The Old West was a place of danger, violence, and ill-gotten gain. Today that same area is a place of danger, violence, and ill-gotten gain. But there are many bright spots as well, such as Dodger Stadium during a night game, or the New Mexico desert when a nuclear missle test is under way.
Sometimes on a slow day at Guide, my mind tends to wander. Most of the time it eventually finds its way back, but not before grand pictures have filled the screen of my imagination. For example, what would it have been like to be the editor of Guide while living in Dodge City, Kansas, in the late 1800s?
The hot wind blows in from the Plains, rattling the shutters on the buildings up and down Main Street. A dog howls in the distance. Seated at my editor’s desk, I peer out my office window. I know what I’ve gotta do, and now is the time.
Rising from my seat, I leave my office, going through its large, wooden front door. I make a mental note to open it first next time. With slow but determined steps, I cross the dusty street and approach the Short Branch Saloon. I suck in a deep breath and push open the establishment’s swinging doors, making a mental note to move out of the way of its return movement next time.
I step up to the counter and sit down on a barstool. Sam the barkeeper asks, “What’ll it be—the usual?”
“Not this time,” I respond. “I need somethin’ to get my courage up. Add a shot of sarsaparilla to my soy milk.”
I down three quarters of the repulsive-tasting drink, wipe my mouth, then turn to the cowhands and others jabbering throughout the saloon. “All right, y’all, listen to me!” I shout. The room grows silent, and I get to the point. “I wanna know if any of you in here is responsible for—”
“Responsible for what?” interrupts an angry-sounding cowpoke. His hand drops to the six-shooter hanging at his side.
I turn back around, down the remaining one fourth of my repulsive-tasting drink, and keep talking.
“I wanna know if any of you is responsible for sending a Guide subscription to little George Washington Carver over in Diamond Grove, Missouri?”
Slowly Deadly Dan Winchester, a monster of a man, rises from a table at the far side of the room. “Yeah, I did, you skinny little excuse for a magazine editor,” he says through gritted teeth. “You got a problem with that?” He spits, and the liquid quickly burns a hole in the floor’s wooden planks.
It’s now or never. I slide off my barstool, pick myself up from the floor, and head over to Deadly Dan’s table. Looking him in the eye, I say, “I just want to thank you for what you did for little George. Who knows—that young’un may someday make somethin’ of himself, thanks to what you did.” I reach out to shake Dan’s hand. He breaks my arm.
Like I said, the screen of my imagination is pretty large. Still, it makes me wonder what some of you in real time and space will someday become thanks to reading Guide. Oh, all right, so maybe this little magazine plays a pretty small role in shaping your future. That still doesn’t make it feel like anything less than a privilege to create it for you each week. Someday, either here or in heaven, I hope to reach out my hand and thank you personally for the opportunity. Just don’t break my arm.