Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I'm an unabashed pack rat, but even I never meant to keep a 15-year-old checkbook register. Now that I've found it, I don't know if I can part with it. It has too much sentimental value.
I'll never forget celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Maui in June 1994. What I had forgotten, until I rediscovered the checkbook, was that I helped fund that trip by photographing seven weddings from 1992 through the end of 1994.
And that wasn't all that had slipped my mind.
I've been on a mission this month to reduce the amount of clutter in my humble home. I know, I should have been skiing with the rest of you Sunday, but I've been battling that crud that's going around town. So, while the Chargers were plowing through the Colts, I remained indoors and plowed through cardboard boxes and file cabinets stuffed with old business records, newspaper clippings and correspondence.
When I pulled the check register out of a packet containing an ancient tax return, I momentarily halted the seek-and-destroy mission.
My first thought was, "Do I have to shred that old check register, or can I just toss it?"
Then I began to flip through the book and discovered an intermittent record of my life 15 years ago.
Much to my surprise, I rediscovered that I had a photograph published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1992, and they paid me $400 for it! I can't even recall the photograph.
I should mention that the check register I stumbled on wasn't the household's joint checking account with regular debits written to the grocery store, Yampa Valley Electric Association and the video rental store. Instead, I used this checking account to record a trickle of freelance photography and writing income along with related expenses.
I wasn't disciplined enough to resist withdrawing funds from my business account to cover gifts for my family and restaurant meals that had nothing to do with business. I even purchased a NordicTrack exercise machine from my freelance income.
Hey, every guy has to have a slush fund, doesn't he?
On March 5, 1992, I blew $16 on one of Nancy's cheesecakes from the old In Season Bakery, and on March 12, I used my business account to rent videos from Pic-a-Flic at Sundance Plaza.
I can't be certain, but it looks like I used the deposit for the Oberndorfer wedding to help fund those purchases.
Like I said - I was a lousy businessman.
In January 1993, I had a photo layout on the historic Green Ranch south of Hayden published in Farm-Ranch Living magazine. I'll never forget helping Jerry and Judy feed cattle on a wintry day and being invited into their home for dinner.
In August I wrote a check to Big League Collectibles for $37.80 for a couple of vintage Green Bay Packers game day programs that became a gift for a deserving Packers fan.
In October 1993, former Steamboat Springs City Manager Harvey Rose and I flew to Washington, D.C., to lobby our legislators. It was a full-on junket including a private tour of the White House at night with a Secret Service agent who allowed us to stand with our toes in the doorway of the Oval Office. Very cool.
One of the highlights of the first half of 1994 was writing a $10 check to former Strawberry Park resident "Miss Daisy" Anderson. She sold me one of her self-published books out of the trunk of her car, and it was an honor to hand over the check.
Daisy, who died in September 1998 at age 97, was known as the oldest surviving widow of a Civil War veteran. Her husband, Robert Anderson, also was born into slavery. The couple was married in Arkansas in 1922, when she was 21 and he was 79.
Their life together lasted just eight years until his death in 1930. However, much of Daisy's adult life was devoted to telling others about her husband's rise from slavery, and in so doing, working for racial harmony.
I was amazed at how much personal history I could recover from an old check register. Sadly, no one writes checks any longer, and all of that personal history is being lost.
If you ever come across an old checkbook of your own, take my advice and save it in a cardboard box.