Back in Jefferson, back where I belong


I guess I’ve always been a pessimist.

My mind automatically fixates on the worst case scenario.

A rattling noise inside the car surely means I’ll have to find the money to have the transmission rebuilt.

A police car in my rearview mirror means a ticket, and possibly even my arrest on an outstanding warrant I didn’t know about.

A paper cut isn’t just a paper cut — it’s the beginning stage of necrotizing fasciitis.

But, when my wife, Amy, and I made the decision just six weeks ago to move back to Jefferson from Springfield, Ohio, after 14 years there, I saw nothing but positives.

I was thrilled at the prospect of our son, Henry, who just turned 5 in October, getting to see his grandparents more often.

After all, Amy — whose folks live in Sioux City — and I are owed a couple dozen date nights by now.

But, in turn, his grandparents will get to see him grow up, play Little League, be in school musicals and eventually — well, naturally — be named valedictorian of the Greene County High School class of 2026 or 2027 (I don’t know which; I’m bad at math).

It was my wife, however, the perpetual optimist, who planted the only seed of negativity in my brain about our impending move back to my hometown, where, in a bizarre twist of fate, I’ll be leading the venerable Bee & Herald forward as its editor.

“How,” she asked one night, “are you going to get out of going to your 20-year class reunion now?”

Whoa. I honestly hadn’t thought about that.

Was it too late to call our Realtor in Ohio and have him take the sign out of our yard? (Kidding.)

“Well,” I answered, “I have two years to come up with a really good excuse.”

Seriously, though, we couldn’t be happier to be back.

Growing up — and I’m going to be honest here — I never envisioned myself moving back to Jefferson except in cases of homelessness and/or paralysis.

I wanted to work for a daily newspaper, then maybe magazines.

Or maybe I’d try my hand at writing for a TV show.

Jefferson just didn’t offer that.

And, plus, I thought, back when I was 13 or 14, I need to live in a place that has at least one McDonald’s.

But, you get a little older, you have a kid and suddenly everything changes.

Giving your son the same opportunities you had — for starters, the freedom to ride a bike practically anywhere, any time — becomes the only thing that matters.

Besides, I haven’t been able to eat at McDonald’s ever since I read what Chicken McNuggets are made from.

In our early days out in Ohio, where I wrote about the arts and entertainment for Springfield’s daily, and later did some freelance entertainment writing for USA Today, I couldn’t believe that Jefferson’s sole-remaining grocery store closed at 9 every night.

Now, it doesn’t really matter — I’m in bed most nights by 9:15 anyway.

I had a great run in Ohio.

Interviewed a lot of incredible people, including the likes of Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

I once ate cheeseburgers with Stan Lee and thought back to how I faithfully used to walk up to Walt’s Hallmark weekly as a kid to pick up the latest issues of “Iron Man” or “The Incredible Hulk”— comic book characters he created.

I personally delivered John Legend’s tux to the Staples Center in Los Angeles just in time for his first Grammy Awards.

To make a long story short, we had gone to interview Legend, a Springfield, Ohio, native, at his hotel before the awards ceremony.

When he left for the Staples Center, my photographer and I realized he’d left his garment bag behind.

It seemed only right, we thought, to take his all-ivory tux to him.

Can you believe we didn’t even rate a shout-out when he got up to accept the night’s Grammy for best new artist?

But, throughout it all, Ohio never felt like home.

That much was painful every summer when we made the day-long car ride back.

When Henry came along in 2008, the distance seemed to grow even further, and not just because we now had to stop to pee or get a snack every 47 minutes.

I’ll now do my best not to embarrass my family in print, and to make the Herald an informative, inspiring and entertaining part of your week, every week.

If not, I’ve already stopped by Breadeaux Pizza and talked to Doug Meinecke about getting my old job back, sprinkling the cheese on the pizzas, in case this whole editor thing doesn’t pan out.

Before leaving Ohio, though, I met with an old source from work, who asked how long I saw myself in this new job of mine back in Jefferson before moving on to something supposedly better.

Five, 10 years?

We are, after all, a nomadic society these days.

“Well,” I replied, not giving it much thought, “I’m going home. I’ll probably be there until I die.”

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161