Death steals everything except our stories.
— Jim Harrison, poet, novelist, screenplay, and short story writer, from his collection of poems titled In Search of Small Gods.
The number took me by surprise: three hundred. That is the current count of blog essays, stories, poems, and photo essays I have posted since I launched Dispatches from a Northern Town less than seven years ago.
Although I was wary of this blogging business, I took a chance. From the outset my goal was to create blog posts that were thoughtful and introspective, my personal observations about a complicated and often confusing world, and as befits dispatches about a writer’s journey through life they reveal a wide range of moods: humorous, melancholy, serious, fanciful, maudlin, cheerful, pessimistic, optimistic… My intent was to express these reflections in stories and essays of about 1,000 words, probably because that is the limit of my own attention span when reading an online essay.
A good portion of these blog posts recount time spent in the outdoors. A small number of these offer advice on the “how to” skills of hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other recreations, but many more focus on the “why” and “wherefore” of my passions for the experiences that fill the heart and mind and soul with joy and wonder. And, unfortunately but realistically, a good share express my despair that our time spent in the wild and the wilderness is nearing an end in this Anthropocene era.
A few of the Dispatches from a Northern Town essays are topical, political, and social commentary. Almost one-fourth of the posts are stories, essays, and poems about dogs – which is appropriate because bird dogs have been central to my life for more than 50 years, and they have taught me much of what I know. Another fourth are about my hunting companions that I call The Over the Hill Gang. They taught me the rest of it.
Over the previous seven years I have compiled these blog posts in six published collections of essays, short stories, and poems: Crazy Old Coot, Old Coots Never Forget, Coot Stews, A Limit of Coot, North Country Tales, and A View from the North Country. A seventh collection is due to be published in October: Coot Dogs. I have also written and published three novels: Hunting Birds, Ivory and Gold, and The Executioner’s Face.
A friend and fellow writer, Keith Lesmeister, author of the short story collection We Could’ve Been Happy Here, has called me the most prolific writer he has ever known. This is an intentional exaggeration. My word production does not match that of my 13-year career as a newspaper reporter, editor, and columnist when I wrote nearly a thousand editorials, opinion pieces, and sports columns, plus uncounted news articles and reports.
Still, being retired and not pressured by press deadlines, I was taken aback to see that my blog posts had reached 300. Maybe this merits some kind of celebration. A hand-rolled cigar and a good mug of brewpub ale should be in order. On the other hand, it should be a private, subdued observance. My most-viewed blog post has been Lefever Nitro Special, an essay that I regarded as rather mundane, while one of my least viewed has been Christmas gifts for my grandchildren, which I thought was one of my best. So I’m not taking my literary talents too seriously.
But then I never claimed to be anything more than a journalist.
Anyway, for better or worse I’ve reached the 300 mark. The odds that I will produce 400 are, as they say, about the same as a lace valentine in the fires of hell.
Cheers. I’ll let you know the date in October when the next collection of essays is published. Then we can hoist a mug at the start of bird season and really celebrate.
More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays and three novels, available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page
Congratulations Jerry! I am honored that my dogs have had the chance to share some of your adventures!
Paul – your French spaniels have been a big part of my life and have given me some GREAT bird hunts. So fortunate that Roger Jaeger recommended your line of dogs. If “the stories” are all that I leave behind, Abbey and Sasha have given me some wonderful stories.
As always, I am proud to call you friend. I am hoping that we’re together hoisting beer soon. In the meantime, I typically dedicate my nightly brew to our friendship and to our respective Muses. May they ever be sassy but not as bitchy as some of your former students. (Oh wait, that’s me. 😉 )
Never! I prefer to think of your college days on the student newspaper as my “challenges in journalism education.” I’m all-in for a day’s end beer, however.