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    Against the wind…a defense attorney’s fiddle

    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.

    I checked my newsfeed at 6 a.m. as I walked down to get a cup of coffee at the continental breakfast in the lobby of the Quality Inn in Casper. I had just spent Thursday afternoon and early evening watching my favorite event of the year, the all-class track meet at Harry Geldien Stadium on the Kelly Walsh campus.

    The news Friday morning was tragic and juxtaposed to what I had just witnessed the day before and was about to continue covering for the next two days.

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    A 16-year-old, in a fit of jealous anger, shot and killed his estranged girlfriend, a girl of only 17, at close range, with a 9mm pistol. The single round he fired from just four feet away dropped the girl instantly. At that moment of rage, two lives ended.

    She is gone physically, and what awaits him as he is likely tried as an adult, since the evidence indicates a premeditated murder, is almost as bleak.

    A 16-year-old in a maximum security prison like the one we have in Rawlins will create a career criminal, one with little to no hope of any type of future outside the institution.

    What creates this? It is maddening, yet all too common.

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    I read the detailed report of the breakup, the stalking, the intervention by friends, and the access to the gun from his mother and wondered what, if anything could have been done to prevent it.

    It was on my mind as I drove to the stadium a couple of hours later. My gloom and doom over the future of our society and the world as a whole with this type of behavior growing more prevalent quickly evaporated once I hit the track.

    Old friends worked the meet as officials and coaches. The wind howled. It was the strongest gusts I’d ever experienced at the state meet in over 50 years.

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    The kids didn’t fold. They didn’t whine. They didn’t whimper. I didn’t hear a single complaint. They just lined up, ran their race, jumped, threw, or hurdled. It was inspiring.

    I complain just as virulently about the teenagers of today when I can’t find any to hire to pick up small bales, cut limbs, or build fence. They are difficult to find, and I pay a top wage to those who do a good job.

    I hear others lament the lack of a work ethic and I can understand their frustration when I see kids on summer lawn crews idly circling in riding mowers as they are glued to their cell phones.

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    Distracted, teenage drivers are a real problem. But I wonder what the home life of this 16-year-old killer was like. Odds are it wasn’t Ward and June Clever with Wally and the Beaver from the 1960s comedy series, but who knows?

    Was there a father in the picture? Was mom even available aside from keeping a gun in the house?

    These are all questions that may or may not be answered once he goes to trial.

    I noticed a societal change about 10 years into my teaching career. From 1980 to 1990 the kids acted just like we had a decade before in growing up.

    After 1990, the kids in my classes were still top-notch, but the support they had from home began to change. The biggest difference was mom out of the house, sometimes full time with a job the family needed to survive.

    I began asking the kids informally whether they were in daycare before entering kindergarten or stayed home with mom or perhaps grandma. There was no hard and fast data to support the anecdotal information I discovered, but in general (and generalities are always dangerous) the ones who were raised in their preschool years at home were better adjusted and more successful in school.

    That doesn’t mean they were brighter, more creative, or more athletic, it just means they had a leg up on their latchkey classmates.

    Was this shooter a latchkey kid? Or have his actions broken his parents? We’ll know soon enough since the heartstring cord is the first one played on a defense attorney’s fiddle.

    But back to the state track meet.

    What makes a 95-pound freshman girl so stoic that she’ll run in wind gusts up to 50 mph that were knocking 275-pound senior boys out of the shot put ring?

    These kids were tough.

    As the boys and girls from Class 1-A to 4-A lined up for the first event of the day on Friday morning at 9, the wind began to pick up. First, the lanyards on the flagpole began to bounce and sing with their unique metallic tone, then the American and Wyoming flags spread out stiffly towards the east. By the time the 1-A boys took to the starting line, the flagpole began to noticeably bend against the gale-force wind.

    It was miserable. No one quit.

    One of the photographers leaned over to me and said the Wyoming Indian boys looked angry. I’ve watched Colton SunRhodes, Kelynn Mount and Jordan Black run all season. They’re young runners, Colton is just a sophomore, and the other two boys are freshmen.

    I told the photographer they weren’t angry, just determined and all three competed well.

    It wasn’t just our Fremont County kids. The times in the 800 and the horrendous conditions late that afternoon, when the 4×800 meter relay was held, were equal or better than the marks they made the week before in much better conditions at their various regional meets.

    By the time the Class 4-A boys relay ran around 7 p.m., the wind was at its worst. The stands were clear, the tents all folded along the fence and just the competitors, officials, and coaches remained. The official wind speed at Natrona County Airport was 49.5 miles per hour on Friday. It was worse at the base of Casper Mountain where Kelly Walsh is located.

    This isn’t about the weather, it’s about the resilience of the next generation.

    If you’re worried about America’s future, if you buy into the garbage spewed by the talking heads about the kids of today, then lock your doors and don’t ever go outside.

    If you want to feel good about tomorrow, take the time to watch these kids compete. There is nothing wrong with the future of America.

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