Starting at the beginning of the year, I began telling friends that I planned to retire from The Country Today July 31. I was so sure of the decision that I used 073117 as my computer password.
When June came along and the company was acquired by Adams Publishing Group, I voluntarily changed the password and the retirement date to November to help make a smoother transition for the owners. Things have been very smooth with the addition of Ben Wideman to the staff. We have been sharing hours in northeastern Wisconsin with the understanding that he will have it all when I finally get out the door.
Well, November has come and gone, and the retirement date (and password, of course) shifted to Jan. 1. It has to do with Social Security and insurance and all kinds of paperwork that only my accountant really understands, but it will be Jan. 1 or bust.
This late-year Writer’s Notebook gives me a last chance to answer a few questions readers have asked. One of them is, “What is your inspiration?” The answers are taped and framed around the picture window in front of my home office desk. One says “When I stand before God at the end of life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’ “
Another includes the whimsical drawing of a cubist angel and says, “In my dream the angel shrugged and said, ‘If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination,’ and then she gently placed the world in the palm of my hand.”
Another note is strategically placed for when I’m staring at Polliwog Pond instead of the keyboard. It says, “Writers are meant to live far inland or next to the city dump if they are ever to get any work done, or perhaps they need to be stronger-minded than I am.”
My good friend and TCT cartoonist Leigh Rubin gave me a signed copy of one of his Rubes cartoons. It shows a cow jumping over a farmer sunning his naked butt on a blanket in the barnyard. A goose watches from the side. Caption: “For Mother Goose, inspiration struck in the most unexpected moments.”
There are also the cartoons that help me laugh at myself, like the one showing comic animals lazing in the sun. It says, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” That is next to the cartoon of two dinosaurs on a rock surrounded by water and Noah’s ark floating away. One dinosaur says to the other, “Darn, was that today?”
Quite a few people have asked if I like my job. Absolutely! Where else do you get paid to learn such useful trivia as the mathematical chances of live quadruple heifer calves? Or maybe you’re stuck at a really boring dinner party and have to dig into your bag of tricks and get a rollicking conversation going about the pros and cons of continuous-flow anaerobic digesters or the various stages of digital dermatitis and how to do a bikini wrap. This is valuable stuff, folks!
The most recent question I’ve had is, “What are you going to do with all that spare time?” Anyone who has been following my tales of Polliwog Pond will know that the projects are never-ending around here. If I’m not making stuff, I’m fixing what didn’t quite come out right the first time ... or second time.
The great danger for many retirees is that when the projects are finished, they don’t know what to do with themselves. Fortunately, I have spent my life doing the kind of work that never really quits. There will always be interesting people with interesting stories to tell, and there will always be wondrous places that other people want to see, even if it is vicariously through words on paper.
I’ve also been asked to continue representing The Country Today at farm shows. How cool is that?! The pay scale will be a little different and the deadlines softer, but I plan to keep on asking questions and being a faithful friend to my computer keyboard.
The trick will not be finding things to do but remembering what date I ended up using for the password.
Sara Bredesen covers news and writes feature stories in northeast Wisconsin. She can be reached — until Dec. 31 — at firstname.lastname@example.org.