Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Eagle Butte
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My last column (for lack of a better title)


Jody Rust

I sit in front of the computer screen and think about how hard it was in the beginning to write a weekly column. With so many other responsibilities, I felt overwhelmed and constantly chal-lenged to think of something new and interesting.

Sometimes ideas popped out of books or Facebook posts like dialogue on comic strips or ono-matopoeia bubbles on old Batman TV shows, “Bam!”

Other times, I wrote a page of crap before anything good came up, and still other times, I thought, who is going to care about this?

While I have not gotten an outpouring of praise for this column, with its corny title, “At the Heart of It,” I have had people tell me how much an article here or there touched them. These miniscule moments have touched my heart and inspired me to keep writing when I have considered calling it quits.

I even had plans of writing into the future as long as the newspaper would allow me.

As with all things in life, the best and longest laid plans do not always pan out. Life takes its own turns, and we either turn with it or we tumble off and get left behind.

Changes here at the newspaper and in my own personal life require this column to be my last for the West River Eagle, at least for the foreseeable future.

Working for the newspaper part-time over the past 8 years (maybe a little longer) has been a blessing for me and for my family. The newspaper business does not pay much, but it has helped me buy school supplies, gas up for out-of-town trips and take my kids to the movies.

When I was managing editor for the paper, I learned so much more about editorial decision-making, lay-out and design, working with different kinds of adult writers, and becoming a better writer and editor of my own work as well as of the work of others. Being a managing editor also taught me to better recognize my own limits and shortcomings.

Like education, the newspaper business is unforgiving at times, and it brings with it incredible re-sponsibility. I have tried in my years at the West River Eagle to write engaging and informative stories, provide quality photos and make our community paper one that all of us are proud of — whether my contribution was one story, one photo or a whole section — I have sought to be in-clusive and fair.

My commitment to the newspaper has always been divided with my commitment to my students and my family, and I want to publicly apologize for my errors and shortcomings.

Readers may want to keep that in mind when they pick up a newspaper and criticize a journalist — the people who put together the news are just like you and me — they have families, some-times work multiple jobs just to make a decent living, and care passionately about what they do.

Our community is a microcosm of our country. People are struggling with financial issues, addic-tions, leadership challenges, getting jobs, filling jobs, gossip and misunderstandings. We are not all OK, but we are at the same time OK.

Humans are notorious for adjusting and adapting, and while we are in a national or perhaps a personal slump, this too shall pass.

Personally, I must focus on my students at the high school and at OLC, and on my graduate, online class.

In May, I will be leaving CRST to attend graduate school at South Dakota State University. I am 48 years old. Some people may say that making this kind of change is crazy at my age, but I must have gypsy blood (says my Aunt), because I cannot seem to stay in one place for very long.

I spent 18 years growing up in Lawrence, IN, and the only other place I have spent a significant amount of time (living in one town) is right here in Eagle Butte.

For all of its faults and problems, I love it here. I love the people, the quiet, the passion — and I take it all in with the addictions, the gossip, the violence. We here are like others anywhere else in the world. We are no better or worse, but we are here, on the Cheyenne River Reservation, a place filled with people who will always be in my heart.

I am grateful to you, dear readers, to my students, to my employers, to my friends and my haters for all that you have given me since I moved to this town.

I will miss this column, and I will miss living here when I move. But I won’t be a stranger, and I will be back. Pilamaya.

Mitakuye oyasin