No Way I Could Do This Alone, Or Want To

commentary editorial opinion

A few weeks ago, former Will County judge Roman Okrei complimented me on a column he read in Farmers Weekly Review.

I often have to think when people say that, because I write one every two weeks, and the U.S. Mail system does not always keep the same timetable.

But this column to which he referred was written by Sandy Vasko, Director of the Will County Historical Museum and Research Center in Lockport. She wrote about how relatively similar the number and types of crimes was similar in the 1870s and it is now.

Sandy was a big hit when she spoke at the Joliet Kiwanis meeting at Roman’s request. She talked for about 15 minutes, but could have easily done three times that, and all the while, keeping the attention of the group.

Sandy’s column in Farmers Weekly Review, under the heading Our Rural Heritage, began on April 9, 2020. That edition, like most other media then, was focused on the response to the growing pandemic.

But we titled her column under that heading because it was, and is, focused on the history of our county as a rural economy, and its transition to a more urban area, contributing varied goods to the local, regional and national economy.

One hundred, seventy-five columns later, she has joined Manhattan Renaissance Man John Kiefner and Nancy Kuhajda, Master Gardener extraordinaire, as writers critical to the success – survival really – of this newspaper.

As we continued through toward the end of 2020, Famers Weekly literally operated week to week. We just didn’t know. There were many cutbacks, including the number of pages, meaning I would share the Page 2 column duties with John.

We could have stopped any of these columns. Space was at a premium. But these columns were, and are, premium.

John, for all his weirdness, offers great insight into the challenges and rewards of farming, having to adapt to Mother Nature and the market, as needed.

So, yes, I do wince when I see that he has been eating old food out of the fridge. And I’ll warn him to get his column in, even if he has to write it on the commode.

Also, it was John’s idea to ask people to submit old pictures of their farmsteads, which we now call Farm Days Gone By. And yes, we always need more pictures.

Nancy? Nancy is my gardening “Butterball Hotline.” Why aren’t my tomatoes larger? How much do I water? Why does my potato look like Paul Harvey?

Generally, she will provide this information for me and for many, many others in her weekly columns. It wasn’t easy getting her to write it. She is so busy working with kids and other groups on their gardening projects, as well as her very popular speaking engagements.

Several years after me begging her, Nancy said she was ready to give it a try. She now says it is a labor of love. You can tell that in her writing. I look forward to my weekly lesson in gardening, and I know others do, too.

Speaking of which, I love history. I ache to know what was here before us and what we gave up in the name of progress. Why a certain area carries a name that doesn’t seem to make sense now, but it did 150 years or so ago.

Sandy’s columns, culled from local history books and old newspapers, tell us how our county grew, who grew it and why. Often, she shares photos of those people and/or the structures they built. Some still are there, preserved; some in not so good shape; most gone.

But as long as we have people like Sandy who not only preserve this information, but share it with others, they never are really gone. And you can see more for yourself at the museum/research center.

Among her followers – former WGN newsman Mark Suppelsa, a Lincoln-Way grad now living the life of a sherpa in Montana. And there are many others who have questions about what they have read in her latest column.

I am blessed to be working with these talented writers. Sandy said wondered at one point during the pandemic how long the paper would last.

Sandy, because of you, Nancy and John, for the foreseeable future, at least.

There you go. Hoist by your own petard.

Thank you.

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