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Midland Musings with Jenny Nguyen – A Change of Environment

Of all the interesting things I can possibly think to say, the weather comes to mind. I think since being here, Nebraska weather has surprised me most. Never mind moving from a big city to the little town of Norfolk. Never mind having to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest mall– or anywhere, really. Never mind being twenty-two and starting a career in a completely different world. The experiences that shocked me most these past four weeks were subzero temperatures, going ice fishing for the first time, being forced to perform the pain in the a** ritual of scraping my car windows in the morning, and experiencing the terror of feeling the back of my state vehicle sliding sideways on a snowy incline. Not to mention, seeing snow, rain and sunshine all in the same week.

The day I went ice fishing, it was cold. So cold that some of the wildlife and fisheries guys who typically make that trip every MLK Day were thinking of backing out. I knew I’d hate the weather, but I decided to be a good sport. It was also the perfect chance to get to know the people I will be working with in a more relaxed and natural setting– And get to know them, I did! At the Norfolk office, we still reminisce about that day.

It was the day I walked on a solid lake for the first time. It was the day I experienced the eerie sound of ice cracking all around me, and when I caught the first bluegill of my life. It was also the day I watched Scott Wessel’s arm burst into flames with the inferno of a heater he had in his little ice shack. News spread to Lincoln within the hour. I alone saw the incident. Being the new kid, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I just stared and kept quiet, in a “weirded-out” new employee kind of way. But one thing was for sure. Scott, it was an experience that  will bond us forever, in a certain capacity that I have yet to make head nor tails. For those who don’t know, Scott Wessel is a very talented wildlife biologist at the NGPC office in Norfolk. Little did I know, he also has a reputation for being a bit of a safety hazard. Yep. That was my first impression of the staff up here in Norfolk, one that I don’t think I will ever forget.

Wildlife Biologist Tom Welstead Frying Fish After Ice Fishing

Of course, I’m partly teasing. In the past month, I’ve learned to respect and enjoy their company, even though they can be the rough, trash talking, cribbage-playing-during-lunch sort of men. I’m so excited to ride along with them this spring, to go out into the field to experience and see what they do for our wildlife and for the entire state. I dreamed of being like them once, being a wildlife biologist. The problem was, I couldn’t pass college math. But things have a way of working themselves out. Becoming the new Public Information Officer in Norfolk and one of NEBRASKAland Magazine’s very first female Regional Editors– that ain’t half bad.

Whenever I meet someone new, one of the first things they ask me is, “Are you nuts?!” I suppose it doesn’t make sense, to move from a place with fantastic weather year-round to one that is so strangely temperamental, from a place that’s constantly upbeat and moving to one that is a little slower. Some may wonder why I’m here. To make a possibly long explanation short, in the past four weeks since my feet have touched Nebraskan ground, I am constantly caught off-guard by the passion and dedication that each and every person I’ve met at Game and Parks has for what they do. I am here because I want a piece of that pie. In the words of Indiana Jones, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” Well, maybe not fortune, but certainly glory– if not for ourselves, then for what we do as conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts and keepers of this stunning land. It’s not hard to see why people here are so proud of their part within the Commission. I am deeply thankful for this opportunity.

And just for that, I will tolerate the winter.

I’ll also hang around for the fish fry. Some of these guys can cook!

Follow me on Twitter @NEBland_Jen Need wild game recipes? Check out my Food for Hunters blog on wild game cooking: www.foodforhunters.com

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

NEBRASKAland Associate Editor Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and moved to the United States with her parents in 1992. She graduated from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California, in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree at UCLA in 2012. Wheatley was editor-in-chief for her high school newspaper and continued to write in college, freelancing for various publications, the Tiger Woods Foundation and writing for her blog FoodForHunters.com. After graduating college, she moved to Nebraska in early 2013 to join the Commission as Regional Editor at NEBRASKAland Magazine. She then became associate editor in 2015. Wheatley enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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