Hats off to my new friends


McZENA — This dateline really shouldn’t be affixed to this little burg, McZena, because what’s really important about this day is that the good thing that happened occurred right here in downtown Bellville.

On this day I’m minding my own business, buying a few groceries in the wait time before an evening meeting. Stoodt’s Market is my store of choice.

I’m in line, and a woman I’ve never met before said she enjoyed reading what I had been writing.

This she said after allowing as how it was probably difficult coming into a town where no one knew you.

I told her about my upbringing outside Loudonville — not really an alien town but also not Bellville or Butler. And I said I had lived all over.

She is obviously an observant person, because she said she had read about my life in other parts of the world, and in this country.

Yes. I have lived elsewhere. I have seen lots about this world that I would spare others to witness.

Even though I treasure all my experiences, even in a place like Angola, the country of my most recent trek overseas, I have always been more than thankful to return home, safe and sound.

I guess this is because I treasure the way I was reared, on the farm, by mom and dad.

In my opinion, there are no other parents as nurturing as John and Bea Swartzwalder. And they always tried to stress things that would help us broaden our minds.

They never raised their voices. They would always make statements that you knew were intended to give you some bolstering, some guidance.

They seemed to always know we would make the thoughtful decision.

I was always given choices in my life — where I would go to college, what career I would choose. Mom and dad kindly put up with my even most hair brained decisions.

As mom got older, she would observe my travels. After dad had passed away, she noted to my one sister that I was going off again — this time to Zimbabwe. She said “she could always come and visit me.”

I did that, of course. One major life rule — always try to honor your parents.

I didn’t tell the kind woman I met in Stoodt’s about my mom and dad, or the winding pathway of choices I have made in my life.

I am a little bit of a person of faith, having been reared that way. We would go to church, always, every Sunday. I worked the majority of my life in journalism, and not going to church then was common because work schedules conflicted. But I always kept my beliefs.

I remember once when I was still working for the Des Moines Register, I was scheduled to work on Christmas Day. You do that in the daily newspaper business.

Working for the Des Moines Register required new staff members to work holidays.

On one particular Christmas day, I went into the office. I was ok doing that, because I could save my days off and put them together, so I could have a string of days to travel back to Ohio.

There I was in the Des Moines Register newsroom, with a staff of editor, copy editing people, and a couple of other reporters.

I sat at my desk and lighted a candle.

Thinking back on it, I have realized others there probably thought I was a little “out behind the barn.”

But that act gave me comfort. It was my own little private observation of a day I thought important.

So though I am a person not of this particular locality, I think I am very much like many people here.

I grew up the right way. I think I was taught what things to treasure.

I told the woman in Stoodt’s that oddly enough, though working in a small town, I find it good.

This is a place where they can be challenges in getting the news, and doing it adequately and accurately.

I have met some amazing and phenomenal people here, and I always hope after I have met and interviewed them, than I can portray some of their joy in living in my writing.

Probably what helps me follow that path is the kindness of many people.

My “hats off” salute to Anita Ryan, my Stoodt’s buddy, and two more, Joanne Freed and Pat Fry. I met Joanne and Pat, who were out taking care of business, at a recent town meeting.

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McZENA MUSE

Louise Swartzwalder