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.
She called me one afternoon when I wasn’t home, but left a message. People did that in the old days when cell phones were still rare, and texting was a chore with a 10-digit keypad instead of our modern full keyboard style smartphone interfaces.
She needed about 60 acres of hay baled and stacked.
I was between jobs with the Wyoming Department of Education and a technology position at Wyoming Indian and was using my 706 International tractor, Hesston 4550 baler, and New Holland 1032 bale wagon to generate a little extra income.
It was my first, and only business dealing with Kitty Peck.
Kitty as everyone who knew her knows, loved her horses. I’m not sure who the place belonged to that Kitty had leased a nice stand of grass and alfalfa from, but she gave me directions over the phone when I called her back, and I baled and stacked around 2300 bales for her.
She said to call her when I thought I’d be finished, and I gave her a time in the early afternoon of the third day.
As I backed the last 68 bale load with my wagon in place, she walked up to and I shut off the tractor.
“A dollar a bale?” she said, with just a bit of a question in her voice.
“That’s what we agreed to,” let’s call it 2200 bales.
She smiled and counted out 22 one hundred dollar bills.
“Beats stacking these myself,” Kitty said.
Kitty passed away earlier this week in Casper after thankfully, a very brief illness. She was surrounded by her daughter Candy and three sons Shawn, Gordon, and Gilbert, assorted grandchildren, and the great-grandkids she cherished so much.
Kitty and I crossed paths often as I attended games in Shoshoni where her son Shawn Steffan, and daughter-in-law Mistalyn were integral parts of middle and high school activities in Wranglerville. She was always in the stands no matter what Braydon, Mason, or Ashley were playing. She was even more of a presence at the Fremont County Fair.
Kitty taught at Shoshoni High School before I arrived in the fall of 1985, as an English and speech teacher.
When legendary Riverton speech coach Lois Sackman retired, Kitty’s daily commute took a different direction and she was the Wolverines’ speech coach for over two decades. My late friend Cathleen Galitz took Kitty’s position in Shoshoni. That classroom and the kids of Shoshoni were blessed for over three decades.
In 1999 I left Shoshoni for a higher salary in Riverton, and once again Kitty and I crossed paths.
I worked in the James H. Moore Career Center, and Kitty’s classroom was in the main building.
Those administrators still in the district, or who have retired and remain in the community no doubt remember her disdain for authority or any other intrusion into her classroom.
Kitty wasn’t hostile, but she quickly let you know where you’re ideas stood when it came to her kids.
And kids were what Kitty Peck was all about.
Speech team kids often aren’t your average high school students. The very nature of speech, debate, and drama draw different personalities into competition than you’ll find in athletics, agriculture, or business competition. They’re a bit more eccentric, much more creative, and often devote a lot of effort into “not fitting the mold,” and Kitty loved that. She encouraged that behavior in her students and cherished it.
Outspoken on many issues, Kitty was always fun to talk to. At times I found a kindred spirit, and at other times, I wondered what planet she came from, it was all part of her free-spirited personality.
The kids at the county fair loved it as much as her speech team did.
Kitty went to bat for a lot of teenagers that had nowhere else to go. She provided an ear to listen, advice to give, compassion when they needed it, and a good dose of reality in a figurative kick to the pants when they needed that as well.
Her son, my friend Shawn, often commented to me that his mom was the only person in Fremont County more liberal than me. Well, I’m not that much of a liberal on many issues, but Kitty couldn’t make that claim. Yes, she saw the world from the left, but that was part of her charm.
I appreciate those that live and think outside the box, because it focuses the rest of us on not only how they think, but forces us to evaluate how we think as well. Once, again, that was a service Kitty provided for free.
As her family grew, so did her interest level in youth activities. I remember her in the stands when her twin boys Gordon and Gilbert were in high school, yes, at times you could hear she was there.
People that love children often inherit names usually reserved for family.
I heard teenagers call her mom, both accidentally, and on purpose as a sign of respect. I heard many, many more youngsters call her grandma.
Native American children and teenagers, sometimes call older adults grandma, grandpa, or auntie when they’re not blood related at all. Kitty was called grandma often, by kids from all over the state.
I’ll miss her unique viewpoint on many issues, and her open willingness to share those viewpoints with just about anyone she felt needed a little adjustment.
The measure of a person isn’t how much money they earned, how many houses they have, or cars they own, it’s the impact they leave behind when they move on to the next world.
Kitty left an impact on all those she touched.
It won’t be just family, friends, and youngsters who miss her gentle presence, and willingness to help. Her four-legged family will miss her as well.
Have a good ride on the other side Kitty.