‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia’
Of the world’s biggest blunders, only slightly less well-known than today’s column is this: “Never go against the Iowa Boy when penning an article is on the line.”
Sorry for the really obscure “Princess Bride” reference, but I’m suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. That wouldn’t have been such a problem if things had gone according to my expectations.
Inconceivable, I tell you. Inconceivable.
And, yes, I do know what that word means.
Deep down inside, I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t be writing for this Monday’s Daily News. I was right, but for reasons completely unexpected when I left the office Friday evening.
Turned out many of you wrote letters to the editor, and in my book, those always take priority over any of my inane ramblings. So, you — the readers of the Daily News — owned the page, as you should. I only hope you all continue to write in after the election.
But, the real reason why I wasn’t expecting to write was because I instead assumed, incorrectly, that I would instead be introducing a column by former Des Moines Register “Iowa Boy” columnist Chuck Offenburger. I consider Chuck a friend, both in the profession and outside it, and well, we had this little friendly wager.
It had to do with football — high school football — and it was made long before I knew I would be editor of the Daily News. Back then, I was still publisher of the Clarinda Herald-Journal. The Clarinda Cardinals there are arch-rivals of Chuck’s hometown Shenandoah Mustangs.
Each year, the schools — on opposite ends of Page County, some 20 miles apart — play a football game called the Page County Super Bowl. And, for 14 consecutive years, Clarinda dominated the series. If you’re older than 30 and an Iowa State fan, you can probably relate.
But last year, despite getting blown out by the Cardinals, the Mustangs had their first winning season in a long, long time. They had a new coach and a renewed sense of optimism about the direction of their program. And, deep down inside, I knew one day the Clarinda string of dominance would be broken.
Just not this year.
So, when Chuck came to me with his seemingly insane offer — “If Shenandoah wins the Page County Super Bowl next year, you write a piece for my website, www.offenburger.com. If Clarinda wins, I will write for your newspaper” — I nearly hugged myself. I mean, who wouldn’t want the Iowa Boy writing something for his or her paper?
I never considered the alternative. Not this year.
So, Friday afternoon I verified with Chuck that we were “still on” with our friendly wager and asked what he thought the score would be and what he was planning to write for me. That’s called “talking smack.”
I expected the game to be close for the first time since the last time Shenandoah had won, 1997, and predicted a 21-20 overtime victory for Clarinda. Chuck said the score would be 36-14 in favor of Shenandoah. Actually, it wound up being 35-14.
The win propelled the Mustangs into position for a postseason berth — again, their first in many years. They will have to win Friday night against Shenandoah’s other major rival, Red Oak. And, as former executive editor of the Valley News in Shenandoah — a job title I held simultaneous to publisher in Clarinda — I have no reservations in cheering on the Mustangs alongside my good friend.
So, what do you write about when you have writer’s block and had no plans to be writing anything at all?
Actually, it’s not that difficult to come up with something to write about, in a pinch. My kids frequently do something worth writing about. I could always delve into the misadventures of my time in the Navy. Or, I could write about some of the truly amazing and bizarre circumstances I’ve found myself in as a journalist over the years.
Examples include “The Catch-Edge Ghost,” “Crash Results in Six-Hour Police Standoff” and “Before You Eat It, Maybe You Ought To Know What It Is.”
More on those soon.
Then again, this was supposed to be a fairly short introduction to the column I originally had planned for today. Blame it on the ADHD, I guess. Some people are distracted by shiny objects. I get off-track telling stories. It’s the cross I bear.
And, seeing the word count inch ever closer to four digits, I really don’t have space for even a little bit of it now. So, I guess I’ve solved my problem. What was supposed to be yesterday’s column will go to Chuck, while this rambling will have to be your early-week dose of Common Sense.
Sorry. I’ll try to do better Thursday.
As promised, I have details for John Jennings’ upcoming open house. It will take place at the Daily News offices 1-4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1. I hope as many of you as possible can come out to thank John for his 13 years of service to both the Daily News and the community.
I am no longer amazed at how tiny this planet we live upon truly is. You might remember last week that I talked about Townsend Zink and his “Woman-less Library.”
As I stated at the time, my purpose was to show the very interesting stories everyone gets to share when you have the courage to write in or call about them. And, I wanted folks to realize just how damaging hate can be if you’re not willing to curb it.
I still hold out hope for a few of you with regard to the latter. But, when it comes to the former, Kathleen Webb got the message loud and clear. She called in with, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.
Unbeknownst to me, Zink and his family once lived in Jasper County, just south of Newton. Small world? No doubt.
If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.
Bob Eschliman is editor of the Newton Daily News. He may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or firstname.lastname@example.org via email. Common Sense usually appears each Monday and Wednesday.