Cars, shoeless fugitives and true love: It’s been quite a decade |

Cars, shoeless fugitives and true love: It’s been quite a decade

Shannon Litz

I’ll say it up front: This is not a story about a car.

There was a time, fleeting as it was, where I thought this — working at a small community newspaper in my hometown — might have been the worst decision I’d ever made.

Actually, I can pinpoint the exact time.

It was 11 p.m., March 12, 2004. I was a year into my employment at The R-C and a week into my tenure as the sports editor.

I sat in the parking lot at Reno High School, having earlier in the night watched the Douglas baseball team dismantle both Lowry and McQueen.

I’d spent the previous hour trying to push-start my 1985 Honda Civic by myself.

I know some of you are laughing right now. And it was funny, or at least it would have been if it hadn’t been happening to me at that very moment.

You all probably already know — as I found out that night — that it is humanly impossible to push start a car by yourself.

It was a fact I discovered in dirty, bloody detail.

Push, push, push — bobsled style — hop in the car when you can’t go any faster or push any harder (you know, that moment your heart and lungs threaten to burst) and apply the clutch. Find the key. Turn it.

Slowly roll to a stop.

This was followed by approximately five to 45 minutes of heaving and hacking with possible lapses in consciousness.

I repeated this process until I was winded, exhausted and utterly frustrated.

All of this had been covert, of course, because I was mortified that someone would see me and think I was a fool.

Because I was a fool, and I knew it.

I was also stubborn. And woefully shy. Of the many people who frequented that parking lot that night (because high school parking lots, I learned then, are surprisingly busy with all kinds of transactions on a Friday night in Reno), there wasn’t one of them I even thought about approaching for help.

Instead, I’d just casually study my notes from the baseball game as if indeed I fully intended to be there, stranded in a hatchback in the empty parking lot of a high school in downtown Reno. In the middle of the night.

Once any passers-by had passed, I’d slyly roll that old Civic up the one slight incline I’d found and try it again.

Using what little spare change I had, I found a pay phone at a nearby gas station and called my notes from the game in to the Nevada Appeal. I didn’t mention that I was stuck.

Technical difficulties, I said.

I don’t know why I said that.

Looking back on that night now, two irrefutable facts emerged then that have stuck with me in the time since:

1) I possess the relative speed of a water buffalo.

2) In spite of the circumstance (which in the mind of a 24-year-old, classified as dire), I knew, as I had since I’d first shown up at The R-C, that God had a plan for me here. As I’d told my boss at the Reno Gazette-Journal the year prior, I was called to be here. I couldn’t explain it any other way.

In the end, I used my remaining coins to roust my dad in Gardnerville — it might have been midnight by then. He made the drive up to Reno, I pushed the car while he started it, and there you had it.

This might all seem inconsequential to you.

But it wasn’t to me.

I spent a lot of time back then pushing that car around. That night was the proverbial breaking point.

A hot afternoon in late June sealed the car’s fate.

I was driving back from a Little League All-Star game in Reno, when smoke started billowing through the air conditioning vents and out from the hood of the car.

Within a day, John Hoppe — husband to our former ad representative Adele — had found me a humdinger of a car. It had things like a CD player, air conditioning … a working ignition.

But as I said, this isn’t really a story about a car.

It’s a story about how these 10 years working for the Record-Courier, this place and these people I have come to love as my own home and family, have changed every aspect of my life.

When I showed up at Greater Nevada Credit Union to inquire about a loan for the wonder car, the first face to greet me when I walked through the door was the most beautiful I’d ever seen.

It was a year of timing my visits to the bank before I got up the nerve to talk to her, and another year before I married her.

In some odd way, that low point in the Reno High parking lot, brought about the life I know now.

A wonderful wife. Two beautiful kids. A merry band of incredibly talented co-workers who rank among the best in the business, anywhere. And 10 years worth of memories that I will carry with me the rest of my days.

This is the 1,500th edition of The R-C that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. It will also be my last.

The custom, in composing a farewell, is to rank all of your favorite stories, impart all your words of advice and recount all the things you’ve learned in the space of about 30 column inches.

But in that, the words fail me.

I look back and see flashes of brilliance, faces that inspire, events that broke my heart and moments that are as clear in my mind as the very second they first transpired.

It’s the senior football player — seeing a varsity football field during an actual game for the first time — drifting into the corner of the end zone, finding himself wide open and turning with eyes wide as saucers to see the ball land safely in his outstretched hands.

It’s the freak snowstorm landing on a football field the night of the championship game. Or the shoeless fugitive scrambling out of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, across 395 and 20 feet up a Minden homeowner’s linden tree.

It’s lightning knocking brickwork off a building on Main Street and someone trying to shoplift a fishing pole from the Walmart by shoving it down one pant leg and bowing it across to the other.

It’s been an unexpected journey in the same breath that it has been everything I could have hoped it would be.

This is a community full of truly good and caring people, which I knew very well before I arrived at The R-C.

The last 10 years have only served to more clearly define the fact.

For every story it’s been my honor to report, the common theme has boiled down simply to this: When you work to the best of your ability and conduct yourself with integrity, good things will happen. And when the bad things come, this community rallies to help pick you back up.

It’s just not a bad place to be.

Looking back, I think of the ways this community has impacted me deeply and directly. In that, I feel a deep sense of gratitude.

My hope is that I have been able to reflect, in some small way, that impact back to the community.

There’s a movie that came out just before the old Honda gave in, called “Big Fish.”

In it, the main character Edward Bloom happens upon an idyllic town, Spectre, where the streets are paved with lush, green grass.

When Bloom departs, the town mayor calls after him, “You won’t find a better place.”

Bloom hollers back, “I don’t expect to.”

In departing The R-C, I can’t find better words than that.

It’s a remarkable newspaper with remarkable journalists covering remarkable people in a remarkable place.

It’s been my joy to be a part of and I thank you for allowing me the opportunity.