It’s the Pitts 30th Edition
The Fence Post is 30 years old. Big deal. So what, you might say? Now that I’m approaching middle age, 30 years does not seem that ancient. Heck, I wear clothes older than that. I’ve had a wife and a pickup truck that have lasted that long. In human terms the Fence Post is almost a teenager, displaying lots of youthful exuberance. But in reality, the Fence Post and I are both much older than we look.
Magazines and newspapers do not age the same as grown-ups do. They are more like teenage daughters: they mature much faster. I’d remind you that in dog years the Fence Post is 210 years old and that is probably a much more accurate reflection of its age and maturity.
Deadlines are what make editors, publishers and journalists feel much older than their years. With the Fence Post, these deadlines come around as regular as a weekly bath. The sheer size of the undertaking would add years to anyone’s life. Fifty-two weeks a year, multiplied by 30 years, times 130 pages per issue equals … let’s see, carry the two, divide by the hypotenuse, and multiply by … oh well, math never was my best subject. (My horse can add better than I can.) Whatever the total of pages in Fence Post history I know that it sure amounted to a lot of hard work.
Who puts in all the long hours and extra effort that make the Fence Post special? I’d suggest it’s not those of us who are lucky enough to be in the Fence Post stable of writers. (And in using the world “stable” I am in no way calling into question the pedigree or mental equilibrium of Mad Jack or Baxter.) No, it’s the staff at the Fence Post that make us storytellers look good on occasion. Of the birthday candles atop the Fence Post’s cake, staff members are the fire … we writers merely the smoke. If they gave a big birthday bash for the Fence Post the guests of honor would be people you never met: the editors, salespeople, typesetters, artists, accountants and assistants who do the real work. And do it very well. (Can you imagine being an editor or a proofreader for a bunch of self-taught cowboy journalists?)
Having been in the publication business for over 35 years I think I know what makes a magazine work. And the Fence Post has it. The thing that amazes me most about the publication is the sheer volume of pages that must be composed each week and the lack of mistakes in doing so. That’s something else I know a little bit about … MISTAKES. You are talking about a guy who once switched captions beneath a Junior Shorthorn Queen and a very attractive heifer. The family of the Queen was upset because I said she’d be offered for sale in a June dispersal and the owner of the heifer was mad because he said his heifer was much better looking than the Queen.
You may have never thought about this, gentle reader, but do you know how easy it is to mess up someone’s advertisement or story? I do. List a date wrong for a bull sale and you may have ruined the one payday per year for a purebred cattle producer. Transpose or drop just one letter and a “dog” for sale becomes a “hog,” a John Deere becomes a Dear John and a cast iron bank in an estate sale ad be comes a cast iron banker. (Not such a stretch after all.) Fence Post staffers must be knowledgeable in many ag fields. They must be able to make sense out of USDA reports, truck and tractor listings and must know the difference between a Dodge Ram and a Suffolk one. When taking ad copy they must be smart enough to realize that the words “sidekick manure spreader” do not necessarily refer to those finicky columnists who get their names in bold print on a weekly basis.
So, on the occasion of the Fence Post’s 30th birthday I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank the Fence Post staffers, including the artist who drew my picture. Thanks you all for making me look better than I really am.