It's time

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Just in case you have not heard, this is my final column as editor of the Chiefland Citizen and Cedar Key Beacon. I gave my notice in mid-November and have been telling people the good news since.

I am out the door on Friday, Jan. 27. At 64 I am taking the opportunity to enjoy some of the things my present occupation does not allow. That would include:

being home for and cooking dinner in the evening, going out of town without having to time it for when there are no assignments, and polishing my skills at herding cats.

This is a short list.

I have been discussing retirement a long time with The Carnivore who has insisted I get a job first. I knew he understood the concept of retirement and it took months of asking to get the reason for a job out of him: “Because you will be bored in a month.”

Well, that would be OK. It beats the feeling of having missed something, not covered something, breaking a promise to be somewhere and juggling same-time assignments and meetings. Or worse, just plain making a mistake.

I actually consider it a miracle that I have lived long enough to collect Social Security before it becomes “Social Insecurity.” Most folks on my father’s side don’t live to collect a pension. My father died at 52. Because I was 10, I got to collect the Social Security and military survivor’s benefits he earned.

When I started in this business at the age of 16, I used a manual Royal typewriter to do a social calendar for a semi-weekly in South Texas.

I was supposed to become a marine biologist who studied whether shrimp would reproduce around oil well drilling. That changed when the field narrowed and a friend advised me that journalism would be “easy” in college.

Then I met Dr. Hari Dam who said if I ever missed a word on an assignment he would not only give me an “F” on the paper, I would get an “F” for the course and an “F” in the three courses I had to take from him in order to graduate.

One thing journalism has done is allow me to travel and meet people. I have interviewed future presidents on the campaign trail — Carter, Reagan, Bush 41. I have covered governors, legislatures and the U.S. Congress. There have been senators, congress people, spouses of politicians, and their children. I have interviewed community organizers other than Barack Obama, and stood in historic places like Dexter Street Baptist Church and the spot marked with a star where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated. I once helped free a man from prison and thankfully never had to see one executed. I have covered horrendous crimes and downright silly ones. This profession allowed me to eat in great and not so great places and get drunk in some really nice and famous bars.

I twice worked for a daily newspaper that printed 2.4 million copies daily — something my husband pointed out when I admitted to anxiety about interviewing for a job at a daily newspaper that printed 250,000 copies.

“What are you scared of? They should be grateful to have you.”

And after taking a break to pursue another dream of becoming a degreed chef, this profession took me back during a blooming recession that had no foodservice jobs.

I am thankful to Carolyn Risner Ten Broeck for hiring me. She took a chance on me not being rusty. And she saved me from having to mow two acres of grass with a little electric mower. The late Claude Lewis advised her to hire me. I think it was because I also like eating and NASCAR.

My old boss, Tom Ten Broeck, should be thanked for putting up with me as has the new guy Dale Bowen. I can be a handful and a half.

Hats off to Chris Festo who pulled my bacon out of the fire many, many times.

And I lived through a defamation suit that would curl your hair.

To the people of Levy County I am so grateful for your time and your stories. You have enriched my life and The Carnivore’s, and I have found a home and friends.

My goals have been to do what is best for the people of Levy, cover news for all the residents of Levy not just parts of it, to run my own race and give it my best. Lately I have added “make the Citizen a family album.”

When people ask why retire, I tell them how as a young reporter I despised the people who would not retire; those who left feet first. I felt they were holding down younger folks. I never want to be that person.

Do not expect me to be retiring from the life of the community. I can still bake cheesecakes and apple tarts for the cake auctions. And I can speak my mind.

But just in case The Carnivore is right and boredom sets in, please send along any info on job openings — volunteer and paid — to louelliott@mac.com.