The Mirror September 29 2010
Everyone should write their obituary, while they recall life's details. That would save families some trouble. Unfortunately, I haven't done that.
An obituary would've been handy last Friday when my kind co-workers held an "appreciation" in the MU alumni center in Columbia. They celebrated things we've accomplished together.
If I'd had an obit in my personnel file, the Dean would not have dredged up dry facts from my 50-year-old file. he was surprised to learn that I was an Army Captain and felt obliged to salute.
My Cold War service was not heroic. I just missed a boat ride to Korea with my classmates. When I was discharged, skilled aircraft crews in our unit were going to a country in Asia that we had to find in an atlas. No one had heard of Vietnam.
Friday, speakers recalled my coverage of the ag beat for farmers. I believe in getting out to walk the beat. That means walking the alleys of livestock barns and corn rows. Dave Patterson, MU Extension Beef Specialist, estimates we've covered 100,000 miles visiting research centers, demonstrations, and heifer sales.
Traveling with Extension Specialists, I continue to learn.
Doug Crews of the Missouri Press Association reproted from newspaper editors who use my stories to fill their farm pages. Charlie Kruse, president of Farm Bureau, told how we first met on his cotton farm in southeast Missouri. That was before he became the best known farmer in Missouri. Kit Bond sent a letter telling how readable stories about farm policies help senators.
Dave Marner, editor of the Gasconade County Republican, told of life as a student darkroom helper. He worked nights printing 5x7 photos that I sent to hundreds of Missouri newspapers. He'd solicited letters from others of my alums, now at the National Geographic, Dallas Morning News, publication editors and teachers of journalism. Dave said they learned to translate book learning into a strict work ethic in my lab. All are successes; a good legacy.
A farm radio director, who went into his job with no farm background, said my news releases helped him learn.
The biggest surprise was Bill Kuykendall, who flew from the University of Maine to talk a few mintues. He and I traveled thousands of miles across Missouri giving workshops for news photographers. Those were joy years. He figured we'd spent six months of our lives teaching extension photo workshops over 22 years.
We changed the way photography was taught, bringing scientific methods to the art. Both of us were small town boys, who knew how to get up early, eat a bowl of oats and go to work.
After all those sweet words, I know how a buckwheat pancake feels, slathered in syrup.
They let me respond. But, in a few minutes I couldn't correct all the myths. First, I had to say it was not a retirement party. It marks the second of the 50 years of my career. I just hope times slows down a bit.
I'd seen a recent movie, "Get Low", with Robert Duvall, who plays a grumpy grey beard who'd lived on his farm for 40 years. One day he took a mule ride to town to play a funeral director, played by Bill Murray, to hold a service, while still alive. He wanted to hear what people had to say about him.
Well, I got to hear my stories before I'm gone. That fit my Scot heritage of frugality and my Irish story-telling genetics.
My friends created an endowment to help future ag journalism students learn some of the same beats that I've covered. In lieu of flowers, please send to the Dailey Student Fund in the College of Agriculture, 2-4 Ag Bldg, MU, Columbia, MO 65211. details from firstname.lastname@example.org. now I must got to photo workshop in Macon this week.