Four years ago today, I packed up my green Oldsmobile (and my Dad's truck), and we headed north to the Copper Country.
The Intrigue had a lot fewer miles on it then. I drove it over 100,000 on the Fourth of July this summer. There's been a lot of road in between, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.
As a rule, I like to devote this week's column every year to a sort of status report. One of my personal goals is to learn at least one new thing every day - multiply by 366 and I figure I've learned a lot. Here's a sampling:
I learned that past failures need not always dictate future results. No question.
I also learned that past success does not always dictate future results. Ask the Packers.
I learned how to cover high school cross country for the first time, though I am still attempting to learn how running five kilometers can be enjoyable. I tend to follow the Satchel Paige approach ("Avoid running at all times") but I suppose if I were as fast as Tara Kiilunen, it might be worth it. As she herself said after the Calumet Invitational at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, "Training sucks, but losing sucks worse."
I learned, finally, how to turn a double play. In fact, I did it twice and was in on a triple play, too. There are pictures. And then, I learned to take a position that was more my depth at first base.
I learned that it's OK to leave the driver in the bag and just hit irons for a while if it means the difference between hitting a 200-yard gentle draw or a 75-yard two-hop grounder to short.
I've learned that maybe I do have good "hands," at least for catching errant volleyballs.
I learned that using a tape recorder again for the first time in years is useful, but sometimes (particularly on Friday nights), there's something to be said for being, as John Croze once called it, "the mad scribbler."
I learned that we have some wonderful Nordic ski trails in our area. I also learned how much harder it is to get off your stomach with skis on than it was when I was a little kid.
I learned how difficult it can be to shake decades of bad history on the basketball court, and how excited people can be when they finally do it.
I learned to send my staff downstate with extra photo disks in the future, but when all else fails, falling on the mercy of the Michigan High School Athletic Association for a picture does pay off once in a while.
I learned how to not lose my head when the two preceding events happened on the same night, hundreds of miles apart.
I learned the Lord does not check the high school tournament schedule when deciding when to send major snowstorms to the Copper Country.
I also learned the people of the Copper Country will go to a lot of trouble to get to the gym even when the Lord sends major snowstorms to the Copper Country. Ask the Lake Erie women's basketball team or the Ferris State men.
I learned it might not have been a good idea to wear my bright orange Detroit Tigers T-shirt and sit courtside at the Michigan Tech volleyball team's season finale match ... against Findlay.
I learned the AL Central title is not handed out in February, but I hope that it hasn't been settled quite yet.
I learned we've got a pretty good thing going on these pages. We're not omniscient or infallible, but I'm as happy with any body of work we've put together as I am with our current sports staff.
I learned how every square inch of this newspaper is a little miracle brought to you by a cast of characters who I have come to lean on, and I hope you do recognize it as well.
Time marches on. As another year in Houghton approaches, I thank you for the ways you've lifted me up, with a greeting in the grocery store to a compliment in Calumet. I hope you will continue to do so in the future.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.