Back around 2007 I made a career change. Decided it was a good time to shake things up. Do something different. Bold new vistas. Change of pace. That kind of thing. Only problem was, I didn’t have any new vistas on deck. No next paycheck. No backup plan. But my philosophy toward life has always kind of been that everything sort of ends up working itself out somehow or another. I may have cribbed this theory from Jean-Paul Sartre, Aristotle, Tom Waits or some other noted thinker. I can’t be sure.
My parents came out to Wallowa County for a visit right after I’d turned in my notice on my old job. We were settled into a booth at El Bajio. Just ordered dinner. I got the fajitas, because I was feeling frisky. That sizzle. So exciting. I’d already let my folks know I was shifting gears on the job front and they politely inquired what my next move might be. Well, I said. I’ll tell ya. Right after I go visit the restroom.
Now, friends, I assure you the following anecdote and timeline is entirely factual. On my approach to the water closet, with no solid job prospects, I passed then-editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain, Dave Hassler, and we exchanged howdies. He was aware of my recent job change from having one to not having one … and right there at the El Bajio cash register he allowed as how he had a somewhat urgent vacancy on the writing staff and encouraged me to come aboard. One of his reporters had recently skedaddled to go travel to either Central or South America, I can’t remember which. But it was definitely one of the Americas to the south of us. I already knew about this scenario, the same way he knew I needed a job. It’s Wallowa County. Some things you just hear on the wind. Hassler and I made an appointment to iron out details.
So I return to our table, sit down, fiddle with my napkin a little bit, then let my folks know that my next job will be writing for the Chieftain. Phew. A real buzzer beater. A wise man once said: Things always work out one way or another. Same guy followed up with: Unless they don’t. Turns out I was not really a good reporter. It’s hard. I admire those who can pull it off.
So I made another career change. Had a nice chat with Penny Arentsen of Winding Waters River Expeditions next to a different cash register in Wallowa County and that turned into me rowing rafts down in Hells Canyon. That was just lovely. There’s not much in the way of deadlines when you’re rowing boats. During my exit interview from being a temporary Chieftain reporter, Hassler asked if I’d keep writing a column. Well, now. That was the only part of the job that didn’t give me night terrors, so I said yeah, sure.
I know our new Chieftain editor, Christian Ambroson, from his days at Fishtrap. And I know his dad, Rodd, through our mutual friend Gareth Tabor, who – incidentally – was on my raft the one and only time I ever flipped a boat in Hells Canyon. Long story. Don’t have time to get into it now. But I can tell you Gareth is a fine swimmer. Back to my main point: Christian, let’s go get fajitas one of these days and talk punctuation.
Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. He flipped a raft one time, big deal. Wild Sheep Rapid can be difficult. Give him a break.