Thursday, December 13, 2007

Little Gigabyte

Many tears and great heartache filled my days about a year ago. Perhaps my experience in this story was my wake up call. Hopefully, only these words will be yours. If you drive faster than the speed limit on city streets, drive while talking on your cell phone, drive while lighting a cigarette or putting on your make-up, or a million other things that can take your mental focus off the road, then this wake up call IS for you too.

My neighbors brought home a beautiful black lab puppy about two years ago. They named her Gigabyte and she was full of spunk and love. Gig was never shy when it came to receiving love. With her front paws, she would reach up the fence that separated our back yards making sure she was in perfect position to receive all the loving strokes and kisses I could give. With each loving pet and cuddle I gave her sweet little face, I could NEVER have known that I would be the one to clean her blood and brain tissue off the street and grass in front of my house.

Sadly, the wife of my neighbor came home from work late one afternoon and let Gig out in the back yard to use the grass. Unfortunately, the wife stepped inside the house for just a moment. In that small moment of time, something caught Gig's attention. She wandered around the side of the house to the front and eventually stepped onto the road where she was instantly hit by an SUV speeding down our street. The hit was extremely violent. Disgustingly, the driver did not stop to help Gig or to even express her remorse or sympathy. Witnesses ran to Gig and moved her to the grass. The hit was so violent she most likely died on impact.

At that time, I lived in a neighborhood with children and many, many pets. We were one block from the Yellowstone River in small town, Livingston, Montana. Many people walked or rode their bikes down our street with their dogs or their children.

I write this to remind all of us to PAY ATTENTION when we are driving. Slow down and pay attention. With my own dogs, I am extremely obsessive about responsible pet ownership, but many people allow their dogs to walk off a leash or be outside in an unfenced area without supervision. When a dog or cat follows a scent, a noise, or something else that catches their attention they are just following their natural instincts. It is not their fault they aren't being supervised and watched over or protected from drivers not paying attention and an accident happens.

WE can be protectors of these precious little ones though. Whether these little ones are precious pets or precious children, we can all be their protectors. I don't want anyone else to be the one to clean the street. And I most definitely don't want any of you to be the driver haunted by memories as I am sure the driver that hit Gig must be. Slow down and pay attention while driving.

Little Gig was so full of love and joy. I am blessed to have shared a part of her life.

~ Penny

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dreams are Like a River

The Gary Cooper Spirit of Montana Award

by Penny Ronning, creator of award

Dreams are like a river. They start with a drop of inspiration, travel a long and winding path, and end up somewhere they could never have imagined their journey would take them. Dreamers are like the current that makes the river flow. They are the gravity pulling the river to a final destination, but every dreamer knows unseen forces can come into play to cause that river to shift, turn, overflow, or even dry up. Montanans know all about rivers. For the agriculture industry, rivers are a needed water supply for crops, animals, and the long-term health of the industry and our country.

Montanans also know all about dreams. Dreamers settled our state. They survived the harsh winters and traveled great lengths to reach their closest neighbors. Montanans are not loners; we just simply love our rivers, our neighbors, and our dreams.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think Frank Gary Cooper ever believed as a child growing up in Helena, Montana that one day he would become a Hollywood legend. I believe he had a dream in his heart and that dream took him places he could never have imagined he would be. I will ask Peter Fonda, but as a child growing up in Hollywood I can’t imagine that he ever believed he would one day settle full time in the mountains of Montana. I believe he had a dream in his heart that took him places he could never have imagined he would be.

The Gary Cooper Spirit of Montana Award is all about our dreams and those people that encourage the dreamers. For Montanans, Gary Cooper is the reflection of dreams manifested. He is the symbol of dreams achieved through hard work, compassion, determination, integrity, and a love for his craft. Gary Cooper had passion, but more importantly, he had compassion for his fellow man. When I created the Gary Cooper Spirit of Montana Award I was proud to honor a man of integrity and kindness, a man who loved the arts, and a man who loved the rivers and the dreamers of his home state, Montana.

I was also proud Jeff Bridges presented this one-time-only award to Mr. Peter Fonda. Like Gary Cooper, Peter is a man of compassion and kindness. He is a man in love with his craft and in love with the process from which it flows. He understands the drops of inspiration, the twists and turns dreams can take, and he understands the importance of encouraging young dreamers.

It is true: in Montana legends are earned. Peter has earned the respect of his peers and his fellow Montanans. Jeff Bridges so eloquently related Peter’s ability to visualize and fight for his vision for Easy Rider the night he presented the award. The significance of Easy Rider to the arts is difficult to capture with words. It must be seen and it can be. It can be seen in the young men and women Peter encourages through the classes he teaches at UCAL – San Diego. It can be seen in the young men and women he encourages at Montana State University-Bozeman. It can be seen in the young actors he directs on stage or in film. It can be seen in a young man named Titus Mischke. Ty entered Montana State University’s Media and Theatre Arts program specifically because of Easy Rider and Peter Fonda. Today, he is successfully working in the film and television industry in Los Angeles. Ty continues to credit Peter Fonda and Easy Rider as the encouragement of his dreams.

Dreams are like a river. They start with a drop of inspiration, travel a long and winding path, and end up somewhere they could never have imagined their journey would take them. Many dreamers came together to honor these two great, great men. When Peter looked around the room that evening of September 12, 2004, it was my desire that he saw and felt the realization of all of his dreams. Because it doesn’t matter if you are a young cowboy from Helena, Montana or the son of a Hollywood legend, drops of inspiration come to each one of us and like rivers, they are a life force.