MARCUS, Iowa | Bo West walks through an empty house he and wife Sherry West bought two years ago.
The family has relocated to Plattsmouth, Neb., taking two children, Samantha, 16, and Samuel, 14, with them.
The Wests follow work opportunities. When doors close, as they have on this family, alternative doors must open.
Bo and Sherry West commuted to nearby Cherokee, Iowa, for two years, finding opportunity and paychecks at Tyson Deli Foods, the plant that closed eight days ago, putting an estimated 450 people out of work.
Bo left well ahead of closing time and started a job three months ago at Armour-Eckrich Meats, a division of John Morrell, in Plattsmouth. Sherry, a human resources clerk/benefits coordinator, stayed till the bitter end in Cherokee.
Moving is difficult. As is prepping a stately 101-year-old home for sale. Samantha and Samuel have started anew at Plattsmouth High and Plattsmouth Middle School, respectively. Adjustments for all.
Despite the upheavel, the Wests won't utter one ill word toward Tyson, the meat-packing giant. Bo says Tyson gave him a chance upon his return to civilian life.
"I didn't have a job after my time in the military," says Bo, who rose to staff sergeant before leaving the U.S. Army two years ago. "I started at Tyson 20 days after I got out of the Army."
His military service came to 10 years and included two tours of duty in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. His responsibilities in the Middle East involved keeping insurgents from secure areas. He protected neighborhoods as officials built schools and roads.
The Journal's front page story on Tuesday about Sioux City's goal of becoming Iowa's top destination for veterans returning to the workforce represents a rewind for West. He's been there and done that.
"Tyson has 'Camo to Khaki,' a great program that helps veterans get back into the workforce," he says. "I saw Tyson fly 37 veterans to Arkansas for interviews. Tyson paid for it all."
West returned from that trip and started in the maintenance and operations department at the plant in Cherokee. He served as a training supervisor and liked his job.
And now? He's an operations supervisor in a plant that produces pepperoni. He sees that his children find their footing in a larger school district. And he hopes his wife finds work soon, perhaps with Tyson. Doors close, doors open.
"Tyson offered me multiple positions in places throughout the country," says Bo West, a native of McCook, Neb. "I wanted to stay close to home."
Home. The word takes Bo West back to Marcus and his family's immediate challenge. The Wests must sell this three-bedroom, three-story structure. They're asking $89,500.
The residence occupies a tree-lined corner lot at the intersection of North Elm and Cedar streets. The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn school campus is five blocks south. Downtown Marcus is two blocks west. Casey's? Two to three blocks east.
The home features airy rooms with ceilings rising to 10 feet. Bo's favorite room is the kitchen, a skylight making it the brightest room in the house.
"It's all been redone except the basement," Bo says.
The basement is Samuel's favorite room, a place where he entertained peers.
It's now time for another teen to entertain here, another family to make this house a home.
"Housing will be a big issue for a lot of people," Bo says, "especially in Cherokee."
There are firms expanding, however, and Marcus is within easy reach of businesses here as well as those in Cherokee, Remsen, Le Mars, Orange City, Sioux Center and Storm Lake. Maybe doors here will open for another family.
Bo West walks through his kitchen, passes the main floor laundry and steps outside onto a deck that directs one past a fire pit and flower bed to a two-car detached garage. A southerly breeze stirs leaves and branches, creating a chorus among the oaks and elms that have kept a working family company.
"With all the trees and the annuals that bloom here, it's really a nice place," Bo West says.