Thanks for a good start, Rugby
It seems fitting that my journey has taken me to Rugby. I’m not sure what it is, but since leaving my hometown in northern Virginia — just outside of Washington D.C. — I’ve yearned for smaller, more bucolic settings.
I’m barely one week into my life as the general manager and editor of the Pierce County Tribune, but it truly feels like home already.
I grew up in Centreville, Va., an unincorporated community of about 71,000 in the sprawling, traffic-ridden beltway of the Washington metropolitan area. The dizzying, non-stop rush hour meshes together from the D.C. suburbs in Virginia and Maryland to the suburbs of Baltimore. The metropolitan area is pushing 10 million people, a considerably different landscape than the one I’ve grown to love in my first 20 months in North Dakota.
My first taste of a rural setting took place during college at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., a city slightly bigger than Minot. The Magic City was my next stop and I worried about missing the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley only to find the “super flat” prairie wasn’t as boring as everyone back East told me it would be. (Naturally, very few of them had seen North Dakota or much past the Mississippi, aside from West Coast cities.)
I soon made friends in Towner and found myself spending most of my days off driving around the state, exploring and growing rather fond of small-town life. I was encouraged by the massive sunflowers, the beautiful and varying hues of grain and my favorite spot, the Denbigh Experimental Forest. I remember sitting on a park bench outside of a laundromat in Minot during my first North Dakota spring and reading “Message on the Wind” by Clay Jenkinson, a Dickinson native and Rhodes Scholar. The well-traveled and renowned Humanities scholar studied at Oxford and has seen much beyond the prairie. Yet in this book, he raved about North Dakota and the people he met on his drives and hikes through the state. The breathtaking descriptions proved true.
While reading the book, I sent a text to my predecessor, Chris Bieri. His uncle Mike Jacobs, the publisher of the Grand Forks Herald was mentioned in the book along with Jacob’s wife Suzette Bieri. Small world, I thought and, sure enough, I was reading about a new friend’s aunt and uncle.
Chris made a point of introducing himself when I first moved to Minot even though he was working in Grand Forks. The community an outsider feels because of the simple outreach of strangers in this state is simply amazing. And it holds true in Rugby.
After one year in Minot, I took a job as a sportswriter on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands a year ago. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of experiencing the Caribbean, but it lasted just four months. My best friend and colleague from my college newspaper passed away in December and even before that I constantly had North Dakota and my close friends in the back of my mind. Rock fever set in as I couldn’t take my usual seven-hour, day-off road trips.
I returned to Minot on Feb. 28 and was greeted with a temperature 80 degrees cooler than when I left the island just two days earlier. Snow fell for much of March and a bit into April, but I didn’t care. I was back in North Dakota.
Leaving Minot was a difficult decision, but yet again I craved something a bit smaller. Rugby is likely more than 40,000 lighter in population considering the boom. The peacefulness here and friendliness already shown to me in five days makes the move well worth it.
My mom likes to ask when I’ll move back home and I usually have the same response: “Well, if you checked this state out you probably wouldn’t want to go back to that D.C. mess either.”
I do occasionally miss home, but mainly because I’m one of 14 children (and an uncle of 23 neices and nephews) and we’re a close-knit group even though a few of us have branched out to explore the country.
Rugby it is though and I’m happy to be here. I’ve already met a number of you in the city and hope to meet many more in Rugby and across the county and coverage area. Thank you for your hospitality and welcoming spirits and feel free to stop by and share your stories now that I’ve shared some of mine.
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