They were vibrant, insightful and full of questions.
They were junior journalists on the trail of news that impacted Craig Middle School, covering topics such as the RAD program, Pride Day, what the yearbook staff was up to and the athletes of Special Olympics.
I was asked to speak at teacher Stephen Ghirardelli's extended studies class of seventh and eighth graders who are working on their school newspaper.
The topic was the art of the interview but the 45 minutes covered so much more.
After my talk on the best way I knew how to get information out of people, we moved on to what stories they were working on and who they were talking to for their articles.
Then they got to ask me questions about my profession and how a newspaper works.
"How did you get into journalism?"
That was the question that took me back to a time when I was a little older than the youth to whom I was talking.
I was in the tenth grade and I was on the high school newspaper, writing about the "hot topics" that were shaping my world. Would the school continue to have a smoking area for students? Would the district finally implement a dress code that would outlaw T-shirts bearing that little green monster that was flipping everyone off? What was that meat covered in the brown stuff that cafeteria ladies were slopping up in the lunch room?
The experience reminded me of just what touched off the torch that still burns brightly for journalism.
I ended up working on the newspaper staff, the year book staff and the literary staff that year, becoming a stranger to most of my teachers.
But I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.
As one teacher told me, "Vestal, black ink must flow through your veins."
And it still does.
I ended up working at my college newspaper in Las Cruces, N.M., and jumping on the staff of the local metro before I even finished with my course work.
What got me the most was covering the issues that mattered, or at least what I thought mattered to "the average Joe."
It's the realization that not only do I get to cover hotly contested issues and put them in perspective, not only do I get to cover trials that have ramifications that ripple through a community, not only do I get to cover people who just by being who they are make a difference in the lives of many, I was getting paid for it, too.
"What do you like about journalism?" another student asked.
I had become a member of what I felt then and what I still feel today is a noble profession that pulls the veil off the people's business so the people can know what is going on.
That allows me to meet people that in any other profession I might not meet and to hear stories so that I can tell those stories that others may not ever get to read.
I carried that flame through Taos, N.M., Ruidoso, N.M., Steamboat Springs and then to Craig.
And it still burns in me today.
Sometimes, as in any business, you get caught up in the day-in, day-out grind of getting through another day and it's easy to lose sight of the big picture.
But there are those little events of the day that put things back in perspective.
One of those little events happened Wednesday when I attended that extended studies class.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, their youthful insight inspiring and as much as I might have passed on to them, I thank them for what I got out of the experience.
"Bleeding the Black Ink" is a weekly column that aims at getting readers better acquainted with the Craig Daily Press, the First Amendment and the newspaper industry. Do you have a question or an issue for an upcoming column? Call Terrance Vestal at 824-7031 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.