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When it's cold, build a fire in the fireplace, or the woodburning heater, or maybe just light a candle and look in the flames, look deep in the flames for the answers.

I've always believed they are there, and this time of year is a time for questions. It is a time to weigh the events of the past year and toss them around and ask why.

It has been a good year for each of us in some respects, and a bad year in others. Just like every year.

A few of our young people died this year. Others were born. Some precious old-timers left us, too, but at least they'd had the chance to hang and rattle and turn gray. It was the young ones that make us ask the tough questions.

But there were also the beautiful things that happened this last year. People went out of their way to help others. People tried valiantly to better themselves. Some did it by studying a foreign language. Some did it by taking wood shop at the community college. Dewey did it by managing to get acquainted with his dream woman. Doc held another of his unique golf tournaments to raise money for winter clothes for kids. The old Miller Dairy got pulled down. Many of us were worried about kids playing in there and getting hurt. It really wasn't safe any more. And while we'll miss seeing it out there, with that big tobacco ad painted on its roof, we'd miss having those kids around even more. You make decisions and hope for the best.

There were some new homes built this year, and Steve has been spending more and more time in his cabin up in the mountains not too far from Jasper Blankenship's mining claim. Steve just needed a hole-up spot. A place where a cowboy can go and no one can kick him out.

And so our world says goodbye to another year and we'll hope the next one is better, and it probably will be. Life brings the good and the bad together at this time of year and helps us wash our lives with a laugh and a tear and a dollop of forgiveness.

Brought to you by Slim's award-winning advice book "A Cowboy's Guide to Growing Up Right." Start your year off right at http://www.nmsantos.com/Slim/Slim.html.


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