Mike left us much too soon a few months back, but his column can be found in desks of his journalistic kin from coast to coast. I suspect it is referred to quite often when that “kin” has absolutely nothing to say and deadline is like two hours, three minutes, and 14 seconds away.
There is this also, the official prayer of the National Association of Newspaper Columnists:
“I live my life
“In mortal dread,
“Some day I’ll die
“One column ahead”
I may have used a few of Mike’s ideas along the way, and I also keep a copy of that prayer at hand. But I have my own list, too. It’s not written anywhere, but holds a special drawer in my mind and is there to be hauled out when needed.
Like most columnists, I know there are certain subjects that have the life of perennial weeds ... Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s resolutions, Valentine’s Day, Ground Hog Day, National Cornbread Day, autumn, winter, spring ...
With me swimming against a tide of the blonde’s kin from Ohio and South Carolina and Florida (a few I can recall) in a gathering of her clan, the burden for this morning’s essay finally hit me in the gathering dusk of Saturday’s twilight.
I didn’t just hit the panic button, I stomped on that sucker. I then clicked on Google in search of an idea (preachers have the Bible, we latter-day columnists have Google).
There it was, in my e-mail box ...
It’s HOT! Go Jump In A Lake!
What it was, was a piece of junk mail touting the advantages of belonging to a boat club on White Bear Lake in Minnesota without actually owning a boat (imagine that).
What it didn’t say was I had not yet written my annual love letter to heat and another summer in my life.
So, with the late Cody Hall’s advice on column writing — “Recycle and disguise, Smith, recycle and disguise” — doing a dance on the keyboard, here ’tis ...
“It was in the summer of 2011 when the peaches from Chilton County were in their second month of ...”
Pause ... a long one ... start again.
“Julia Burton, one of the great people I have ever known, warned me back in March that ‘summer is just sitting up there on the hill right behind spring ... you do know spring comes before summer don’t you ...’”
Pause ... start again ... again.
“It is 6 p.m. and Diane Sawyer just said good night, but James Spann, 33/40’s chief meteorologist is in the house. Spann, who knows almost as much about the weather as God, has his suspenders hitched and ...”
Pause ... third “start-over.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, heat got here in a hurry. Thing is, I don’t exactly hate heat. Truth is, these are the days that may be of some help on the other side of the veil if God is having a bad day when I show up and he takes it out on ...”
Pause ... a very, very long one this time ... and hold on, I’m re-reading my last two summertime opening graphs ... finally ...
I’m back ... and it has occurred to me this summer train, year of 2011, is going nowhere. If I were a true journalist instead of a columnist not required to be really factual, I’d not only be in trouble with God at the moment, but the boss, too.
So ... I shut down the computer with two things in mind:
1. I still have this “summer’s here” column in the bank should I need it next week.
2. I need to be in church Sunday morning and have a little talk with You Know Who.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: email@example.com