Today marks my final installment of Life on the Dry Side.
Reorganization, budget cuts and the general state of the newspaper business have resulted in the elimination of my position as editor so my career with the East Oregonian drew to a close on Friday.
By the time you read this, I will be off wandering through the Great Smoky Mountains with no deadlines, no appointments, and no meetings. That my wife has actually agreed to go along is one of life's little surprises. She knows better from past experiences - as do my children. They remember with a sense of horror that an invitation to accompany me to the landfill could result in a 4-hour side trip wrapped in a promise to stop for a cheeseburger and fries.
Although I majored in journalism many decades ago, I never dreamed I would actually have a chance to return to the profession, if even for a fairly brief stint. I am grateful to the owners of the East Oregonian for making that possible.
I believe life is measured not so much in its totality, but in terms of a series of milestones. My two and a half years with the newspaper have been a rewarding part of that equation.
On to a new adventure.
I thought briefly about retirement but I'd rather be pecked to death by chickens.
I've written 147 columns over the last several years which amounts to about 106,575 words - or roughly the content of two average-sized novels. For people who abhor writing, the prospect of coming up with over 5,000 words a week - that includes the column, editorials, "Under Eastern Oregon Skies" and various other news stories - is a daunting challenge. For those who genuinely love writing, it's a privilege and a joy.
While my views are considerably more conservative than those of the owners of this newspaper, I appreciate the fact their only interest was that I reflect the values of our readers and Eastern Oregon in general. I'm sure there were times when they may have shuddered a little. I'm also pleased they have encouraged me to continue contributing to the editorial comment whenever time permits.
There's certainly not been the slightest bit of predictability about where we've gone with Life on the Dry Side. Perhaps that's what made it the most fun.
We've talked about chicken-fried steaks, Taco Tuesday at Meacham, school programs, brandings, raising cattle from an armchair, the mating habits of Sandhill cranes, rogue chickens in the Scottish countryside, local characters, pioneer families, turkeys that couldn't fly, and places most people in Oregon have never seen.
We've talked a whole lot about my family, but it was never really about our family. My hope was to write about things that spurred memories and caused readers to reflect on their own life experiences. Terry Murry taught me how to do that. Family vacations would be high on that list. I hoped people would sit down at the breakfast table on Sunday morning and reflect about similar experiences.
If there is any group that will be comforted by the absence of my written presence, it will most likely be my three children who picked up the Sunday paper every week with justifiable trepidation. They asked for a column of their own entitled "Flip Side" or "Our Side" but it wasn't to be.
On some Sunday afternoons, my son would call and say he thought that day's column was lame. I would remind him our readers represent a very diverse group from farmers, ranchers, and cowboys to elderly ladies, students, young families and a whole lot of others.
Maybe the most fun has been the readers who call or write about something they read and share their experiences with whatever topic or place we've been talking about.
I like the comment from the lady on Butter Creek who wrote to say how much she enjoyed getting to know her neighbors and learning about people she didn't yet know. I'm still amazed that after a mention of Mold, Washington, three people called to say they were natives of that tiny hamlet.
I will treasure getting to know the sixth-grader who wants someday to be a writer and who talked about how to introduce seemingly boring topics with a touch of humor.
A special note to the ladies who gather regularly for coffee in Heppner who called our production manager indicating while they enjoyed my stories about remote Eastern Oregon towns, they also worried that all of my traveling was costing the newspaper and how much of that cost was being passed on to the subscribers.
Confession: "Under Eastern Oregon Skies" was mostly a labor of love done on weekends and Mondays at almost no cost to my employer. I've spent a lifetime on the back roads of Oregon and Washington and being able to write about it was simply a gift.
H. H. Hill, a long-time reader of the East Oregonian wrote in this week to talk about our efforts to stitch Eastern Oregon into a new realization of what a "regional community is all about."
We live in a magnificent place and I am looking forward to my return. It's been fun highlighting the little towns that dot this portion of the state.
My great aunt Belle Tellier, who taught for 52 years in the Seattle School District, gave me my first copy of the Serenity Prayer which reminds us "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
I'm also a strong believer in fate and the idea that everything happens for a reason.
These are tough times around here and in this country in general. I'm certainly not the first or the last to lose a job and I'm grateful to have a new one, particularly because it's doing something I genuinely enjoy. My new employers apologized when they told me my job included making frequent trips to little towns all over Southwest Oregon. They asked if I would mind doing that.
I assured them it wouldn't be a problem.
As for my reincarnation as a writer - it's been great while it lasted. Thanks for joining me.
So, as they say in journalistic parlayance ...
... that's thirty.