Writers write and readers read and, always to this writer’s pleasant surprise, readers often write. Most letters and emails are either complimentary or inquisitive. More than a few, however, come nowhere near complimentary and some, in fact, are quite, ah, declarative.
For example, 2019 was just three days old when the editor of an Indiana newspaper that carries the column received this request: “Would one of you puppets of the commie New York masters please cancel my subscription … You make me sick to my stomach.”
Two days later, Jan. 5, another reader of the same newspaper emailed to second the motion. “I just read my first article by you … That also will be my last, after reading that paper for over 40 years. Never again.”
After that cool start, the winter mail got even frostier.
On Jan. 14, a writer who signed himself “Fed-up and PO’d Farmer” emailed a note to an Ohio newspaper that publishes the column. In part it read, “I am sick of hearing trashy city news attack Trump … pathetically, now we have a supposedly ‘pro-farm’ commentator in a rural publication adding to the LIES and twisted truths of that media.”
By February, though, a glimmer of warmth popped up in both the weather forecast and mail, although many dispatches still arrived wrapped in dry ice. “Sometimes you remind me of a story my father once told me,” noted Dave. After relating the (not-too-farmer-friendly) story, Dave personalized its punch line: “Do you even stop whining? Lighten up!”
A decidedly not-light, mid-March column that examined Costco and Walmart’s move into direct-farm sourcing of chicken and raw milk encouraged Mr. “Fed-up and PO’d Farmer” to take to his keyboard again.
“While most times this author is often not correct on agricultural happenings, he is dead-correct on this article … This is exactly what’s happening. Wake-up people!”
Other writers seemed to catch the backdoor spirit featured by Mr. Fed-up’s upside down compliment because similar emails soon began to arrive.
“Just wanted to comment a little as I have read your column from time to time (but) as I get older ... I’m finding myself not liking your articles as much anymore,” wrote Shannon, who then added a clear hint to just how old older might be: “Maybe I’ll email something (more) if I gots the time. But for now, I got got got got no time.”
Shannon, you rascal; very clever to sign off with a line the Guess Who used to rock out of their 1969 classic “No time.” (Equally clever is the name of the album the song first appeared on by this prolific Canadian Prairies band. “Canned Wheat,” of course.)
Another long-time reader, Mark, threw some serious shade my way with a complimentary dig. “I read your column… and look forward to it (but) I can’t always get through the whole thing … I just can’t figure out how a good Lutheran farmboy wound up a liberal! I’ve never known a liberal Lutheran farmboy!!”
You’re not alone, Mark, but just between you and me, I have it on good authority that heaven is full of ‘em. I mean us.
Another reader, Al from Minnesota, thought I could use a weekday sermonette. “Reading your opinion articles is way too negative for me. You seem to be unappreciative for all the blessings that God and this country has afforded you. Thanks. God Bless.”
You’re absolutely right, Al, I have been blessed. Truly blessed. All of us — readers, writers, and readers who write—should take more time every day to remember what really matters.
Then, if you have time afterwards, drop me a line to tell me why these weekly words matter to you. Or, if you choose, why they don’t.
Until then, I’ll see you in the newspaper.