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The Last Windrow: Celebrating his 30th year

I’m celebrating my 30th year in 2013.

No, not my 30th birthday or my 30th wedding anniversary or my 30th year of my mortgage, I’m celebrating the 30th year of writing this column, The Last Windrow!

Thirty years ago, in 1983, to be exact, somehow I came up with the idea that someone might enjoy reading a column written by a kid who grew up on a small farm. Small farms had been rapidly disappearing from the landscape for a number of years before 1983, and the farm I grew up on was one of them.

The trend had been set ever since technology had come into the picture with bigger tractors and bigger machinery. That allowed a farmer to farm much more land than he could with a team of horses or a tractor that put out 20 or 30 horsepower.

And, that trend has never changed, even to today.

So, I had the idea of writing down some of my small farm experiences in hopes that someone a hundred years from now might pick one of my columns up by accident and find it interesting.

It takes a certain amount of guts and ignorance to write a column that goes into a newspaper to be read by people you don’t know on a personal level. A column isn’t the same kind of venue that a “letter to the editor” is. A column is personal and you stick your neck out every time you write one. Someone is going to like it, someone is not going to like it, and someone won’t really care if it’s there or not.

You put your heart on your sleeve when you open yourself up to such things.

I took a creative writing course in college. I thought I knew how to write until I got my first paper back from the professor and there was more red ink on the page than the black ink that I had used for my words. She basically told me to maybe try a different career other than writing.

It was a downer and I slunk out of class wondering why she didn’t like my story? But, I did come back with a revised version of my story that did earn me a C+. I considered that a victory of sorts.

Another of my journalism professors told me, “If you’re going to write a column, write about something you know something about. People can spot a fake writer a mile away.”

I remembered that advice when I wrote my first column back in 1983. In most instances, I try to write about something I have experienced or know something about. I could not write a column about a medical procedure or how to fly an airplane.

I can write a column about stray farm dogs, broken plow shares, neighbors who didn’t ever return borrowed machinery, Dick Krause’s bad back, chasing coyotes or seeding oats with an end-gate seeder.

Those things I can and do write about, and evidently someone is reading it because my newspapers keep printing my column and I still get lots of comments off the street that keep me going.

I’ve even received a few awards along the way for columns someone else has judged worthy of a certificate! I don’t write columns to win anything, but it is nice to know that at least one other human being liked something I had written. My old college professor would have been proud!

So, with those things in mind I have something planned for 2013. I am going to resubmit some of my favorite columns from years past. With more than 1,560 of them to choose from, I won’t have any trouble selecting a few. I’m going to call them “Classics”! Isn’t that what retiring singers call their last gasp at fame? Not that I’m thinking of retiring from writing right now, but there will be a day.

I’ll let you know when a “Classic” is being published. Some of you won’t care, some won’t read it, but some might. So much for writer’s confidence!

It’s been fun writing about my small farm experience. Somehow all those happenings have woven their way into my life and I find myself drawing on their teachings many times. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of them, and if not, why you can always line the bird cage or wrap fish cleanings with them.

That’s another thing my old college professor told me just to keep me or any of his students from getting a big ego. His words have worked.

See you next time. Okay?