Well. By now you may have begun to notice that some of my more recent little radio essays have been sounding vaguely familiar. That’s because they were. I have been on an unintended sabbatical from this show since about August of last year. After discovering the return of endometrial cancer in mid-July, things outside my concern for my possible mortality got a little hazy — irrelevant, one might even say. I notified the folks here at KSMU that I would be going on hiatus for an indefinite period, and instead of wishing me well and sending me on my way, they said, no, they would just save my space for me.
How would they do that, I asked, and Jennifer Moore, now Davidson, just smiled and said “Reruns.” It was a huge gift, and I am more grateful than I can say.
So today’s news is, I’m back, and I’ll be back until I fall over or they throw me out for excessive doddering. The only changes of note since I’ve been away are that I’m not as strong as I was, my hands shake, I have a tiny collection of bits of implanted precious metals way deep in my innards, and I may still be somewhat radioactive. Other than that, it’s just back to business, part of which now is keeping those inevitable doddering days at bay.
I am reminded of the time, back in 1986, when I moved to West Plains to take a job at The Quill, the town’s daily newspaper. It was a splendid place to be a journalist of the old school, back when the job was a sacred trust, the only occupation actually protected by the Constitution. I was there to witness the transition from the earliest version of the desktop computer, a Tandy with a green screen and no on-board memory, to the many gigabyte miracle machines of today. No on board memory meant that you wrote the story in real-time and saved it to a disk. And if the disk was faulty, well, then, in the words of the city editor, it became one with the universe, and you wrote it again.
I was also there to witness the final unplugging of the once-ubiquitous teletype machine. replaced by a computer that brought the news to us quicker and so it didn’t need to be retyped. The price was the silence. You’d think we’d be happy at the lack of noise. But it no longer sounded like a newspaper office. It it was difficult to get used to, this loss of the ticker, and felt somehow profound, as if the pulse of the very institution had somehow flatlined.
But it wasn’t just the newspaper that was making a shift into the 20th century as it was drawing to a close. Radio was becoming computerized, and cable TV was being challenged by satellite systems. More and more, people like me, in the midst of becoming old-timers, found our realities more centered in the past than in the ever-changing tomorrow.
For instance, when I arrived in West Plains, radio was still completely, sometimes painfully, live. I will never forget the morning I tuned the car radio to the local station on my way to work to find the weather report being delivered by an elderly lady with a bad cough – and the sound of a wringer washing machine quite audible in the background. And then the phone rang, the dog barked, she scolded the dog, picked up the phone, said “I can’t talk now, I’m on the radio.” She then vigorously cleared her throat and continued with the forecast.
It was my first encounter with Mrs. Kreigh, who, with her husband, broadcast the local weather from their basement, relying on well-kept notebooks of local weather history and a little weather station, donated by the National Weather Service, in their back yard. They were remarkable accurate except in terms of local rainfall, which was sometimes skewed by the habit of local high school boys occasionally stopping by at night and reaching across the fence to top off the rain gauge. Being so far out in a mostly rural area, we still get reports from regional stations that are based on their reports from local people. Eventually, I expect, they’ll just send out little drones to gather their data, and we won’t get asked anything at all.
And as for that, I expect one day in the not so far future, I, too, will become obsolete, as the Ozarks becomes more homogenized into a national sameness and our unique ways and culture, not to mention our lack of an accent, go the way of the dinosaur, the teletype, and the Kreighs. But in the meantime, I’ll keep coming to visit with you on your way to work or on the way home, bringing you pictures of your past, and commentaries on the commonplace in these beautiful Ozark Hills. This is Marideth Sisco. It’s good to be back.
God bless you, Marideth! So many things have become “irrelevant” in the eyes of society. As long as there are good people like you, the heritage will be preserved and honored(as it should be). I spent six years teaching in Arkansas in the parochial school system and loved it! May these days be filled with peace, grace and reflection for you. You are in my thoughts, prayers and yes, music!
Peace from an admirer,
Fr. Joseph Havrilka
Let us, then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate.
Still achieving, still pursuing;
Learn to labor and to wait.
Dear Fr.Havrilka – Your sweet blessing touched me to my soul. Long ago, I was having a conversation with my then spiritual advisor, in which I worried that I would never be able to succeed in life with only my few talents with words and music. He replied, “It’s a little like being a preacher.” When I asked how so, he said, “You probably shouldn’t do it unless you have to.” I have considered words and music my “calling” ever since. Thank you so much for your kind words and kind heart.
You’re welcome, dear! Your music brings me much comfort. Speakin’ of preachin’…St. Francis used to tell his friars, “Preach often and when necessary use words.” Your singing has “soul” and speaks volumes about your passion for music. Peace…
Fr. Joseph H.
May you never become obsolete !!!
Thank you, dear Bebe. I’m taking Satchel Paige’s advice, who said “Don’t look back; something might be gainin’ on yuh.”
I’m so glad you are feeling better and back on the air. For all the changes you mentioned, I’m grateful for the medical advances that are keep you around. May those buried precious metals keep glowing for years to come.
I worry about the Ozarks getting homogenized, too. But who knows. The music sounded pretty darn specific the last time I was in Springfield. Although it is unsettling to see so much farmland gone forever and a true accent is getting hard to find.
Anyway, welcome back from here in the North Country where it has warmed all the way up to 19 degrees, I’m planning my garden and I need to bring in the wood before dark.
Ha!Your post made me laugh, because I just finished my garden seed list yesterday and ordered leeks. I was pretty sure that was ridiculously premature, but then went to buy groceries and found specials on newly arrived onion sets and seed potatoes. I’m afraid we’re about to go straight from a too-cold winter to a too-wet spring. Let’s find a time before it’s too busy to visit over a cuppa tea and bat around some garden wisdom, yes?
Sounds good! I am in NYC now, will head back to VT in a day or two. I’ll be in the Ozarks in May. I hope to see the dogwoods. Will let you know. Would be fun to have that cup of tea. My garden’s under a couple of feet of snow now but spring will have to be here at some point.
Welcome back. You were missed. Your commentary reminds me greatly of my friend, now deceased, who truly loved “these Ozark hills”. Winter’s Bone was great!!
Thanks. It’s good to be back.
Welcome back. I love your songs and your stories. May you have a long time yet to pass on the wisdom and ways of the hills.
Thanks so much for the blessing. I hope to stick around until everybody is sick of hearing from me.
Is there a podcast for your show?