Thirty six years of miles and memories


Thirty-six years ago yesterday I started working for Farm Press.

It was a stressful morning. I had to switch names on an airline ticket. The late Harris Barnes, who was editor of Southeast Farm Press at the time, had planned to cover a weed tour sponsored by the University of Kentucky Extension Service. He had a conflict and thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get to know the territory—on my first day of work.  I used his airline tickets. They let you do that back then.

I was flying out of Atlanta, where I would be based once I found a place to live, but I was still in South Carolina, so I had to get up early, drive three hours to the Atlanta airport—in rush hour traffic—to make the flight.

I did. I arrived in Lexington, rented a car and had to ferret out where the Kentucky weed tour was stopping.  I found that, too—and a hotel, and the agenda for the next few days.

I made it back to South Carolina by Thursday, wrote up the notes from the tour, mailed the stories, along with black and white photos, to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and made plans to cover another weed tour—this one in Alabama, Florida and Georgia—the following week. That began a routine that persisted for most of the next three-plus decades.

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I don't know how many flights I've made in the last 36 years, can't imagine the number of bad hotel beds I've tried to sleep in, or how many dirt roads I've traveled looking for a farm, a ranch or a tour of some kind. I’ve been lost in the country more times than I like to admit.

On behalf of Farm Press I've traveled coast to coast, a foreign country or two, shot thousands of pictures ( a few of them usable) and pounded out enough words on typewriter and computer to fill several books.

I also have been privileged to work with some of the best people on this planet. That starts with the folks at Farm Press I found willing to accept a rank greenhorn.  Glen Rutz, Ed Phillips and Hembree Brandon, all of whom are still gainfully employed by Farm Press, had already logged in a few years. Glen and Hembree both celebrated 40 years of service earlier this year. Ed was still fairly new.

All three, at one time or another, have taken my rough copy and made it readable. They taught me a lot about writing clean, crisp sentences (mostly), and to make certain photo subjects remove sunglasses in the field. Sometimes I still need tweaked, and these three, and others, do amazing jobs of making me look better than I am. Forrest Laws came on a few years later and often fixes my comma mistakes.

Ann King, our office manager, came in a year after I did and I can’t recall the number of times she’s corrected an expense report, talked me through indecipherable insurance forms, and kept me humble (no small task). Sandy Perry, whose various responsibilities defy a title, helps me with all manner of computer trouble, printing jobs, and glitches too numerous to name.

I could go through the staff and list folks who have saved my bacon many times but space is limited. I will mention Slate Canon who builds Southwest Farm Press pages and helps me through the new world of website management. And Sherry Cook who is incapable of being grumpy when I ask for a favor over the phone. We have great people at Farm Press.

And then there are the hundreds of farmers, ranchers, Extension, research and industry people I have been privileged to interview since June 19, 1978, and who have made my job seem more fun than work.

Someone is credited with saying something like: if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life. I guess I haven’t worked much in 36 years.




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