Where Are All My Friends Going?

Hoosier Perspectives

Trip to soil and water conference reminded me how many people I know are retiring.

Published on: January 16, 2012

If you like to read what I write, don't panic. I have no intentions of retiring in the foreseeable future- even in the non-foreseeable future for that matter. My wife, Carla, and I, still have two kids in college and a junior in high school. They don't just hand out those degrees these days without expecting payment up front. I will be working for a long time, Lord and employers willing.

That's good. I like to meet people, and I like to write. I've been doing this going on 31 years this August. If you don't like what I write, well, you're out of luck. I intend to keep banging the typewriter keys a good while longer.

Did you catch that? Typewriter keys? No, I don't use a typewriter. I think there's an old one in the closet my wife gets out to do scholarship forms, but when Kayla is ready to pursue them in a year from now, most of them are going to be online anyway. We won't even need that one old typewriter. I did begin 31 years ago on a typewriter, however. My boss, the late Tom Budd, would mark red ink on my prose, I would retype it, we shipped it in an envelope, and then we opened up the magazine a few weeks later to be surprised at what we saw. That's hardly how it works today. I can write this story, and you could see it online yet today. Or you could see it in print next month, and I would have decided what page to put it on, and read it at least once in the exact form it was going to appear in the magazine.

Nonetheless, being at that meeting, I realized I recognized a lot of old, familiar faces. There was Jim Lake, from northeast Indiana, a long-time conservation employee at various levels.

"How's it going, Jim" I asked. "Oh, fine, I'm probably going to retire this year," he said. Hmm, there was a time when I didn't think he was much older than I was. Come to think of it, he's not! But he assures me that if he does retire, he will find something to do to stay active in the soil conservation field.

Then there was Duane Drockelman. He's already retired once from NRCS. For the past several years, he's worked for the South Laughery Creek Watershed in southeast Indiana. "Yeah, I'm probably going to hang it up if this is the end of the project after the next year or so," he says.

Duane, tell me it isn't so!

Then someone mentioned another district conservationist who spent days in the truck with, riding to see farmers. He's retiring. And then someone else mentioned another, and another, and so it went.

Finally, I found a farmer, Gary Tom, a farmer from Warsaw way, and past president of IASWCD. Surely he's not retiring.

"Well, we are transitioning," he says. "The next generation is coming in, and they probably won't milk cows like Max and I. They will raise animals, but not cows to milk."

Well, time does march on. Many faces were new at the conference. That's good- it means we're getting new blood. But it also means I'm getting old.

Well, too bad, I'm writing anyway. And I'll be on another high-horse when it's time to write this blog next week. See you then.