Staff Reporter 

Dear West Plains: So long and thanks for all the lessons

Write to the Point


Well West Plains, it’s been a fun three and a half years.

Some folks already know this, but I am going to be leaving the Cheney Free Press and going to work as a staff reporter for The Ritzville-Adams County Journal.

To put this into context, Free Press Publishing prints five newspapers, including The Journal and I’m essentially moving to another newspaper but I’m still under the company umbrella.

If you’re a wrestling fan like me, it’s kind of like when a WWE superstar moves from the company’s Monday Night Raw brand to its Smackdown Live brand.

This also means I will be moving to Ritzville and starting a new chapter of my life.

The funny thing about all of this, is it was four years ago around this time when I moved from Spokane to Wolf Point, Mont., to begin working at the Herald News.

Four years is a long time and thankfully, I’m much more prepared for this change than I was back then.

When I left for Montana, I didn’t have a car or a driver’s license, so I spent 14 hours on a train with two athletic bags full of clothes, two laptops. I was also hundreds of miles away from family and friends.

This time, I’ll be driving to Ritzville — first with a UHaul with my stuff, then I will take my car down. I’ll also be within driving distance of loved ones and friends — and I do plan to visit the West Plains from time to time.

Being a reporter for the Cheney Free Press for the last three and a half years has allowed me to attend some amazing events and meet some extraordinary folks. I’ll also be leaving with a refined skillset and the confidence to start this new journey on the right foot, which brings me to my set of “thank yous.”

I wish to give a special thanks to my coworkers at the Cheney Free Press. From my editor, John McCallum to the publisher Harlan Shellabarger, as well as the rest of the crew. Without you cats, I would not be ready for this next stage. Like any line of work, being a reporter is a continuous learning process and while there is still a lot for me to learn, I’m not going to be as lost as I was when I started in Wolf Point.

A special thanks to the various city officials and employees I’ve worked with over the last few years. I’ve had the opportunity to glimpse into the effort that it takes to run a municipality and I don’t know how you do it.

In the last couple of years I’ve seen projects get off the ground and become a reality. Although I won’t be around for Airway Heights’ recreation complex groundbreaking, it was fascinating to watch the process start as a bond initiative and a dream, then see it physically materialize.

Another grassroots effort that is making progress is Re*Imagine Medical Lake. It started with a small group of people in a meeting who wanted to preserve the city’s past and build its future — and is now running two of the city’s bigger events, Founders Day and the Winter Festival. Groups like Re*Imagine have shown me that you can start something from scratch and build it up — but it takes a lot of hard work.

Thank you to the school administrators, staff and teachers that have allowed me to follow you and chronicle the accomplishments of your students. The same sentiment goes to the coaches I’ve gotten to know over the years.

I’m going to miss living in the West Plains — especially covering the fun events, festivals and nights out on the town.

To anyone who had the opportunity to watch a boxing match or UFC event with me at one of the bars, I apologize if I ever seemed like I was ignoring you because I was too invested in a match — or I was speaking too much jargon.

And I’m sure there are some people who I owe a beer or two. Not to worry, I do plan on paying you back — to quote “Game of Thrones’” Tyrion Lannister, “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

I don’t know what lies ahead and while that’s kind of scary, I’m not too worried because sometimes you have to take that leap of faith.

I’ll close this column with a line from Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

Al Stover can be reached at


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