Drue should be writing this. That’s the first thing I thought when I sat down to write about our longtime Cowley correspondent, a lovely, kind and talented lady, Drue Tebbs-Meek.
If a cowboy can be said to have died with his boots on, Drue probably died at her keyboard when she passed on Monday morning. If there was anyone who could be said to have been dedicated to a task, it would be Drue. She loved writing about the people of Cowley and the surrounding area, and she wrote with passion, enthusiasm and grace.
No one could sum up a person’s life better than Drue. I often said here in this office that I wanted Drue to write about me when I die. And I meant it. She wrote with love and with a caring concern about her subjects. She told stories with emotion. And she loved history. My, how she loved history! Her columns will no doubt be invaluable to future historians and genealogists.
We have often chuckled about her ability to tie in a simple fact with the history of Cowley. It would go something like this: Tom and Bev Smith have moved to Cowley and we welcome them. They have moved into the old Johnson home, which was built by Adolph and Jean Jones in 1918. Adolph was the son of Rufus Jones, who was an early pioneer in the Salt Lake Valley, then came to Big Horn County to clear sagebrush for a new life in the Basin in 1906. What a hard life those pioneers lived! Jean immigrated to America with her parents, Ivan and Sophia Wagner, in 1908, settling first in Kansas City, then moving on west to Billings and then to Cowley, where she met Adolph. They had seven children, Ben, John, Carol….and so on.
Drue’s genealogical narratives were complicated, and we usually had to make more than one call back to her to clear something up or understand a relationship. Sometimes mistakes would creep in, and she would have to run a correction the following week, but by and large she provided a wealth of valuable information about not only the comings and goings in Cowley but also the history of her hometown and the people who she firmly believed have made Cowley the finest place on earth.
One of Drue’s greatest challenges was her computer ability, or lack thereof. Rather than write and save her column in a word processing document of some kind, she would write her weekly article in the body of the email she was to send to us, and sometimes her column would disappear into Never-Never Land. Then she would have to start over or write the column by hand, delivering it to us in person.
I’m not sure how many hours son-in-law Ray Peterson and others spent trying to fix or teach Drue how to operate her computer, but it had to be many hours.
But our life in North Big Horn County was richer for having Drue in our lives, or at least it seemed richer, such was her enthusiasm for the life we lead here. She chronicled the changing seasons, community events, church activities, weddings, new families, old families, building projects, community milestones, neighborhood happenings, citizen comings and goings, agriculture and gardening news, school history, community history and the lives – and deaths – of Cowley and area citizens.
No one wrote about people with more love and kindness than Drue. Indeed, the last words from her column one week ago about longtime Cowley resident Rick Marchant were typical and touching. The final words of her long running column were: “…he will be missed not only by his large family, but by all the people he touched during his lifetime.”
Drue could have been writing those words about herself.
When we got to work Monday morning, there was a voice mail awaiting us from Drue. She said she had been in the hospital and probably wouldn’t have a column for us this week. Then a couple of hours later we learned that there would be no more columns from Drue.
There’s a hole on our “people page” this week and sadness in our hearts. But Drue is probably busy in Heaven visiting with all of the Cowleyites she wrote about for 15 years – and interviewing them.
Rest in peace, Drue. We’ll miss your musings, and we’ll miss you.