The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

Community

 

September 22, 2021 | View PDF

The question was posed recently of “what do you like about Sidney?”

As a relative newcomer — I was reminded recently I’m losing the “odor” of a recent arrival — I decided to offer my take.

My wife and I made the move about 3 ½ years ago. She had been working here for most of a year and I was in a job transition period, unexpectedly, so when I saw an opportunity in Sidney, we talked and came to an agreement.

Many employers know that is the easy part. The next step is getting the family “married” to the community. Marketers and economic developers understand that is as big of a selling point as the company employer or opportunity to open a business. For me, the journey of Sidney identity started with what does the community offer that is similar to what I had. Will I be able to get on a bike and go for a ride measured in time more than distance, and do it in reasonable safety and respect of the commuting public? Is there a coffee shop that offers not just a coffee buzz but a meeting place, a sense of community within the establishment? Is there reasonable safety living in the community?

And the list went on.

Some of the “research” was quick. One of my first assignments as the new news editor was to see the community. That was easy. I took the afternoon and went for a walk, a walk that probably totaled a few miles. The adventure took me to places I’ve since visited with purpose; visiting friends or for business. It was about this same time I became increasingly familiar with a shop of decadent sweets, coffees and the best short order lunches I could have imagined. I recall the first time I stopped in a morning. It was a moment to relax over a caffeinated cup of steamy beverage and just observe.

That particular day was busy with the in and out traffic of business owners and office workers getting one more cup before punching the clock, of mothers meeting while children played in the corner... of community taking place. I would frequently bring a tablet computer, but still expecting to be interrupted by society or new acquaintances.

And I walked out thinking “Yes, I think this will work.”

To be clear, I don’t expect Sidney or any other community to be perfect. We are a collection of humanity managed by people our system of government allows us to choose to be over us... from us. However, with that said, the qualities a community reflects is also a mirror image of ourselves.

We can only be posers for so long before we get tired of the mask or individually get caught when taking the mask off. I remember several years ago while biking on an interstate (in another state) and a car pulled over ahead of me. Of course it got my attention. It could be a vacationer with car troubles, or it could be someone who thought the crazy bicyclist was an easy target. Neither was true. The traveler stopped to offer me a bottle of water.

Similar has happened in Cheyenne County. I rode out north a few times. One time I did a turnaround in Gurley, stopped in the 90 degree heat for an iced tea and a snack.

The next time I was there, driving, the same guy behind the counter said he expected to find me passed out on the side of the road. Nope. The worst that would have happened is a rough ride home.

Another time I stopped on the Huntsman Road (By the way, prior to Sidney the only “huntsmen” I knew were leather-clad characters in a fictional medieval movie.) and some teens driving by stopped to be sure I was ok.

It is community in action, looking out for each other even when we don’t know one another.

We are community when we have benefit dinners and when we act like dysfunctional cousins who meet in the same room. We are community when commentators and prognosticators say Sidney is done and almost in unison the “Hold my beer. We got this.” chant can be heard from Main Street to the board rooms.

What makes Sidney, and Cheyenne County, special is even in the painful stages of change, a person can walk into a cafe, coffee shop or retail store and likely get a greeting and a smile. Stay long enough and the barista will know your name before you know his or hers.

 

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