I remember the day
my first column ran in the Mountain Eagle. It was in January 2007. Brian
Kennedy, who was the editor then, had told me it would run on the front page of
the Lifestyles …
I remember the day my first column ran in the Mountain Eagle. It was in January 2007. Brian Kennedy, who was the editor then, had told me it would run on the front page of the Lifestyles section that Sunday, but I wasn’t convinced. That morning I woke up at dawn. Lying in bed, I listened for the sound of the carrier’s car coming over the hill in front of our house. I know it was probably vanity, but I was excited about my first column.
Slipping out of bed, I turned on the coffeemaker and sat on the couch trying to meditate. That was a waste of time. I heard a car come over the hill and slow to a stop. Looking out the window, I saw that it was the Birmingham News carrier. I groaned and started to sit back down. Then another car came over the hill. I was at the mailbox by the time the Eagle carrier had slowed to a stop. He handed me the paper. I smiled and thanked him.
Standing by the side of the road, I flipped to the Lifestyles section. There on the left-hand side of the page was a picture of me not much bigger than a postage stamp. I read the column on the way back to the coffee.
Jilda must have heard me go outside because she was sitting on the couch when I came back in. “Is it in there?” she asked. Smiling, I handed her the paper. She leaned over and kissed my forehead as she handed the paper back to me. I smiled. I kept that first paper until the print faded.
The thing is, I’ve had my name in print before. I worked at The Community News in the early 1970s and wrote stories that appeared weekly. I’d also written pieces that appeared in the Post Herald and Birmingham News. But this was different. This was a weekly column written in the first person. It was my story.
I had a deadline that came as regularly as the light bill.
What I loved about my new column is that I could use my own words to tell the story of my life. It was a record of my existence. Anyone with a subscription to the newspaper could read about what I was up to. And for the last 11 years, that’s what I’ve done.
It was easier in the beginning. I had a stash of stories that were begging to be told. It did occur to me that my columns were personal and there was a chance they would not resonate with readers. As it turns out, there were a lot of people who shared similar experiences growing up in Walker County.
A few days ago, a woman stopped me in Walmart and talked to me as if we were old friends. When we walked outside Jilda asked, “Who was that?” I had to confess that I didn’t have a clue. That happens a great deal.
Even after 11 years, I love what I do. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write for friends that I didn’t know I had.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.