July 19, 2024

COLUMN:Cooperation is something to strive for

Make your own case

I’ll never forget it.

The car used for the surprise trip I took my wife Jennifer, who was my then-girlfriend, to propose to her was a Geo Prizm. It was her car which had better gas mileage than my Ranger pickup I had at the time.

For those of you who don’t know the Geo brand of cars, it was a joint effort between General Motors and Toyota. Jennifer had to commute for her work at the time and the Geo was a great choice. The car didn’t have all the fancy bells and whistles, but getting at least 30 mpg on the highway was worth not having the glitz and gadgets. I thought it was honorable two competing car manufacturers could join forces to design a good car. That car was also driven on our honeymoon and there was still glitter coming out of the air vents years later after our families “decorated” our car before we left.

Of course, customers’ wants, needs, buying habits and GM’s and Toyota’s interests eventually ended the production of the Geo as a joint effort. That happens in business. I don’t know of any hard feelings between the two companies before the Geo line ended. I am just glad there was a cooperative effort between two car giants.

A Union Pacific locomotive pulls an Amtrak train Jan. 23 through Creston on a BNSF rail.

I was reminded of that cooperation last week. While running an errand last Tuesday, I noticed the eastbound Amtrak coming into Creston. But the train didn’t have its normal look. The train was being pulled by a Union Pacific locomotive. Think a little deeper about that and you will understand my point. A Union Pacific locomotive pulling an Amtrak train on a BNSF rail route. That is cooperation.

BNSF and the UP are the two biggest railroads in the country. There are some ongoing debates among the two and Amtrak, but it’s still comforting to see that kind of cooperation. The popular UP line is through central Iowa usually paralleling U.S. Highway 30.

(I’m probably over-generalizing, my guess is an Amtrak locomotive had trouble and an UP locomotive was close and available where ever the trouble happened and continued the trip. Maybe it’s all explained in the fine details with contracts and agreements, but even still, it’s good to know there are agreements that don’t leave Amtrak riders out in the cold, literally and figuratively.)

Seeing that Amtrak train happened at the right time for me. For those of you who remember Friday’s paper, it included St. Malachy’s annual special section promoting the school. They provide all the content and ask us to put it together for them. Before the holidays, principal Jennifer Simmons called me to let me know the schedule of this year’s section. The initial plan was to get us the content Jan. 12. Two weeks is plenty of time to put it together.

But Jan. 12 was one of the snow days. St. Malachy didn’t have school so I didn’t get the content. Fortunately, over that ensuing weekend, Jennifer sent me a link to access the content online. Great idea! But I had other things rescheduled but didn’t get to the content until almost a week later. Then the first hurdle popped up. There were some technical glitches with the pictures they wanted to use. The pictures were not compatable with our system. Nobody’s fault.

So I contacted Jennifer and we came up with a plan to find the original pictures and send them “as is.” That took a little while because Malachy had to get back in the school routine and there were plenty of pictures to find in their original condition. At the same time, there was a strong sense of cooperation. Nobody got upset. Nobody had to be blamed. The goal was to get the section done on time and presentable.

I had a wonderful exchange of information with Jennifer about the pictures and progress of the section. She also had her other things she had to do. But cooperation one and the section was finished as scheduled.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.