Rhonda Humble
The older I get, the more I forget.
Or maybe I should say I can only find tidbits of what I thought I knew in the clutter of my mind.
I miss the people who have passed on who used to keep me on track, and I miss those who used to chronicle the area’s coming’s and going’s in columns that were more familiar to a 10-party line than the internet.
There are so many names bouncing around in my head: Madeline Wiswell with Hilltop News; Cecil Poisal, Spring Hill News; Cleda Mae Brassfield, Edgerton; Oma Girsch, Gardner Lake; Harriet Zimmerman, Gardner Grapevine; Pansy Penner, DeSoto; and Pat McDowell, Antioch.
We called them “the ladies.”
And make no mistake, they were newshounds. They would fire up the phone on a Sunday night and gather all the area’s news. Who ate dinner with who. Which relatives were in town. Who passed away. Wedding plans. Obituaries. Even recipes.
Lord save us if we forgot to include Oma’s recipe. Or – even worse – she forgot to put the two cups of flour in the cake ingredients. I once got a call from Anaheim, Calif., complaining about omitted ingredients and a soggy cake. I had to run a correction.
The ladies worked hard to “scoop” each other’s news, and – only rarely – could be vindictive. Nothing like the power of the pen, or a manual Royal typewriter.
One columnist included a statement that Mrs. “Smith” was a hateful woman and she sprayed diesel fuel all over a neighbor’s prize-winning zucchini. Fearing libel – or zucchini retribution – I omitted the statement, and suffered the consequences of a writer’s strike – until her nose for news got back in joint.
As the ladies aged, their hearing became a little more impaired. Names would be tranposed, relatives switched and dead people would be resurrected. Once “Aunt Minnie” was reported at a family reunion, when she’d been dead for several weeks. Relatives called to assure me they hadn’t dug Aunt Minnie up, and there had been no ghostly apparition.
Eventually I would get hushed calls on Monday mornings – just before deadline – from worried residents begging I strike their name from the column. “Please,” they’d whisper, “leave us out. Last time she reported Gracie had married Lincoln – Gracie is my cat, and dad drives a Lincoln.”
As I age, I am more understanding of the confusion – I prefer to call it clutter.