Coffee with Kate
author's background notes
I started work at the York News-Times (YNT) in November, 2008 as their "Feature Reporter".   That means I covered a lot of everyday small town events, such as notices about collection drives for the food pantry and a reminder that Tuesday is "Crazy Hat" day during Homecoming Week. I also wrote all the human interest stories, like the one about the jail that was stolen from the nearby town of Benedict. Yes, you read that right Ė the town jail was stolen. Click here to see the full story. Or the story about the folks in the nearby town of Milligan, who erected memorials to all the World War II airmen who crashed there during maneuvers at nearby air bases. Rose Vavra never got over the sight of the body parts in her parlor. I won an AP prize for this one. Click here to see the Milligan story. If you would like to read a few more articles I enjoyed writing, I've listed a some below:
The York News-Times is a hyper-local newspaper. This means that they leave the national politics and the international disasters to the guys with the deep pockets and lots of space, to concentrate instead on stories about local people, local politics and local events. It can get tough finding a new angle, twice a year every year, on the church clothing giveaway. But it never gets old going to any of several local high schools to take pictures of kids driving to school on giant John Deeres or antique Ford tractors during FFA Week. They have a blast; so do I.
Thereís much, much more happening, and plenty more interesting people, around these small towns than most would give them credit for. But thereís still a limit. Determined to fill as much space as possible with local voices, the YNTís feature reporter is also expected to write a weekly column. That's something most reporters dream of doing and never, ever get a chance to do professionally: write a personal column. Great! But that gets hard too, after while.
My column could be about anything I wanted. I ruled out politics, since the paperís publisher, Greg Awtry, was busy winning prizes for his political editorials. Thatís enough political fulmination for one small-town paper. I decided just to write about whatever popped into my head that week. It was easier to write if I thought of it as a casual conversation with my readers. Ideally, we both had a cup of coffee in hand.
Thus, Coffee with Kate was born.
Every Friday morning, the paperís subscribers opened up to the editorial page and regaled themselves wih my personal thoughts and experiences. These proved more popular than I thought they could be, and Coffee with Kate was added to the YNTís weekly ad circular, the T&T Advantage. My column continues in the Advantage, reaching a weekly audience of about 15,000 households. I have received high compliments on my column from many Nebraska natives, who tell me they have learned more than they knew there was to learn about their home state, having seen it through my eyes. Nebraska has much to teach about life itself, and it has been my privilege to share what I have learned. It feels good to pull individual columns together into a collection. Coffee with Kate is now a book, available for purchase at this Web site. And just to get you into the conversation, here are a few of my columns that didnít make it into the book. Enjoy!
9 January 2009: The next wave
I gave a trucker the finger the other day. He was driving a grain hauler, Husker red, probably coming from the Benedict elevator. He wanted to turn left in front of me, north onto Highway 81. I could see him looking, south, north, south again, when the two cars some distance ahead of me passed him, judging time and distance for me and for an oncoming car a long way south. If he waited for me, he would be held up by that guy. I could see he was antsy to move. I took my foot off the gas and let it hover over the brake, slowing down to give him just a little time to spare to get his full length out of my path and into the oncoming lane. As his long truck straightened out from the turn, I glanced up into the cab, saw a work-seamed face, and I couldnít help it: my finger came up. Read the "The next wave" column here.
19 July 2010: No thanks, Bruce
Some time back, I read an article somewhere (National Geographic?) about big storms, tornadoes, maybe, or hurricanes, and what researchers know, and donít know, about them. In the article or related comments, someone proposed that researchers find a way to blow up big storm systems before they let loose and cause death and destruction. I remember having mental images of Bruce Willis riding a nuclear warhead into a funnel cloud. Iím sure it sounds like a good idea to some people, but thereís a little problem with blowing up a storm system: all that energy still has to go some place, and guess where that would be? Read the "No thanks, Bruce" column here.
26 February 2011: The question that canít be answered
"Why?" Itís a question I drove my classes nuts with when I taught high school English. Why canít Friar Laurence come up with a better plan than faking Julietís death? Why does is matter that Pip named himself? "Because" is not an acceptable answer, as any eight-year-old who has heard that from his mother can tell you. I never liked "I donít know," myself. But the latter is what Ron and I heard recently, at the memorial service of his niece, Jodi Wolf. Jodi died on Friday, Feb. 11, at a hospice in Sioux Falls, S.D., after a short struggle with cancer. The diagnosis was a surprise, but the prognosis was decent until shortly before she died. Very suddenly, Jodi and her family were dealing with end-of-life issues, and they didnít have much time in which to do it. Read "The question that canít be answered" column here.
8 February 2011: Cartoon mommy
OK, I know I have said it publicly; in fact, I know I have made the declaration right here in this column on previous occasions: My pets are not my children. Dogs are dogs, cats are cats, yadda-yadda,
B-ut . . . .
You saw that one coming, didnít you.
30 August 2010: Serial axe murderers and other everyday worries
It could blow up. Ron has heard me say that one a few times. Every time he does one of those manly tasks, like flip a circuit breaker in the electrical box, tinker under the hood or pump gas into the car, if I donít say it, I think it: Be careful, it could blow up. To a man, itís just another chore, as familiar as buckling his belt, as mindless as burping, as harmless as combing his hair. To a woman, any woman, I venture to say just about every woman, it could blow up. Read the "Serial Axe Murders" column here.