Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 22 May 2012 15:21
In spring 2002, a 12-year-old walked into his hometown newspaper office, dropped a portfolio of writing samples on the editor’s desk and told the editor that he wanted to write a column.
I’m still not sure why, but the editor said yes, and 10 years ago—on May 22—the Hillsboro Free Press printed the first installment of this column.
It was supposed to run just for the extent of that summer, I’m assuming because the interests of a sixth- going on seventh-grader are likely to change with the seasons.
But here we are a decade later, and I’m finding myself a bit nostalgic.
The headline of the first wobbly crafted column was “Vacation looking busy for new Free Press columnist,” and it went something like this:
* * *
Finally, school’s out for the summer…and I’m planning a lot of activities, too. I’m going to church camp this summer. This year’s theme is “Stand.” I also went to church camp last year. It took me a whole week to get that pudding out of my hair that I “voluntarily” put in my hair the first night.
Of course, I’m also going to be participating in summer drama. This year it’s a musical called “Operatunists” (or something similar).
My family and I are also going to Colorado Springs, Colo. Or “Coloradio” as one of my cousins once said when he was little, don’t ask why.
Yep, this summer is starting to sound pretty full, now that I think about it. Did you know that this year’s summer is going to be 94 days? Don’t ask why the schools let us out of school for summer vacation when there’s 30 more days until summer actually begins.
I don’t see why the schools can’t just start school 30 days late, and then go on with the year like it was normal, only to get out 30 days after we would be getting out of school this year, meaning, we would get out on the first day of summer.
Whew! That was a mouthful.
But then kids would start getting antsy because it was so nice outside, and they were stuck inside, and Mr. Coryea—don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice man, and a swell teacher, but doesn’t have much of a heart for fun—wouldn’t even let us outside for a sip of fresh air.
So maybe it’s better that we do things the way we’ve always done them.
Well, it was fun writing my first public article. Oh, I just remembered another thing I’m doing this summer. I’m writing for the Free Press.
And don’t ask why.
* * *
I’ve grown up with this column: with me it has started and ended high school, started and ended college, purchased my first car (Max), planned a wedding (and an amazing marriage), gotten my first job and—to go all the way back to column No. 2, played with my collection of pet turtles.
(Sherman, Burt and Murtle, wherever you are, I miss you guys.)
I’ve used this column to discuss a wide range of topics. I’ve followed the footsteps of Dave Barry-esque topics, like the time I devoted at least 600 words to sniffing shampoo scents in Wal-Mart. And I’ve marched to the beat of my own drum, such as in 2009 when I directly criticized an institution that I did—and still do—care deeply about.
I suppose I’ve had one well-documented coming-of-age story.
Through the years I’ve been blessed with encouragement and open feedback from readers. I’ve made people laugh and cry. I’ve elicited criticism and triggered anger. And because of that all, I’ve learned a lot.
No matter how hard a person tries, it’s impossible to make everyone happy, much less agree.
In response, and as this column has evolved, it’s been a sort of mission to bring just a little bit of humor and absurdity to life. Our society is somber enough; if a reader wants a straight-faced analysis of current events, it’s easy to find elsewhere.
Ten years later, what started as a summertime hobby turned into years of writing. It’s been an incredible decade of experiences and opportunities. And—even better for a sentimentalist like me—next week I’m excited to join the Free Press team as a full-time staff member.
Of course, I’ll keep doing this column, too.
Don’t ask why.