Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 28, 2016

Column faces final deadline ... what did I miss?

Looking back, I’m struck by the irony: This column’s shutting down at year’s end. She’s been around, in one form or another, for 32 years. Read that: I’ve been on deadline, like, forever.

And only recently am I seeing strategies that I ought to have employed, if not from the start, then from 2005, when the I Swear Crossword began to run alongside it.

So, in hindsight I’m having an insight that I’ve missed because of an oversight. Or a lack of foresight.

In the autumn of 1984, Ruth Williams, then-editor of the state bar association’s quarterly, was running an out-of-state product that readers didn’t think was very funny. I wrote a couple of 750-word pieces with in-state angles and pitched an idea to Ruth. She said, “Let’s give it a shot.”

Fifteen years later, still drawing the initial salary of zero, the magazine dropped the column.

Originally titled “Law, Literature & Laughter,” it had consistently showed up in surveys as the second most popular item in the magazine. The most popular was a regular feature called “Lawyer Disciplinary Actions.”

In 1993, Chuck Heinbockel, then-editor of The Daily Record, a countywide court and commercial newspaper, asked if I could write a weekly column to run as part of a county bar association newsletter to be contained within the CCN.

Ever the sucker for punishment (readers who are also writers will identify), I allowed as how I would give it a try. Thus, “I Swear” was born

After a few years of the weekly gig, I retired from column writing altogether. But I agreed to let DR run past columns for a couple of years.

At the end of those couple of years, I somehow resumed writing “I Swear,” and a few years later the crossword thing sneaked in to complicate everything.

The DR spread my work into a few other markets. The goal was to spread it into lots of other markets. Didn’t happen.

The quarterly column was almost always dialed straight in to “legal humor.” That was not so hard to do four times a year. I had a blast doing it. And will always be grateful to Ruth Williams and her successor editors for allowing me to write it.

I had to have a tad more freedom to make the weekly gig work. And Chuck was fine with that. So, under the aegis of addressing law, business, and politics, I wrote about words, phrases and language in general, as and when the spirit moved me.

That pretty much gets us to where we are today.

Looking back on this installment, I’m amazed that I got 32 years of history into 500 words. I’ve left out some details. Memory fades. Details take the hit.

Now that I’m almost done, it’s dawning on me how it should have been done. Regrettably, I’m out of space and will not be able to share that.

I’ll just leave you with a quote from Tim Bays:

Why do things seem so much clearer

When you’re looking in the rear-view mirror?