Blame my mom if you don’t like this letter.
She’s the reason I ended up the lone journalist out of a brood of four boys, and not just because she was at the other end of my umbilical cord.
Growing up, I wasn’t sure what mom wanted me to become because she never said. Dad kept trying to teach me Morse code and how to solder. I’m still not sure what line of work those skills would have qualified me for.
Dad yawned and mumbled something when I informed him I had been accepted to write for The Kokomo Tribune Teen Page, then went upstairs to tap out dahs and dits in his effort to WAC – that’s “Work All Continents” to you non-ham radio operators.
Mom, however, encouraged me after I embarked on my chosen profession — if you can call writing one 10-inch fluff piece a week for the local daily an embarking … or my feeble attempts at prose a profession.
In fact, she jump-started my career.
I had promised my editor, Lucy Lange, a feature about high school kids who worked at the county fair each year. I know, not exactly “All The Presidents Men.” Then again, I wasn’t exactly Charles Foster Kane.
But I digress.
The day of the scheduled interviews arrived overcast and rainy. There wouldn’t be many people attending the fair. So there was no point looking for kids to ask stupid questions like, “What will you do with the money you earn?” “Does anyone make you shovel up poop in the livestock pens?” and “How come the all-county basketball player can’t win a stuffed panda bear on the basketball shooting game?”
I’d go to the fair that night, after the rain stopped. Or the next day. “Guess again, young man, you’re going today. Right now.”
Mom reasoned that a rainy day was precisely when I should interview fair workers. They’d have time to talk and I could tell the world what went on — and didn’t go on — when there were no corn dogs to fry, no suckers to sucker with bent darts and rifles with crooked sights, no bodies to hurl through space on rides with names like the Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl.
Not even a 16-year-old genius could argue with logic like that. Besides, she held the key to my potential success as a journalist. Literally. She held the ignition key to our Chevy Malibu and I only had my learner’s permit. I wisely picked up a notebook and pen and followed her when she said, “You are going to the fair. And you will get the story you promised to write.”
I did, and I did.
And I’ve been writing ever since.