, too.


Sometimes, one never knows why a certain path beckons. But, as that wise man Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I may have questioned “taking it” at the time, but it’s difficult to imagine what life would be like now if I hadn’t.