dear custer, i’ll love you forever, but i can’t wait to make friends

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. Sure, a knock on wood– what the heck! Yeah, maybe I’ll hold my breath passing a cemetery… every so often. Penny on the ground? Better be heads up! Kidding (sort of) aside, a few months ago, I found myself taking on strange habits in order to ensure Aric gets a permanent job. I know, it sounds ridiculous. BUT IT WORKED! So there.

For those who don’t know, Aric and I moved to the hills in May of 2013 for a seasonal position he accepted in Custer State Park. That seasonal job turned into another seasonal job, which turned into another seasonal job. He had plans for seasonal job #5 before he was offered a permanent position for Douglas County in Castle Rock, CO. He (we) looked ruthlessly for several months, drove out-of-state several times for job interviews, and got caught up in living somewhere else. Embarrassingly enough, I had houses picked out in… Beatrice, NE; Lincoln City, Oregon; Morocco, Indiana; Dubuque, IA; Ames, IA; Mason City, IA (seriously, if you didn’t want us, Iowa, you should have just told us!) and somehow we landed a dream location… as close as you can get to Denver without being way too close, Colorado.

But in the meantime, I landed the job of my dreams, or at least the job of my immediate dreams. It allowed me to be creative… a leader… and use every damn organizational skill I have in me. I minimized the electronic file structure, created an employee procedures manual so people know… what the hell they’re supposed to do… it was the perfect job for me– with countless other reasons why. And it only lasted 4 months. I’m not mad. More than anything, I’m afraid I let my employees and my boss down. Speaking of which, that boss of mine… is unreal. When I started my first position with the Chamber back in November of 2013, he told me… “family first, then friends, then fun, then work.” It wasn’t a line. It was absolute truth. The following are things that happened to him during the course of 11 months: sick for a week and a half, visited his dad 11 hours away, went to Iowa for a week for family weddings, broke his toe, got gout in broken toe, was seriously ill from diverticulitis, spent time with his wife who was in the hospital due to ailments related to formerly having breast cancer, took his dad to an eye surgery (11 hours away). Whoa, right? Now I know what you’re thinking… he lives by his phrase of “family first, then friends, then fun, then work” but would never allow an employee those same rights? Wrong. I haven’t take advantage of the flexible work schedule as much as you think. Sure, when my parents were in town, I came in two hours late on Monday morning (SHOCK!) and when Hank had a vet appointment, I took an extra 15 minutes over my lunch hour (NO WAY!) and I took a day or two here and there after working ridiculous hours during events (SCANDAL!). I have learned so much in such a short amount of time at this job. And my most meaningful success in my career to date was when he told me, “Katie, you’ve restored my faith in your generation with you strong work ethic and dedication.” Of course it’s concerning to think not everyone puts in the same amount of time and effort in their job. I soon learned that to be the case when my assistant was hired. It was one of those that as the days went on, I realized how one day I would be telling stories at a party about her and laughing back on the terrible memories of a joke of an employee (again??).

Okay, so I think you’ve realized what I’m doing here. I’m writing an open love letter to Custer, South Dakota. It’s true. I’m going to miss this weird little town. Oh except you, Lynn’s Dakotamart. You learn to pay close attention to the expiration dates, but the one time you forget, man they get you good. Thank you, 2 month old expired greek yogurt. Whatever, expiring today, but still paying $3.99, spinach! Please know I’m (sort of) kidding. I know, groceries and expiration dates should be the least of my worries. What with craft breweries minutes from my new house and so many farmers markets in a weekend I can hardly choose which one to attend! But really, I know I was lucky to have lived in Custer. It was always an adventure and sometimes there was so little adventure, I wanted to scream, but I wouldn’t have spent my first year of marriage any other way. And I couldn’t have asked for a better career experience than the one I got at the Custer Chamber. With only one week remaining in this cute, but bizarre town, I find myself feeling conflicted. I have a very busy week ahead with two major events, the Custer Stampede Buffalo Art Auction and the Chili Cook-off. My last day is actually on Sunday, when the Chili Cook-off ends or the beer runs out as I’m told… we just drink all day??. While my busy week begins to stare me down, I find myself dealing with another adventure in the tale of Hank’s eyeball. Another scratch. Another scratch that is getting worse. Will it be another $500 of eye drops and prescriptions to prevent the ulcer from growing more? I guess I’ll find out in the morning. It’s so typical of him to selfishly rub his eyeball against a bush. I hope to remember not to touch his eye with my hot hatch chile pepper hands tonight– I already went through the misery of hatch chile eyeball burn, let’s not force the already-injured pup to do the same.

I am so proud of my husband. This isn’t his dream job. In fact, I had to convince him to even apply to it. But it’s a permanent job, relocating us to a wonderful location, still beautiful and mountainous as ever, and we have benefits. There, I said it. I am 27 and I put priority on health benefits. Gosh, I feel old. We were reviewing the benefits package today and it was as if he was reading me the lyrics of a Dashboard Confessional song. I almost wrote “reading me an excerpt from 50 Shades of Grey” and then I remembered my mother reads this. And probably only my mother, to be honest. But really, I haven’t read it and don’t plan to. Back to benefits– I will gladly break my arm or contract tuberculosis with this fantastic health coverage. Not really though, it’s a high-deductible plan… so… please no. I am proud of my husband for following the career path he wants and loves and taking a job because he knows it’s the absolute best path for his family and it’s a starting point in which to grow.

Well Custer, with each passing minute, I’m closer to the conveniences of city life and the possibility of meeting people under the age of 75. I’ll treasure the time we had together, but I’m so ready to… turn down for what… wait, that’s not right… uhh, something about bae… no, that’s not it… well, let me work on my popular slang terms and get back to you… as you know, I’ve been out of the loop for awhile.



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