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A weekly column, 1,000 times over

Jun 2, 2014 - By Randy Tucker

From sports to history, education, inept politicians, and important people in my life, the source material never ends.

In recorded history there is always a special place for the number 1,000.

Most of us work with multiples of 10 leading to 100 and 1,000. Anthropologists claim this fixation with 10 comes from the number of combined fingers on our hands.

Counting your fingers a hundred times seems boringly redundant, but it's a way of illustrating a milestone I've reached in my career as a part time, free lance journalist.

The column you are reading is number 1,000 for me.

Former sports editor James Cocco first suggested I write a weekly column back in the fall of 1995. I've written a thousand straight.

Every Monday or Tuesday evening for almost two decades the ritual begins to create something for the following Sunday.

Some columns are more memorable than others. Those first columns back in the long ago days of 1995 were exclusively about sports.

The role of the left tackle as he protected right-handed quarterbacks was the focus of that first column. Most people recognize John Elway as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, but only a few, diehard fans recognize Gary Zimmerman, the man who protected Elway's blind side back in early to mid-1990s.

I wrote of Zimmerman's importance to the franchise and of other important left tackles in the league at the time.

Sports still has a voice in my columns each year. On average I've written about sports about 20 percent of the time over these last 19-plus years, a little more than 200 columns on the subject.

My most memorable was one on my son Brian's final track meet competing for Dickinson State University in a hurdle race at Morehead State University in Minnesota.

"I was there when he put his lead leg over that first hurdle in fifth grade and I was there when his trail leg came down for the last time 12 years later," I wrote in May of 2009.

Sometimes columns almost write themselves. As I sat with my family on a heavily congested traffic jam on I-25 in north Denver a flight of Canada geese flew over in 1997. The juxtaposition of wild waterfowl flying high above mankind's folly struck me as particularly poignant.

Wildlife has a special place in our world, and it often lends itself to a weekly column. Grizzly bears, wolves, the lonesome howl of a solitary coyote on a cold winter night, the whistling sound of ducks coming in on a patch of open water on a sub-zero afternoon, or a pesky raccoon caught and later released from a live catch trap have been the subject of previous writings.

Personal reflections on how the world has changed since my two grandfathers were young, middle-aged and finally old men is a favorite topic. Writing about the loss of my young sister-in-law Barb to cancer when she was only 39 is one of dozens, perhaps a hundred I've written on notable people in my life. My wife's parents passing, and the loss of nearly an entire football team of young men over the last 34 years weren't easy to write about.

It's much easier to write of my daughter Staci's meteoric rise in her medical career and the amazing similarities and stark contrasts that are noticeable as Sue and I travel back to Pittsburgh to spend time with Staci and husband Adam.

Sue's amazing ability as a kindergarten teacher is often a focal point for the magic that elementary teachers create in their classrooms daily. They have the most important job anyone can choose but are mere chaff in the wind of political expediency in the idiocy that today tries to pass for educational innovation and faux leadership.

If you've read a few of these columns, then you might guess that education has a special place in my life -- as it should in everyone's. The lunacy we've all witnessed as politicians become self-proclaimed experts and systematically destroy the educational lives of entire generations has been a constant theme in my writing. I have several hundred columns on the subject, perhaps more than any other topic I've written on.

I often feel like John in the wilderness, living on locust and wild honey and hoping for a messiah to end the insanity. As of this evening, there isn't one on the horizon, and there probably never will be.

Walks down memory lane with stories from the 1960s and 1970s in Fremont County always illicit the most response from people who take the time to comment on a piece of mine that they've read.

It is always a thrill to have someone comment on something I've written. Whether they agree doesn't really matter. It's the idea that

people actually have read what I write that brings a smile.

My friend Steve, also my editor and publisher for a thousand columns, often teases me when I write of a friend or fellow traveler who has passed away. A favorite phrase comes from the film "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and Steve is correct -- I've probably used it a few too many times.

But it's so fitting with so many people: "I rode with him. I got no complaints."

So, this is number 1,000. By my accounting, number 2,000 would come about sometime in late August of 2033 if things were to remain the same. The task of writing an 800- to 1000-word column each week for a total of somewhere between 800,000 and a million words is a staggering thought if you think of it that way.

Then again, we'll always have summer days, winter storms, million dollar rains, young calves, young athletes, traditions, an ever-growing history, and, sadly, corrupt politicians. The subject matter is never ending.

Thanks for reading.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.

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