Since September 1st, 2021 I’ve been a farm broadcaster for 40 years. I’m not sure when this happened as it feels like I was playing rock and roll on a small town radio station last month, which was lower in wattage than a microwave. But there’s no denying it, I’ve been doing this for a lot longer than I’ve ever dreamed of. When I think back over the years, a number of things have occurred to me that never reached the ether. Even though I’m far from saying everything, I want to share a few things that have never been printed before.
I started my career as a junior member of a three-person television crew. The other broadcasters were much more knowledgeable and experienced than me; and that’s why I rarely got around to hosting a show. I mostly did pre-recorded interviews that they had to approve before they aired. That is, until the first day of the deer hunting season. This is synonymous with a national day in central Missouri. Needless to say, that day I had to host all of the shows while the others went into the woods. The studio was in a rural area with a large pasture behind it. For most of the day, several large dollars were spent in this field. My colleagues came back empty-handed. I enjoyed telling them that when they got to work they would have had some nice shelves for their walls.
One of my first milestones was the opportunity to travel to South America with then Ag Secretary John Block. I made several mistakes on this trip. The first was the decision to take two large cassette recorders with me, which I then had to haul through five countries. I still have shoulder pain from it. Then there was the incident at the front desk. It was a state dinner for the minister hosted by a senior Brazilian official on his palatial estate. After consuming free adult drinks, the call of nature came. Not knowing how to ask for a toilet in Portuguese, I found a discreet place in the garden to solve my problem. Ten minutes later we were all called into the garden to solemnly plant a special tree. Yes, right at this point.
Subsequent trips abroad made many other memorable incidents, including the time we vandalized a U.S. ambassador’s living room. We were in Algeria, which had very few phone lines to the States. We in the press corps really wanted to bring our stories home. The ambassador’s wife said the phone in the living room worked back to the US and offered us to use it. What she didn’t know is that in order for us to send our stories (long before the internet) we had to dismantle the phone and plug in our devices. When she walked in later, she found cables, recorders, typewriters, and cameras covering her furniture and tables, along with about 3 miles of cable. She wasn’t thrilled.
Other memorable overseas experiences include sightseeing Rome at 4 a.m., buying pirated Microsoft software from a child on a bicycle in an alley in Beijing, watching the press secretary of a congressman get drunk and into the pool of a senior Dominican official Republic falls Republic, and I buy Cuban cigars for my boss in Hong Kong and take them to the US in the battery compartment of my recorder.
Then there are things that I would have done differently. Agree to send Swine Barn from the State Fair when the temperature was over 100 degrees was one. An interview with Senator Lugar at an ethanol station that opened in Boone County at 5 a.m. in freezing temperatures was another. When I finally hosted the Sale of Champions at the State Fair, I was a nervous wreck and did a terrible job.
One of the things I did right was moving to Indiana to start a farm radio network, and many years later I started writing columns for the Farm World newspaper. That sounds like a bit of ingratiation, but it isn’t. These two things created the experiences and relationships that made a 40-year career possible. Thanks very much!