The Long Way Home 7.14.23

It’s taken me quite a long time to call myself a writer. Despite all the contracts, marketing materials,

regulatory filings, newspaper columns and stories that I’ve written and edited, I hesitated to call myself a writer. I even published a book, Ideas and Insight From 40 Years in the Freight Business, before I admitted to myself that I am a writer. 

We tend to think of writers as the sages of wisdom who have agents, best sellers, blockbuster movie deals and exotic book tours with auditoriums filled with adoring fans. It just ain’t so.

Everyone has stories to tell. Putting it all down on paper is a gift, to the one doing the writing and the ones who will one day read it. 

A few examples.

My great-uncle Gust, after spending 20 years underground on the Cuyuna Iron Range, booked himself a trip back to Sweden to see his sister, and maybe decide if he wanted to stay. He kept a diary, a record of his activity, in Swedish. And now, several decades later, it fell into my hands. A relative translated it for me and it brought back fond memories and new stories of the gnarled and half deaf uncle who was always a dancer and who proved his strength in younger days with handstands on barstools to win bets and impress the ladies. 

He was a writer.

Bob “Babe” Babenroth married my aunt Vona in their golden years in Stevens Point, WI. The two of them were in the same crowd of “The Point” for most of their lives. So when Babe took the time to write a memoir, a record of his memories of family, friends and events, I was glad to get my hands on it. It was in a three hole folder and  probably printed at the Office Depot. No agent or publishing deal. He wrote it for us in the next generations, not to be on the New York Times bestseller list.

He was a writer.

Ted Hashimoto married Becky’s aunt Harriet, also in their golden years. Ted was an adolescent, born American and growing up near Los Angeles when Japan raided Pearl Harbor. He and his family were packed off to a concentration camp in Utah and the family farm was lost to some unscrupulous characters. He came of age in time to enlist in the US Army just  as WWII was concluding and his tour of duty brought him to Japan as an interpreter for the occupation forces over the next five years. By the early 50s he was back in southern California, raised a family and built a successful scaffolding business where he worked well into his 90s. He wrote a memoir, again for the next generations in his extended family. 

He was a writer.

Like what I write, none of these are considered suitable by publishers and “elite” writer wannabes. But they mean the world to someone who knows the writer or her subjects, maybe years down the road.

So get crackin’. I’m positive you have stories to tell. Write ‘em down, even a little at a time. Notebooks are cheap. 

You don’t need to show your writing to anyone, but don’t throw it away. Someday some relative of yours might just find it and learn something about you and about a time and place that have changed forever.