Glancing Back, Looking Ahead

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

This weekend is my 35th high school reunion. Actually, I have two reunions: one in Iowa and one in Wyoming. My parents and I left a 14-acre farm near a small Iowa town the summer of my senior year. We moved from the Mediapolis area, in the southeastern part of Iowa near the Mississippi River, to Casper, Wyoming; I went from a graduating class of 84 to one of 600+ – “sticker shock” best describes the experience. At first, it was an adventure, but the closer graduation came and I still had only about six strong friendships in that class, the more homesick for my smaller community I became. However, I endured, and I proudly marched next to a young woman I’d come to consider my best friend, to receive my Natrona County High School diploma in Casper, Wyoming, May 1979.

Gayle with Stacy and CindyGayle and two of her former NCHS classmates — “we’ve come a long way, baby!”

I’ve wanted to return to Iowa for one of the high school reunions in Mediapolis, but I’ve not had the opportunity. I would have gone this year but with the passing of my father-in-law and an anticipated fall excursion with my own father, I had to pass again. However, this Friday evening I will join that same friend I “marched” with in 1979 as we attend the 35th reunion of the our graduating Casper class. I still don’t “know” many of those “kids,” but I know a few more than I did back then, and though not everyone I still consider myself friendly with will be there, it’s fun to think I’ll see some familiar faces and share a memory and laugh or two – as well as a few cocktails! I will toast my Casper class and also my Mediapolis compatriots as the memories – and wine – flow.

30th ReunionGayle & some former classmates, NCHS 30th class reunion – Casper, WY, July 2009

A lot has happened in my life these past 35 years. I began writing during my teens, but it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that anything significant occurred – my first job with a newspaper; my second was even more significant: the editor and reporter for the West Yellowstone News, a position which allowed me to write about important ventures in Yellowstone Park, such as the reintroduction of wolves and a visit by President Bill Clinton. And, I’ve grown even more since then, having authored and published five books and having articles published in magazines and newspapers, regionally and nationally. And, in August, I’ll have a story in another Chicken Soup for the Soul (My Dog Did What?) – my fifth acceptance into this world-renowned compilation.

Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

I may not be a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or be as acclaimed in my publication endeavors as my friend Nina McConigley (her short story collection is nominated for a PEN award), but as I glance back upon the past 35 years (actually 35+ since I began writing television scripts about my favorite shows, like Bonanza and Starsky and Hutch, essays about the environment, and poetry about doe-eyed, unreachable romance), that phrase “you’ve come a long way, baby” hits home. As I look ahead, I anticipate more books and stories, hoping to inspire, encourage, and educate.

Gayle_Mary_reading eventThat road opens in the coming months as I prepare for three speaking engagements in August and begin conducting monthly presentations at my local library in September. Those sessions will include my dog Mary, who is trained as a therapy dog. I’ll be joined by my friend Chris Lenihan, an educator in the Casper school district, who also has a dog certified as a therapy pet. We will take our canine friends to the library to conduct various programs and then have the kids read to the dogs. Many libraries around the country have a Read-to-the-Dog program, and we hope to launch something similar in our community, but also combine it with topical programs relevant to the kids and our community. I’ll write more in the fall about pet therapy and our programs after we’ve had a session or two under our belts. Meantime, it’s time to celebrate – 35 years since I graduated high school… gosh, I’m OLD!

Do you attend your high school reunions? What significant things have transpired in your life, personally and professionally, since your graduation? As you glance behind and look ahead, what are some goals you have for your life? I am making my bucket list this summer, including visiting some national parks with my dad in September that I have not yet seen. What about you – what’s on your bucket list?

For you ’70s buffs, here’s a YouTube link to the Starsky & Hutch theme song:

And, a YouTube tribute to my all-time favorite western, theme song sung by Lorne Greene:

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?to be released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014


14 thoughts on “Glancing Back, Looking Ahead

  1. Oh Gayle, you are not old, just seasoned. (Smile) I have never been to a reunion. Once I left the area I just didn’t feel that leaving my mountains was worth the trip. Of course I was always a loner, but I know the folks back there wouldn’t believe it.

    I enjoyed your memories and the plans you have for the future…I know they are special as you are. Best to you. Doris


    1. Thank you, Doris, I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. There are days, my friend, when I feel OLD!! but as I look back and then ahead once again, I know that the “seasoning” is just right! (SMILE) Hope to see you in August when I’m in Colorado — will email you dates and hope we can get together again like last year.


  2. Wonderful post, Gayle. I figure you probably played down how hard it was to go from that small country high school to the one in Casper to one of 600 seniors. That must have been a daunting task to walk through the HS doors that first day. It no doubt would have been easier to have transferred to the larger school in your sophomore or junior year. I have a friend from my Florida days who lives out near Glacier National Park — he and I worked for the same newspaper, me as a reporter, John Ashley as a photographer. Now he takes wildlife photos and runs his own photography business. I did a lot of moving as a kid including two high schools. However, unlike you, I went from a larger school (about 400 kids in my class) to a smaller one (about 125 kids in my class).


    1. Thank you, Mike, for stopping by to read and comment. Oh, those parks — they are SO LOVELY! Glacier is one of my favs!! Yes, the school was a bit overwhelming, but I persevered and made some wonderful friends. And, on Facebook I’ve connected with classmates from both schools and it’s a JOY to see what they are doing these days. Here’s to the hardy soul in all of us!


  3. Oh, Gayle, that Starsky & Hutch theme took me back. I loved that show as a kid. Like Doris, I’ve never been to any of my reunions. I moved several states away from where I went to school, and I’ve always been more drawn to stay in my current life than to go back. I have caught up with some friends outside reunions though. Have fun at yours!


    1. Hi, Stephanie — S&H was my ALL TIME FAV cop show! I LOVED Paul Michael Glaser’s hair!! (SMILE) I haven’t gone to many reunions as I noted in the post, but it was fun to reconnect with people at the 30th, and since I have friends going to the 35th here in Casper, I thought I’d go for one evening. Wish in many ways I could go back to Iowa, so I’m looking at attending the 40th there — too many “situations” got in the way this year, but I’ve connected with several of my Iowa classmates on Facebook and that’s been fun, especially to learn at least two of them are book authors like me! Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting!


  4. Gayle, I think you are awesome and have achieved much in your life. Don’t sell yourself short. Stephen King is not a better writer than you, he just began very early, is a prolific writer and was in the right place at the right time. As I read this post I wondered how many years it has been since I graduated from high school. The answer sent me into shock – 47 years! And, I probably have everyone beat in graduating class size – mine was 34! I have never gone back to attend a reunion since most of my life I have lived too far away and like Doris I’ve never really had the urge to go back, just to move ahead. I have come a long way from a little town of 700 people. I’ve traveled the world, written hundreds of songs and four books, with another on the way. I’ve never really thought about a Bucket List because I’ve had so many wonderful experiences in my life. I probably would like to sky dive but my back prevents me from that. I’ll have to think on the Bucket List some more. You are such a giver with your therapy dogs and the books and articles about dogs. And you are compassionate. To me that makes not only a great writer but a great person and friend as well!


    1. Linda, your words touch me deeply — thank you! Next time I visit Wisconsin, I want to take opportunity to meet with you! I am honored to know you online and hope to have the awesome privilege to know you in person! I’ve not traveled outside this country (well, Canada a few times, so I guess I have, and that’s on my bucket list — to go back!) You have accomplished so many amazing things in life! Best to you with your next book!!


  5. 21 Barks to you. You’ve done so many wonderful things, I’m in awe. It is always a pleasure to be with old friends. I heard from one this past week that I haven’t spoken to in years. Fun, we talked for a couple of hours. I love Facebook for the fact that it allows me to stay in contact with family and friends. Cher’ley


    1. Ha, Cher’ley — is 21 barks like 21-gun salute?! Yes, catching up with old friends is fun — I’m looking forward to Friday night in Casper and wishing I could “clone myself” to be in Iowa as well! Thank you for your comments and kindnesses!


  6. Lovely post. I went to my 20th high school reunion and found that I had little in common with anyone, even people I had been close to. Still it was as much about connecting with who I was as with who we were now. Since that reunion, facebook has reconnected me to a lot of these same people and I suspect the next reunion I attend (if I do) will be different as I now have current relationships with many of these people. I also loved Starsky and Hutch as a kid. Such a crush I had… 🙂


  7. good for you, Gayle. I don’t know where you find the time for all your events. I’ve never been to a formal reunion of my school but every other year I do meet up with my five best school friends- 3 of them friends, made when we were 7 years of age. I cherish our contact and love to catch up.


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