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North Dakota and Minnesota Agri-Women invited me to speak at their annual conference in late October. It was shortly after the national American Agri-Women honored me with their Veritas Award, which is given to someone who has given witness to the pursuit of truth.
I am overwhelmed by that award. I feel good about those women. They work hard, care a lot, and their ranches and farms are so neat, getting home was almost embarrassing. I am told that it was Oregon Agri-Women who nominated me, with backing from Washington and Nevada.
There are no words to express my gratitude but when I read the letter I needed a handkerchief (because Im a passionate and emotional woman with a tendency to weep).
Range is not an easy beast to control and those women seem to know it. There are so many issues that affect agriculture that a mere quarterly cannot even start to cover whats necessary. To increase frequency to bimonthly would cost about $100,000 more per year and wed need that cushion for two yearsuntil we could break even. Anybody got that kind of cash? Anybody feel that generous toward Range?
Its perfect that this lovely award came from women, because Range is run by women. Most considered senior citizens, they labor under ofttimes heavy pressure and pull off a message that is an alternative to the drivel spewed by the national media and the Hollywood/Nashville-style cowboy magazines. We tell true stories about food producers, recognize their importance, and brag about their work ethic and love for land and critters.
Our only male (almost-full-time) worker is investigative reporter Tim Findley. Hes a genius, but his history is so left wing and Democratic (much like mine) that its surprising we produce anything about the people in agriculture. We are amazed to be labeled right-wing rednecks. He used to work for Rolling Stone in San Francisco. His leaders probably wouldnt have allowed a redneck to enter their building. I was managing editor of Car & Driver in New York City and we didnt have to bar right-wingers from our premises because we didnt know any, just liberal gay guys from Modern Bride whose offices were next door and leathered, chain-dragging, preppie ruffians who ran Cycle magazine on the other side.
Boy, how times change. Findley and I are both slightly overweight, balding, politically incorrect, and considered difficult. I love this job. There isnt any money in it and theres more work than this aging buckarette can really do, but no one else is even trying. Why should they? It sucks your soul, destroys your personal life, adds benefit to people who hold stock in chocolate, and uses a lot of Kleenex.
I am asked to go to a lot of places. Frankly, I cant afford to. Each day at Range costs $2,841 to keep the doors open. If I leave, Im in worse shape when I return. And because of the magazinebecause of the great writers who are included within these pagesIm expected to be an expert. Sorry, I am not an expert at anything other than producing a magazine. Im lucky that the experts share the pages of Range.
And Im disintegrating fast. A man in Montana asked me, How long ago was that photograph taken of you? He meant the one on the flyer advertising my speech in Livingston last month. If I am wearing a white hat, that photo was taken in 1996, I responded. If Im not, that photo was taken last spring. The photographer, Jeff Ross, is a master.
I looked so bad he didnt believe me.
Im going to get off the road and let Jeff Ross continue to make me look good. Im going to stick to what I know, publishing a magazine. I like speaking to the few hundred people who show up at the meetings but I think it will be better if I concentrate on the 150,000 who read this magazine. Itll be cheaper in the long run, and better for the groups who are expecting a young, good-looking blonde who is an expert at everything involving resource use.
One sad note. I left North Dakota in the dark of morning. When I got to my five acres of Nevada dirt in early afternoon I found my lovely old merle gray-and-black Great Dane, called Lady Day Billie Holiday, newly dead in her dog palace. She was another great lady, one who would have given me that same award. It took three hours and help from two kind neighbors to dig her grave because no precip in months has caused northwestern Nevadas decomposing granite to mimic cement. We used picks, shovels and a posthole digger. I wrapped her 150 pounds in a pink sheet, smothered her with pink roses, and wept. Billie was one of the great ones, sister of Charlie Mingus who I wrote about in this column three years ago as he lay by my side dying of bone cancer. I still think of Charlie.
I love those Danes, love Range, cant do without either. Right now my string consists of Bones, a harlequin male, and BeBop, a Boston female. Lets hope there are years to go before I need that pick and shovel.
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last page update: 03.29.05