Hello, Webster County neighbors!
My name is Scott Nicholson, and I was approached by Mr. Dan a few weeks ago with the request of an occasional musing for the Webster County Citizen.
My response was very simply that I have no previous experience in that realm — to wit I was greeted with a hearty handshake and the reassurance that none was required.
As a manner of brief introduction, it was actually one of Seymour’s young ladies, Debbie Holderby Thieman, who originally caught my eye back in 2006.
After a shockingly brief courtship, we merged our families in September of the same year. I guess that makes me an outsider, but at the 20-year mark I intend to submit application to the town council for full citizenship.
I am currently serving in my 10th year on faculty at Seymour High School in the English department, and I have enjoyed having many of you, or your kids, or maybe your grandkids in class at some time or another.
My first year of teaching was in the Pleasant Hope School District, just north of Springfield, before replacing a retiring Ginny Ryan in the 2013-14 school year here in Seymour. The outgoing principal, Aaron Gray, originally brought me on board before himself taking a new position back in his hometown in neighboring Mansfield; I guess the rest is history.
Teaching is actually a second career for me. I had a total of zero college credit hours when Miss Debbie and I were married, and I was working for a building materials manufacturer in Springfield called Glenstone Block Company. I was a salesman there for roughly 20 years before its buyout and eventual closure.
It was during those years that I made many of the Webster County connections that would carry over to the present day.
It’s almost uncanny how many folks formed the sum of that group. Roger McCormack, Kyle Tracy and Brent Easley were all fellow Glenstone Block employees. David Bowers and the late Ben Cook were co-workers during a brief time that I spent at another block plant, as were Fordland’s own Freddy Vines, Allen Ince and Chuck Seely. I even bumped into David Smith (Seymour’s fire chief) every now and then out making deliveries for Acme Brick.
I remember very clearly working the Price Cutter job when it was under construction here in Seymour, gathering orders and coordinating deliveries. I was asked by my boss to make contact with (then) Seymour Mayor Jimmy Crisp to ensure that our material deliveries were being carried out to his satisfaction with as little interference to the town’s daily norms as possible. He was one of the finest fellas I’ve ever met. As if my point hasn’t already been amply belabored — my two older sisters are married to the eldest sons of deceased Seymour legends, Freeman and Leeman Kleier, who both served on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.; also cousins of Seymour’s Jerry Kleier. They themselves took Webster County brides before their military careers took them elsewhere during the 1960s and 70s.
All that to get to this. I hope that the theme of my occasional rambles addresses the nature of what it means to be part of a community. All of its churches, schools, businesses and activities. How to take a genuine interest in what’s going on around us within our extended families and friendships and the organizations that service our county. Also, how we might express ourselves within those groups with more meaningful gestures than a blue “thumbs up”.
When I was a kid, I was introduced to the most wonderful radio show that I had ever heard. It was a syndicated, nationwide broadcast until its creator finally turned over the reins some 42 years later in 2016. At that point it was only a matter of time until it waned in public appeal and was eventually canceled altogether.
The program was “A Prairie Home Companion,” and it was the brainchild of a lifelong Minnesota resident named Garrison Keillor. Keillor is an author and entertainer, but what endeared him to the masses in every major radio market in the nation was his ability to tell a story. If you are familiar with his career, you are also familiar with the imaginary village of Lake Wobegon, Minn.
The superstars in Keillor’s world weren’t Kardashian or Baldwin types, but more “believable” (though largely fictitious) rural folks like Florian and Myrtle Krebsbach, and Ralph, the owner of Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery Store, and, of course, Father Wilmer, priest over Our Lady Of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Parish. The stories were, and still are, wildly popular because they are told by a soft-spoken, small town narrator about normal folks doing normal things in a normal, rural village. They highlight the nature of community and connectedness without the need for sensationalism.
Now, I’m no Garrison Keillor, and Webster County, Missouri is a fair piece from Minnesota, but there is no reason why we can’t enjoy each other’s company through an occasional story or observation of us being “us.” Who celebrated an anniversary? Are there any new parents or grandparents among us? How’s the basketball team doing? Is there a pie social at the Methodist church on Wednesday evening? Are there any local businesses or employees that deserve thanks or congratulations? That kind of stuff — ourselves and our neighbors enjoying our best lives — right here in Webster County, Missouri.
For over 40 years, Keillor signed off with the same tagline: “So long from Lake Wobegon, a place where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I’ll leave it at, see you next week. Be good to yourself and take care of each other. I’m always proud to be a Webster County citizen.
Scott Nicholson is a columnist for the Webster County Citizen, as well as an English teacher at Seymour High School, where he’s in his 10th year as a full-time staff member.
He’s also the school’s yearbook sponsor. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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