A Life Well Lived

Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

For want of a better word, I’ll call them milestones. A milestone is a common term in business today, but I’m thinking of the original definition of the word, a turning point, or demarcation on the path of life that changes the future while having a profound effect on the past.

No, I’m not getting metaphysical, but simply observing the world as it rolls by. As I often say, “People tell me things.” They’ll tell you if you take the time to listen, but that listening skill isn’t just quietly taking in what someone else says, but also includes observing how they’ve chosen to live their lives.


Last Friday I had a good talk with soon-to-retire Rocky Mountain administrator Tim Winland. It was hard for me to believe he was retiring, it seemed like yesterday he was playing football and basketball at Lovell during my first year coaching at Shoshoni.

The Winland clan, all legends in northern Big Horn County are hard-nosed, competitive, demanding, and dauntless. They get the highest compliment I can offer as a former coach at a rival school, they are the essence of the worthy opponent.

Too often the modern, hyped-up world of sports poses players, teams, and coaches as mortal enemies. The opposite is true. The guys I competed against were my friends in college, and many remain so many decades later.

As I spoke to Tim on that blustery day in Shoshoni the thought came to mind, “A life well lived.” That’s why he went into teaching and coaching. It’s why his younger brothers Rod and Pat did it as well. They learned from one of the best, their dad, and my friend of almost four decades, Ralph.


I met Ralph for the first time in a less than desirable setting, I was working as a stringer for the Ranger back in the 1984-85 season when Ralph lost his temper and was tossed from a game against Wind River in the old gym on the highway near Morton.

His sons have related a few incidents of Ralph’s legendary temper when he was a younger man.

Now he has mellowed into a grandpa, as have I. The interest is still there for us in the sports we love, and the passion still burns for good competition, we just don’t have the fire we once did.


We don’t need to have it. The same love of the game, fierce competition, and drive has moved to another generation.

Ralph’s grandsons Kirby and Taylor are a couple of the finest young men I know. Kirby is the newly hired head boys coach at Burlington and Taylor is an assistant coach at Rocky Mountain. They were great competitors as kids. They’re now moving into that wonderful phase of life when ideals, dreams, and aspirations come to reality. They’re going to be fabulous coaches.

One night last season at Pavillion, I joked with Taylor about his younger brother Cooper, a tall seventh grader who has tremendous potential. Cooper had won a drawing to sit on the Rocky bench the week before, a drawing his dad Pat, the Grizzly head boys coach said was entirely random.


“Cooper should sit on the bench,” I said to Taylor, “He can beat you at one-on-one, so why not?”

The big brother side came out of Taylor, “It’s not even close, and don’t get him thinking he can,” he said.

It’s all part of the game.

You never know the most significant moments of your life until after they’ve happened.

As I sat nervously, watching the Class 1-A state championship game at the Casper Events Center before we played Mountain View for the title in 1988, Ralph came up and sat down next to me.

He was familiar with the finals, reaching the championship game four years in a row as the Lovell head coach. In those days KTWO broadcast the championships statewide. I’d already sent the boys in to get dressed on their own when Ralph took the seat next to me.

He calmly explained what the procedure was with the announcer, the lineups, the halftime interviews, and all the media aspects of the upcoming game. He didn’t have to do that, he just offered the advice freely and I appreciated it enough to remember it 35 years later.

I’ve been blessed to work with the best men and women in education in Lusk, Riverton, Shoshoni, and Wyoming Indian during my career, but another man, one I never worked with, but who taught both my children during those tumultuous years of early adolescence is about to leave the profession.

Steve Coniglio has spent almost three decades as the sixth through eighth-grade teacher at Trinity Lutheran School.

Engaging, insightful, and with just enough off-the-wall humor to keep 13 and 14-year-olds off-balanced, yet focused at the same time are among his incredible gifts.

He has done wonders with gifted children who score off the scale on intelligence tests and brought along struggling students to a point where they’ve forgotten that school was once challenging.

The man is a teacher, pure and simple.

There are almost two generations of students blessed to have been in his class now out conquering the world as adults. Aside from history, Latin, logic, English, reading, and science he brought the natural world into his classroom and taught the kids to roller skate, ice skate, and fence. Yes, he had the only middle school classroom I’m aware of in the entire state, possibly the entire nation, where fencing was part of his Classical Curriculum.

I watched a few of the matches the kids had, and they weren’t wild, lightsaber-swinging catastrophes but fencing as you see it in the Olympics, elegant, athletic, and full of strategy.

Replacing a teacher of Steve’s incredible ability will be difficult.

Hopefully, the person who follows him won’t suffer from something I call “Gene Bartow Syndrome.”

For those of you who don’t know who Gene Bartow was, he was the head coach that followed John Wooden, viewed as the greatest basketball coach of all time by many fans, at UCLA.

Bartow led the UCLA Bruins to a 52-10 record in his two seasons at the helm and was fired after posting a 28-4 season in his second year.

Was he a poor coach? No, in fact, he was excellent, amassing a record of 491 wins and 253 losses in a 24-year career. His only deficiency was that he was not John Wooden, a crime entirely not of his own volition.

We should appreciate the good ones, the men like Ralph, Tim, Rod and Pat Winland. People like my late friends Chuck Wells, Harold Bailey, Cathleen Galitz, Carl Andre, and Harold Mulholland. My mentors Jerry Fulmer, Leroy Sinner, and Mike Harris. And people like my fellow travelers Chico and Julie Her Many Horses, Ernie Mecca, Mike Sapp, Janie Nirider, Rita Isabel, Tom Zingarelli, Tad McMillan, and my beautiful and talented wife Sue.

All of them epitomize life a well lived. It’s something everyone should strive to follow.


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