Tag Archives: Northern Boone County Bullseye

Waiting for the moment spring is sprung

This is from "The Best Of" files of previously published articles and columns. We lived on a mini-farm at Clark, Mo., while we owned The Bullseye.

I always seem to miss it.

Every year, I promise myself that I’ll see it happen, embrace it, and when it makes its gradual appearance, I’ll be there to witness the miracle. But somehow, I always miss it. One day it’s a little warmer, maybe around 70, and then the spring peepers start peeping at night, the surest harbinger of spring that there is. Those little croakers can even peep their tune when the nights are in the 40s (and how’s that, since they’re amphibians?). Once they get started, they don’t shut up. And I love it. Spring is coming.

The season is changing. A few leaves start to bud out, those early lilies get ready to bloom, and the crackled, brown pastures take on a greenish hue. The variety of songbirds coming to the feeders changes almost daily and, if you’re really, really lucky, you just might spot a winter-weary snake on one of those first warm days. I’ll even spend long hours in a lawn chair outside.

If I get my way, I’ll have a hammock where I can repose with one or both of my “boys,” the black labs “Fierce” and “Freddy.” (Don’t be fooled by Fierce. Even though he loves to cuddle and doesn’t enjoy rough play the way Freddy does, Fierce is the Alpha male of this two-dog pack. I’ve seen how his quick glare can cause the hair on Freddy’s back to stand). The boys are still puppies, getting close to a year old, and they’ve been waiting for spring to get sprung, too. In fact, Freddy treats every morning like the first day of spring. He’s just so happy it’s almost painful to watch. Everything is wonderful, the world is his to enjoy, and his tail would fly right off if he wags it even one bit harder.

But it’s coming. Spring is getting here quickly. The winter was long and dark (short days really rob my psyche of sanity), but it wasn’t necessarily long and cold. It snowed, what, three times? The biggest snowfall was maybe 3 or 4 inches. Still, the rest of creation knew it was winter, so there was that awful dormancy that filled me with melancholy.

So I’ve been waiting. Fierce and Freddy are waiting. The red birds are waiting and need warmer weather so they’ll stop gorging themselves. We’ve got one Cardinal that just kind of waddles around the base of a feeder. It’s so plump, the thing looks like a tiny red chicken. I’ll not watch that bird for long, though, because I want to see it when it happens. I want to see spring come.

Two years ago while I spent most of March helping survey a 10-square-mile farm in Saline County, I watched the days get longer and the air get warmer. I remember the day the buzzards came back from wherever it is buzzards go for the winter. One by one, the winged scavengers landed in the crest of a lightning-damaged tree. I was sure they had come to eat me – such was my personal darkness. They mocked my sour disposition, but the longer days and warmer temperatures kept them at bay. I watched their soul-cold glares so long that when spring came, I missed it.

Last year, we were getting ready to start restoring an old farm house, and even though there were one-on-one moments with nature — like the little fox that studied me with as much curiosity as I studied him — life got so busy that one week it was 65 degrees every day and, the next thing I knew, it was the Fourth of July.

Missed it again.

I’m not sure you understand how much I look forward to spring. I don’t just want to see the green emerge. I want to smell the difference in the leaves. I want to stand so still that I can hear the May apples poke their heads through the soil. I want to hear the feathers gently brushing against eggs as the robin on the nest shifts its position.

There was a day in January when it was something like 2 degrees and icy. I overheard someone say, “This is what we prayed for in August.” I’m not so sure about that, but now that we’re on the topic, how about changing that prayer this year. When it’s been 100 degrees for two weeks, just ask for spring all over again.

And, this time, ask for plenty of opportunities to hear it, smell it, feel it and see it arrive.

Don’t miss it this year.


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Filed under A reporter's life, Family, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

The written record, etched in time

Countdown to Kianna

Eighteen days, 17, 16, 15, 14 — two weeks until Feb. 19, the date that Kianna Allene Brown is set to arrive.

Kelly — Grammy — finished sewing two mattress covers for Baby Kianna on Saturday, so it’s time. After we attend church with Kishia and Darnell this morning at One in Christ Baptist Church in Jefferson City, maybe we can have a little lunch and then drive to Boone Hospital to get little Kianna delivered.

Sure. Good plan.

The written record(s)

I love my job as a news reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. Thirty years ago when I started in this profession, I reacted to my byline with a reaction of, “How cool! My name’s in the paper. I wrote that article.”

The ego-boosting property of one or more daily bylines isn’t what it used to be, but I’m still amazed that I get to go to work every day as a reporter. I barely have two years of college on my resume’ and it’s that lack of formal education, among other things, that often leaves me feeling like I don’t belong. I still smile almost every time I walk through the Tribune doors. I can’t believe I get to make a living doing what I hoped I’d be doing when I was 13.

Before that I was planning to attend college at Arizona State University – probably on a baseball scholarship (of course) – and pursue the love of the first decade and three years of my life: Reptiles. ASU is the college Reggie Jackson attended before embarking on a Hall of Fame baseball career, but more than that, ASU at the time had the nation’s preeminent herpetology program.

Seriously. I was sure I was born to be a herpetologist – a reptile scientist. (Not “reptilian” scientist, like the aliens in “V.” But that would have been cool, too). I’d probably specialize in snakes and lizards. Besides, I was already on my way to “expert” status with all the snakes and/or lizards I’d already captured, studied, fed and been bitten by.

Eventually, though, I realized there was one problem.


The prerequisites for admission to the Arizona State herpetology program included all the advanced math and science that was available on the planet, which meant that most of those courses weren’t available at Maries County R-2 High School in Belle, Mo. I was a “B” student in algebra 1 and 2, and geometry, but I had to absolutely bust my hump to get that grade.

Nothing else in high school – with the exception of my principal – gave me as much grief as math. Time for trig and calculus?

See ya.

And that’s basically how I ended up a journalist. I figured I wouldn’t need advanced math for this profession and – sorry, Mr. Fann – I was right. Anyway, it worked out pretty well. Not that many jobs out there for herpetologists, I suppose.

Last night I shuffled through a Rubbermaid tub of old newspapers and clips with my byline. I’ve been a reporter, stringer, sports writer or editor for: The Belle Banner (my hometown newspaper, including sister papers The Bland Courier and the Maries County Gazette-Advisor in Vienna); The Muleskinner (campus paper at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg); the Gasconade County Republican weekly newspaper in Owensville; the Post-Tribune and Daily Capital News, evening and morning editions of the Jefferson City News Tribune; South Callaway Courier weekly newspaper in Holts Summit, which eventually became the twice-weekly Callaway Courier and then the daily Callaway Courier, and then back to the weekly Courier – mostly with a three-person staff; the Fulton Sun; Hannibal Courier-Post; Mexico Ledger; Quincy Herald-Whig; California Democrat; Centralia Fireside Guard; my own Northern Boone County Bullseye, which published 202 editions before “expiring” in September 2008; and the Columbia Daily Tribune. Countless bylines attached to articles picked up by The Associated Press have appeared from coast to coast.

That makes me almost laugh out loud with glee. I can’t believe I’ve been able to do this for a living. It makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is mistaken for an employee at a big company until finally he writes a business report and the boss says something like, “This stinks. It’s as if you have no business training at all.”

I keep waiting for someone (besides an angry reader) to tell me that.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #23

The birds have been singing a little more loudly the past few mornings. I keep bird seed available in a couple of feeders, one of which gets raided by the squirrels. I can’t wait for you to discover things like squirrels and birds and earthworms and crickets and the hidden world of creatures that lives in the grass in your own backyard.

We’ll look through a telescope into the cosmos. We’ll grow our own paramecium and look at them under a microscope.

There’s so much to hear, see, feel, taste and smell. (Note to Grandpa: there’s another story entirely about “smell.” Maybe later. Right, Kishia?)

It’s gonna be GREAT!

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Filed under A reporter's life, Family, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress