WALLA WALLA — So this is what freedom feels like.
I think I like it.
After 41 years and four months (but who’s been counting?), I’ve decided that retirement is the right decision for me.
Honestly, it’s been a blast.
I’ve always described my job at the U-B as living in the candy store. Like the lyrics to Keith Urban’s hit country song, Who wouldn’t want to be me?
But it’s time to turn the page.
So, as of this week I’ve handed over the keys to the office to Bret Rankin, my trusted desk man these last 10 years. And I’m totally confident Bret will excel as the Union-Bulletin’s new sports editor.
He’s organized, he’s thoughtful and, most of all, he loves sports. You can’t do this job well for very long if you don’t.
Bret’s also been here long enough now that he has a pretty good feel for what goes on in Walla Walla and the surrounding communities and what readers expect from the U-B. And he’ll find, as I have, that it’s a never ending learning process.
Furthermore, Bret’s 23 years my junior and light years ahead of me when it comes to high-tech capabilities. And believe me, the cyberspace world is where this industry is headed.
Which is one more good reason for this old dog to step aside. It’s getting more and more difficult to learn all of the new tricks that the job requires.
Whatever happened to the linotype and manual typewriters anyway?
But as for me, faithful U-B readers, you’re not rid of me yet.
In the coming weeks, months, years — as long as publisher Rob Blethen, news editor Rick Doyle and, of course, Bret will have me, really — I plan to continue at the U-B in a part time capacity.
My assignments will focus mostly on writing columns and features and covering an occasional game, which are the tasks that got me into the business in the first place. I’m confident that I still have something to offer.
And I’ll also be asked to provide some help on the desk and on special projects such as the Blue Mountain Sports Awards and our annual football and basketball preview sections.
I’m game. Bring it on, Bret.
I’ve thought about retirement for a long time. But I’m glad I don’t have to do it cold turkey.
I’ve never wanted to get out of the race, just not run quite so hard.
So for now, this seems like the perfect fit.
My wife Margaret and I will be able to spend more time together at a somewhat slower pace, doing things we enjoy. Like traveling.
And at the same time, I’ll be able to contribute to our otherwise fixed income by doing something I still very much love to do.
Of course, there will be some things that I will miss. And some that I won’t.
For instance, those let-me-transfer-you-to-the-sports editor phone calls that almost always spell trouble will now fly right over my head and set Bret Rankin’s phone to ringing. I won’t miss them at all.
And I won’t miss trying to explain to a reader why his or her suggestion for "a really good story" really isn’t. Or worse, putting a reader off on a "good story suggestion" simply because everyone on staff is already up to their eyeballs in assignments.
And then there are those mistakes that creep into the newspaper no matter how hard you try and avoid them. Especially the ones in 48-point type.
We all make them, and we all cringe. But it’s the sports editor who shoulders the ultimate responsibility and feels the greatest guilt.
On the flip side, it just occurred to me that I no longer have the authority to so much as threaten to send staffer Don Davis to Kahlotus or some other U-B outpost as retribution for tormenting me at the office, which he is known for.
Maybe I should reconsider this whole retirement idea.
Oh, Rick — Rick Doyle — hold up a minute, Rick.
We need to talk ...