Have you ever written a letter to the editor or a column for your local newspaper? I started at age 10.

My first excursion into journalism was drafting a letter to the editor in regard to the low prices of hogs. I wrote it in 1956 and sent it to the Wallaces Farmer magazine.

I was aware of my parents' conversations about the low price they were about to receive on a load of hogs that just left the farmyard. Their tone of voice was concerning to me, and hence I felt the urge to relate those feelings to whoever might be listening.

My first excursion into journalism was drafting a letter to the editor in regard to the low prices of hogs. I wrote it in 1956 and sent it to the Wallaces Farmer magazine. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.
My first excursion into journalism was drafting a letter to the editor in regard to the low prices of hogs. I wrote it in 1956 and sent it to the Wallaces Farmer magazine. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I was a bit surprised when I received a letter back from the magazine that they were going to publish my letter in an upcoming edition. Of course, there was no payment to be expected, but just the thought that my lines would be read by many others gave me a morale boost.

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My English teacher proudly showed my letter to the rest of the class after the magazine arrived in our mailbox. My career in writing was born.

The Floyd River was prone to flash flooding in the 1950s and destroyed many homes along its banks as it swirled through nearby Sioux City. My grandparents' house was flooded by such an event in 1952. It was a mess.

A plan was devised to end this unpredictable event and the Floyd River was tamed by a Corps of Engineers project that ended up creating what could be called a straight ditch through the lower reaches of the river. The plan worked, but the essence of a picturesque flowing river was changed forever.

But instead of floods, there was a boring stream. Some called that good. I didn't like it.

With that success the attention turned to taming the lower reaches of the Big Sioux River on Iowa's western border. The plan was the same as the Floyd. Straighten out every curve in the river and create a ditch to take the water away faster, thus opening a lot of farmland.

Wooded bend in the Big Sioux River, seen from overlook in Stone State Park, Sioux City, Iowa. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.
Wooded bend in the Big Sioux River, seen from overlook in Stone State Park, Sioux City, Iowa. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I and my uncles and others fished catfish along the banks of the "Sioux" and I saw that all going away if the plan came to fruition. I wrote an editorial opposing that plan, signed my name and sent it to the Sioux City Journal and to the Corps of Engineers. So did many others.

The Big Sioux still curves its way through the boundary of Iowa and South Dakota. Yes, farmland there gets flooded on occasion, but that flood water is the very reason that land is so fertile during the years of no floods. Record crops can be produced on the deep, rich soil. There was a trade-off.

My point is that writing a letter to the editor or creating a column has its merits. And, it is important that the writer signs his or her name to the letter or column. It is too easy to criticize an organization or a person and not sign your name. It takes guts to put your name on the line, but that's what is required if the letter writer is to be considered legitimate.

You can't hide behind a pen's ink. We've got a lot of that going around lately, in my opinion.

I started writing at age 10 and look where it got me - here in front of you at age 74! It's been a real ride! Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.
I started writing at age 10 and look where it got me - here in front of you at age 74! It's been a real ride! Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

So even if your English isn't perfect (they have editors for things like that) and your punctuation isn't pristine, if you want to praise or comment on an event or an organization or a cause, grab a pen and get busy.

Others will read it, I promise.

If you don't believe that, try making a mistake in your letter or column and you will hear about it. People do read yet, regardless of what you hear on TV. Just know that before you begin laying down your thoughts.

I started writing at age 10 and look where it got me - here in front of you at age 74! It's been a real ride!

See you next time. Okay?