This Side of the Pond – Feb. 15

By Sarah Pridgeon

It’s not everyone who would take a chance on a foreigner with a funny voice, fresh off the boat with no comprehension of how America works, let alone the little town in which she landed. It’s especially rare to give that person a job explaining the workings of local government, but that’s exactly what the Mobergs did, and I will always be grateful for their leap of faith.

As you probably noticed when you picked up this issue, Curt and Linda are leaving the stresses and strains of the deadline behind them after 20 years at the helm of this newspaper and a lifetime of ink running through their veins. That’s a pretty impressive contribution to Crook County’s history, if you ask me.

There are, of course, plenty of people in this county with longer memories of the Mobergs than mine. Those who remember their kindness, charm and unfailing dedication to the business of delivering news. Who were there to experience the old days of the letter press, when the building was a hive of activity, noise and smells as lead was shaped from simple chunks into words that would fill the front page.

I’ve hung on every word of the stories that Curt has been generous enough to share, but I had the bad luck to be born too late and too far away to bear witness. For my own part, I have only the last seven years to draw from, since the day my green card arrived in the mail, but it’s been more than long enough for all of those Mobergs to have an indelible impact on my life.

By happy accident, it was a week before my status as a legal alien was confirmed that I found out, courtesy of a helpful member of my new family, that the paper was looking for a reporter. Praying my green card would turn up on time and I’d have permission to work before my starting date, I whipped together a resume and sent it whirring through cyberspace.

I’d already decided I was going to work here, you see. Back in the springtime of my youth, when I was automatically a tourist as I landed on American soil and before I started growing a new gray hair for every deadline, I drove past this office on an outing with my husband-to-be.
I shall work in there one day, I thought to myself, with a foresight the Greek sibyls would have been proud of. I wasn’t planning to give anyone a choice in the matter, but one still has to go through the appropriate channels.

Thus did I encounter the Moberg clan for the first time – Jeff, to be specific. Somehow, I succeeded in creating the impression of a relatively capable human being.

I think it helped that I had a background in publishing and didn’t let on he’d have to draw me a map every time I left the building or that I wasn’t allowed to drive a car, but I was still a heck of a gamble for him to take. It was only later, after a tidal wave of information was thrown at me during my first go at sitting in the audience of a council meeting, that I began to comprehend exactly how much.

The Mobergs, you see, are a vast mine of information about local goings on. Mention a name and they can tell you that person’s history, sometimes down to weight and length the day their parents took them home from the hospital. Mention an event and they will explain what caused it, what happened and how it affected every corner of the community.

I, by contrast, was a desert filled with no data at all, just sand and the whistling of the wind. Between them, they had to teach me facts ranging from the names of local officials to the history of garbage removal in Crook County and the opinions of mayors and council members through the ages. Everything, in other words.

I’ve always said that writing the news was the ideal job for a new arrival – could there be any better way to learn how the community works than to dive right in and look at each individual cog inside the machine? But it wouldn’t have been possible without those Mobergs.

Jeff and Yvonne are still stuck with me for the long haul (demonstrating remarkable patience, I think you’ll agree), so I haven’t been severed completely from the Moberg hive mind. That’s just as well for all of us, I feel.

But as Curt and Linda enjoy the first days of a well-earned retirement, I’d like to take this moment to thank them for taking that chance on the odd Englishwoman with big ideas and little understanding to back them up – and for helping her find her feet in a whole new world. Without them, this American life of mine would have been very different indeed, and lesser in a myriad of ways.

Since they announced their retirement, I’ve heard one or two comments from readers that Curt and Linda raised the standard of news for those of us in Crook County, and I cannot possibly disagree. I may have decided I was going to work here one day without ever setting foot through the door, but I had no idea it would become the foundation for my world.

So thank you to all the Mobergs for being both teachers and mentors – and for building the newspapers I am so proud to be a part of.