Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not a weekly reader anymore.

I've subscribed to Newsweek for 16 years. But I've read it faithfully every week for 19. I began reading Newsweek during high school study hall. My choices were limited when it came to news magazines. Our school library carried only Time and Newsweek. It was the 1992/93 school year and their pages were filled with news relating to the presidential election. My preference for Newsweek was probably because I preferred the political funny page Perspectives in that magazine over whatever Time offered. That's right, I've always liked my politics and world news coverage to be devastatingly opinionated, mildly humorous, ironic and quick.

My main goal in keeping up with the events of the day was so I could win. I like a good competition. And every Friday Mr. Spangler, my high school American History teacher, offered that to me. It was a game centered around the news of the week. The class was divided into teams and Mr. Spangler would ask a world event related question and the first team to answer correctly got a point. There was no prize. No frilly accolades or celebration. Just competition for the sake of competition. And, more likely, so we could learn stuff. I loved this game. That's where Newsweek came in. A quick study could arm me with enough "what's goin' on in the world" knowledge to make the competition honest.

I continued reading it in college, taking a break from library studies to grab the plastic encased copy from the magazine shelf and spend an hour making myself familiar with the current events of the day. Eventually I tore one of the postcards out of the middle and subscribed. And even though my magazine was always addressed to May Lewellen, even after I called to correct them, I still read it faithfully. I looked forward to its weekly arrival and was mildly disappointed when an issue would be a special double issue, thus eliminating a whole week of news. Perspectives was always the first page I read, followed by the letters to the editor and then My Turn. I never wrote a letter to the editor, but enjoyed finding validation of my own thoughts or discovering a counterpoint opinion concerning previous articles by reading others comments.

Somewhere in the intervening years however, I've lost interest. My past subscription renewal notices were always promptly returned with the next several years paid for. Now, weeks go by and my pile of unread Newsweek's wait patiently until I have a spare three hours to devote to their perusal. And while I still enjoy opening a fresh copy of my magazine, it's way too easy to just turn on my phone and pick my favorite news aggregator app and open a world of diverse opinion and around the world news coverage, for free.

It seems my last issue is in the mail. I guess this is goodbye. Well, until I go to the dentist.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No sweetie, that's a different kind of Pioneer.

It's Pioneer Day. So to celebrate this momentous occasion I'm going to tell you a story. If you've already heard it, feel free to bow out now. If not, then to really understand this post you need to know two definitions of the word Pioneer:

Pioneer - a colonist, explorer or settler of a new land or region.

Pioneer - a seed producing company headquartered in Iowa.

If I drew a Venn diagram of my friends, half of you would be thoroughly familiar with the first definition as it relates to the celebration of Pioneer Day. July 24th, 1847 was the day the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley. Lots of people, mostly in Utah, celebrate this day with parades and picnics, fireworks and family. Although because today is Sunday, they probably did all those things yesterday. The other half of my friends, while understanding the first definition of pioneer generally, will also recognize it as a brand of corn or soybean seed. But as those two circles of friends overlap, there are a few of you whose intimate knowledge of both definitions will find a heightened hilarity to this tale.

Please know that if you don't fall into either circle, you can still finish reading this. (Pssst, the answer to the question in the green circle is: "No, it's Iowa!")

She was a professor at Brigham Young University in the college of nursing. We volunteered together every Wednesday night for two years at the Family History Library in Springville, UT where we helped people find and link together their ancestors. I don't remember her name, I wouldn't share it if I did, but she became a good friend to Jon and I in those early days of our marriage and parenthood. I looked forward to spending that one night a week talking to her about life, school, and during the second year, my pregnancy. She was good at calming any fears I had between check-ups. She fell entirely into the first circle of my above mentioned Venn diagram.

It was sometime during late summer one year that she told me she would be visiting Iowa. Her daughter and son-in-law had recently moved there for work and she was excited to go and see them and her new grandbaby. She was also excited about visiting Nauvoo in Illinois and Winter Quarters in Nebraska. She had never really been outside of Utah and she wanted to know what she should see and do while she was away. I was a little excited to draw up an itinerary of must sees in my home state that she and her family should visit. I included some destinations that most people don't know about like Garden Grove and Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. Both locations have historical significance to the Mormon Pioneer Trail and weren't too far from her daughter's location in Des Moines. She wanted to know if the Mormon Pioneer Trail was marked and I remember telling her that yes there were markers along the trail.

I was anxious to hear her report when she returned a couple of weeks later. And I was glad to learn she had had a wonderful visit with her family. She loved visiting Nauvoo and Winter Quarters and had even driven to those out of the way spots I had included on the list of places to see. But I was a little perplexed when she talked about how far and how randomly the pioneers had traveled. According to her, their path of travel had zigzagged all over the state of Iowa, going so far as to almost reach the border of Wisconsin. Wisconsin? I wondered. What trail was she following? It was when she talked about how well the trail was marked that I gasped in realization of her error.

Pioneer, the seed company, as well as any of the other seed companies, whether it be Cargill, DeKalb, Garst or AgriGold make signs that farmers use to mark their fields as having been planted with that brand of seed. Here's an example:

Whole fields of corn, soybeans and other plants are lined with these markers, each proudly displaying the brand of seed chosen by the farmer. Sometimes the signs, as I think the ones above do, show rows of hybrids or test seed. But either way the markers clearly show the brand name. And that's where my friend was so unfortunately misled.

Pioneers are kind of a big deal in Utah. Pioneer is kind of a big deal in Iowa. But alas, neither really have anything to do with each other. My friend and her daughter explored a great deal of Iowa on their quest to follow the Mormon Trail. They followed those Pioneer signs around and around, sometimes circling entire fields, never once doubting that the pioneers truly had walked and walked and walked aaaaaaand walked.

Did the circles overlap for you?