I recall a few aspects of my first visit to Montana with particular vividity.
The cold, the kind you feel in your bones.
The views, the ones that stop even the most aloof among us in their tracks.
And, perhaps most of all, the feeling of unbridled joy that washed over me as my skis glided over the fresh, light Montana powder for the first time.
All of those things drew me to the Treasure State shortly after finishing school at Auburn, but I experienced so much more upon my arrival and throughout my year in the Flathead Valley.
I found what Iím convinced is one of the best places in the country to live, an area chock full of picturesque hikes, stunning bodies of water and endless areas to explore (including the bunkers and roughs of the areaís pristine golf courses).
I had the privilege of telling stories ó some inspiring, some intriguing, some at major events and some that few cared about, but all a whole lot of fun to cover.
I discovered sports I previously did not know existed. (Whose idea was it, anyway, to not only pull a helpless soul strapped into skis behind a horse at high speeds, but to send that person sailing high off oversized ramps simultaneously? Genius.)
I grew as a person and a professional, loved life and worked hard (or at least Iíd like to think so). That seems, so far as I can tell, to be the Montana way.
If you havenít picked up on it by now (Iím notorious for burying the lede), this is farewell.
Todayís column is my last at the Daily Inter Lake, and Saturdayís coverage of the track and field, tennis and softball state championships around the state will wrap up my time as a sports reporter here.
Iím thankful for and humbled by the tremendous opportunity the past year has been.
Many thanks to all the fine folks at this paper who have been a joy to work with, but most of all to sports editor Dave Lesnick, the (often unseen) engine that powers the sports desk and the reason most of my buffoonish errors never made it to print.
Thank you to the coaches and athletes from around the Flathead Valley who entrusted me with their stories. It was a joy to tell them.
And thank you to, well, you, the reader, whose support allowed me to do the work I did every day.
I envy the person who occupies this space next, and I have no doubt Iíll look back on the past year and consider it one of the best of my life.
Iíll end this column the same way the late Jim Fyffe, longtime voice of my alma materís football and basketball teams, ended his radio calls, because Iím not sure I can say it any better: ďMy timeís up. I thank you for yours.Ē
Evan McCullers is a sports reporter and columnist for the Daily Inter Lake. He can be contacted by phone at (406) 758-4463. or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.