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Vern Hee: One last word for the road … thanks for the memories

I have started this three times. It was hard to get started on my last column for the Pahrump Valley Times.

I have had a long run as your sportswriter here since 2011 and I have enjoyed every second of it.

I will be moving on to Valley Electric Association to write for them.

This was the hardest column I have ever written. I have been up since 3:45 this morning because I couldn’t sleep. I thought things would just come to me and everything would be perfectly clear this morning. Instead, well, let’s just say I am tired.

I had problems thinking at first of what to write and what I would talk about. I thought I would write about the good times I had covering different sports venues around the valley. But there were so many good times and only a couple of pages in sports. And then there were some questionable times too, where I had to really say to myself, “Vern, what are you doing here?” Like the time I was covering a story on a haunted hotel and my wife and I found a scorpion on my pillow.

And there was also the time I drove out to Death Valley on assignment with then-staff photographer Horace Langford Jr. to cover the infamous 135-mile foot race through Death Valley and I locked my keys in the trunk. The temperature that day was around 120 degrees and well, we were stuck there for some time. You know to this day Horace still asks me where my keys are, go figure.

I could spend all day on stories like that for their were many but I think I want to spend time saying goodbye to the people I write for.

The kids

First, the high school athletes. I really have enjoyed being a part of those athletes’ lives. I particularly enjoyed watching the athletes grow into young adults. What was really cool was to talk to a freshman athlete like Sydney Sladek and then watch them grow as people. I remember Sladek was shy when I first met her and couldn’t string two sentences together. Then in a matter of four years, she was on her way to college and when I last spoke to her as a senior, it was like talking to a professional athlete. There were so many moments like that with the hundreds of kids I talked to over the years.

Then there were the championship state games, soccer in 2012 and wrestling in 2014, and the individual state champions like Austen Ancell and Bryce Odegard. I will never forget all those moments.

The seniors

My sports section wouldn’t be anything without the amazing senior athletes I have met over the years. This town is blessed to have so many active seniors. My biggest regret was not being able to bring back the senior games to this town. Who knows, maybe now I can be active in that.

I just loved talking sports with these guys for they had so much to offer. The Pahrump senior weightlifters like Bill Prince and Gary Miller can lift close to 300 pounds and always had a lot of information on their sport.

Then there is Marvin Caperton, a senior sprinter who once played football and ran track for UCLA in the 70s. This man can kick my butt in the 100 meter.

The seniors always made my day and I will miss them too.

Whose section

One thing I realized over the years was that although people called this section “my section” it never was mine. The sports section has always belonged to all of you. For it was all of you who told me what you wanted to see in it, and what I liked about the section was that over the years it kind of developed its own legs and wrote itself.

What I mean by that is people would call me or write to me every day with a story. That’s what I implore all of you to keep doing, for it is still your section. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. I was just taking up space here.


Finally, I want to thank all the great photographers who were far better than me, for these guys truly made the section.

Horace Langford has been here since 2001 taking photos. I will miss him. We have logged a lot of miles together covering sports stories and news stories throughout the region. His professionalism has really given the sports section an extra zip.

I would like to acknowledge all the great photographers who have worked with me to give Pahrump some great memories. Langford (softball, baseball, track, soccer, volleyball), Peter Davis (football, wrestling), Tammi Odegard (cross-country), Ronnie Murphy (soccer), Charlotte Uyeno (baseball and softball), Richard and Skylar Stephens(Beatty), Penny Otteson (Tonopah) and Carl Pace (Tonopah).

I hope all of you have appreciated having these great photographers, I know I have.

The coaches

The one thing that I have learned is that sports in Nye County would be nothing without all the dedicated coaches that our youth are so lucky to have. From the Little League coaches all the way up to the high school coaches, I want to take this time to thank all of you for your dedication to shaping our youth.

These coaches dedicate so many hours to these athletes. These are true heroes to me, for they really put a lot of time and effort into their teams. Some coaches coach more than one sport.

The coaches in Beatty, Tonopah and Round Mountain get extra recognition from me because of that extra bus time they do and the fact many of them do coach more than one sport.

Leo Verzilli from Beatty gets an extra high five because he still runs a power I formation in football and wins. Then Ken Jose is older than dirt and still coaches (over 30 years coaching) softball for Tonopah. Ken, I wish you quick healing and hope to hear about your team making state.

I could go on and on but I am running out of space and I still need to thank all the staff here at the PVT for putting up with me. And of course, thanks to my wife Terri, for putting up with me and all the sports I watched and dragged her to. Without all of you guys, I couldn’t have done this for this long.

If you ever want to say hi, I am at vernpaulwriter@gmail.com

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