Our raccoon (well, not personally ours, exactly) has again been paying nightly visits to our backyard, dining on dry cat food just outside the backdoor.
Not a mature raccoon, but possibly the latest generation of those who have made their home south of Sperry Avenue for a number of years.
Buddy, an outside cat who has shared himself with us for three years or more, seems to have no problem with the raccoon, knowing that his food will be replaced at the break of dawn. But the water dish is another matter.
Raccoons — this one included — are fastidious eaters. That means washing muddy feet before dining and again afterward. Buddy has taken up singing “How Dry Am I,” or something similar.
Nighttime drivers on both Sperry and Del Puerto avenues are asked to keep a watchful lookout for the friendly little guy. Please.
A rooster, too
Down the alley from us on South Seventh Street lives a very loud rooster.
Now I don’t mind the guy being loud, regardless of the time of day. He seems to be in his glory just about any time, and if I’m not mistaken, I occasionally hear a hen clucking in the background. Maybe that’s why he sounds happy.
It takes me back to my growing up in Iowa.
No ‘tire’ in retirement
This week marks the beginning of my second decade of retirement. It was May 1, 2003, that I stepped down as owner and editor of the Irrigator.
No, it doesn’t seem just like yesterday. Much water has gone over the newspaper dam in the past 10 years, necessitating changes that I wouldn’t have enjoyed making.
For one thing, newspaper readership in a small community has changed. Weddings and engagements, all kinds of social and club news, 50th wedding anniversaries and tales about hobbies, traveling, recipes and school events other than sports have nearly disappeared from the pages of many small-town newspapers.
That, certainly, is apparent to longtime hometown readers. The “soft” news has been replaced by in-depth reporting on government, crime and accidents, and matters that have a more direct impact on peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t accurately put a face on the workings of a small community such as Patterson.
Not only has news content changed, but so has newspaper production. Gone are the days of hand-labor at a light table, a pair of scissors and a sharp razor blade, and a big camera in the darkroom that would shoot a negative full-page size.
Now there is no darkroom at all. Cameras are all digital. Advertisements, news stories, headlines, captions and, of course, photographs are all composed electronically and combined into a page layout without the use of scissors or wax.
The result, as might be expected, is spectacular improvement in quality of reproduction.
Photos and overall printing quality are crisp and sharp. The process provides for liberal use of color, and the Irrigator has become one of the sharpest looking small newspapers in the state.
New ownership of the Irrigator late last year will undoubtedly provide further changes, and I am as interested as all of our readers in what lies ahead.
Frequently, I’m asked about the future of the printed word on newsprint. Truthfully, I don’t hear a death knell being sounded for community newspapers, which are still the best means of getting the advertising message to local audiences. Thus, small newspapers serve a valuable purpose, and that alone should keep them in business.
But the management, financial requirements, and staffing needs of a newspaper have changed and will continue to change — just as they have for the past 100 or more years.
I still drop by the newspaper office several times a week, if for no other reason than to touch bases with two of the employees who were there when I left. Debbie DeLaRosa has been in the front office for 13 years, while reporter Maddy Houk has been a staffer since before Abe Lincoln grew a beard. They even show respect from time to time by calling me “boss.” I eat it up.
Certainly, the 10 years of retirement haven’t been boring. House Mate (HM) and I have managed to travel to Albania, Bulgaria, Norway, Antarctica, British Columbia twice, China (on camelback — eat your heart out, Bob “Spokie” Kimball) — Nova Scotia and Turkey. I’ve also sandwiched in a couple of two-week trips to the East Coast with the Boy Scouts, who keep me thinking young.
What really took up a chunk of time was the successful five-year battle with Gerry Kamilos and Stanislaus County over the industrial proposal for the Crows Landing Air Facility. That was a grind.
But more recently my time has been occupied by the opportunity to re-do Patterson’s downtown museum and to serve as its curator. That’s been fun.
So what about the next 10 years? Like the rest of you, just one day at a time.
Around we go
Those two downtown Patterson roundabouts being extensively renovated are requiring more time than it took for them to be constructed a few years ago.
But I guess that’s to be understood. The entire intersections are being revised, and the centers are taking on an entirely new look.
I and others are anxious to see the end result.
Off to class
Ok, students, on with expanding your minds. This week we study wise quotations.
n “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” — Mark Twain
n “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” — Steve Martin
n A woman’s mind is cleaner than a man’s: she changes it more often.” — Oliver Herford
n “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” — Elbert Hubbard
For the sports fan
The NFL is quite a business. How else can you explain getting the television folks to pay for three days of coverage of the annual draft?
Watching women walk on those ridiculous high platform shoes is a nervous proposition.
Do we try to catch ’em when they fall off?
n Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.