Here, write a column that can make a difference
By Larry Dreiling
Whenever I write my personal columns for publication, it’s for a darned good reason. Something usually fires me up hotter’n a griddle making flapjacks, sort of like those “Ed Anger” columns in the long-departed U.S. version of The News Of The World.
This week, I had an invite with an overnight notice by the editor, “Please write a column this week?”
OK, sure. I say. I’m a good soldier in this band of brothers and sisters we call High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.
That sent me scrambling for an idea to write about. I don’t normally have writers’ block. It’s just that, like I’ve said, I need to have a really good reason to write something personal.
I give credit to a former boss, who, when I asked him why he never did editorials for his news operation, said, “I figure my opinion is worth about as much as the next guy, whether that guy is a Fortune 500 executive or somebody who works in the oilpatch. My opinion means about as much as his.”
This came from a Harvard Business School graduate, so I’ve always figured that may be a good reason to not write editorials, just to fill a hole on a page.
I was looking at the calendar for any upcoming special observations that might demand commemoration. Veterans Day is the same day as the publication date for this column. That could be nice, I thought. We have a lot of returning veterans coming home this year.
I also recalled that a vet I personally knew was having a birthday on Nov. 9, which is the day this version of our weekly wonder here is supposed to land in mailboxes.
Good deal, my brain said. I can kill two birds with one stone.
So, here goes.
Allow me to wish a Happy Birthday to my dad, Alfred “A.J.” Dreiling. He’s 93 as of Nov. 9.
A.J. was the last boy of 10 kids. As the baby boy of the family, he was always told he had to wait for his turn on just about everything.
In his teen years, he got impatient with waiting, becoming the first kid in his family to go to college. With a loan given to him by local probate judge who enjoyed the way he played baseball, Dad went off to Fort Hays State University to major in political science with the intent of becoming an attorney.
Dad paid off the loan by working as a gandy dancer on the Union Pacific during the summers.
World War II interrupted Dad’s schooling. Instead of sending him to Iwo Jima, as they originally intended, the Army made him use his business acumen to be a boss NCO accountant in the payroll office at several posts in California, making sure the GIs were given their pay before they left the country and upon their discharge.
In the service, he brought his high school girlfriend out to California, where they married in 1944. We lost Mom eight years ago. Dad misses her every day.
Upon his discharge, Dad began a long banking career, with his employer paying for the rest of his higher education at the American Bankers’ Association Graduate Banking School at UCLA.
The folks moved to Colorado a few years before I was born. Upon Dad’s retirement in Colorado, we moved to Kansas, where I started my journalism career and Dad took over what was left of the family farm, which we sold to neighbors a little over 10 years ago.
It was at the dinner table over the years that my zest for writing about policy and politics and, yes, farming, were nurtured.
As a child of the Depression, and as someone whose own father rode hard, Dad has always been good about giving me slack about my medical condition, saying, “The minute your work stops being at least somewhat fun, get out and find something else. I won’t make you go out onto the farm if it’s too hard for you, but give it a try and see if it works for you.”
As I grew older, the farm made us not only father and son, but also business partners and best friends. I’ll never forget the days of hard work we did together. It’s not gone unappreciated.
More importantly, he gave me this piece of advice, “Remember, you and everyone else came into this world bare-assed naked and that’s the way you’re going to leave it. What you do when you are fully clothed and you aren’t in some hospital gown waiting for the undertaker to do his job is what matters.”
Dad’s life has been filled with service, to family, church, industry, and community. Dad still continues to serve all us kids and the grandkids and great-grandkids, too, living in the same home we built in 1976. We plan to spend next weekend in the stands watching our beloved Fort Hays State Fighting Tigers play football.
So, that’s my column. Hope you don’t mind my reason for writing it. I’m just happy to be given a space here in my little corner of journalism, and use it to say Happy Birthday, Dad.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.