My Farewell Column

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I've been writing this column for 31 years. So I've decided it's time to take down my shingle.

This will be my last From These Hills column for the Clay County Times-Democrat. When I started writing the weekly column, the Piggott and Rector papers had not combined.

Publisher Ron Kemp hired me to write the Piggott column and to also write feature stories and to gather school news. Together we came up with the title for my column. It later appeared weekly in the Clay County Democrat in Rector, too. In the beginning, I used an electric typewriter, then progressed to desktop computers.

I often wrote about bluebirds, the woodlands, and wild animals that lived in the woods around my house. There were deer, foxes, coyotes, raccoons and other animals.

There was a large blue heron that came to fish in my fish pond. I wrote about the ducks and geese that swam on the pond and slept on the bank. And about my ugly pet Muscovy duck that came to my backdoor for a bread treat.

I wrote about the stray cats and dogs that often stopped by my place for a month, or maybe much longer.

Slick, the stray yard dog, made his home with me for several years before he contracted cancer and had to be put to sleep by our local veterinarian. Actually, Slick divided his attention between my son's home and mine, separated by a gravel road. He couldn't decide which place he liked most so he moved back and forth.

Over the years I wrote about my pets, including Chip the housedog, Mack, my pet parrot, the weather, travel, my children and grandchildren, marriage, men, cancer and survivors, my mother's Alzheimer's, church, the trials and joys of life. I wanted my columns to be short and sweet and "full of meat."

While writing those weekly columns, Ron Kemp allowed me free range to choose any subject I wanted to write about, without censorship. Not once did he reject one of my columns.

At the newspaper, I've seen writers come and go. I've seen managing editors stay for a while, then move on. Two longtime employees, Louise Ellis, and Marie Hillyer, were my friends and mentors as I adjusted to the local newspaper routine and deadlines. Both of them retired several years ago.

I have had a good working relationship with Tim Blair, news reporter, and Diane Risinger, general manager. They have been most helpful when I experienced "writer's block" or my computer was down.

I am thankful to the readers who have expressed their thankfulness for a particular column I've written. "I always read your column first," I've heard readers say many times. Thank you for that and for other expressions of appreciation.

My aim was to bring a smile, or a laugh or a tear, or to touch the heart of the reader, to make a connection. If I did that, then I succeeded.

I'll see you around. You made my day.