Wal, podners, time for me to limp off into the sunset. After more than 10 years, this concludes my biweekly essays in the Hays Daily.

I wanted to spend more time with my family.

OK, no, my family wouldn’t put up with that. But time matters to a guy in his eighth decade.

Though the final product might not suggest it, I’ve spent a lot of time on these essays, first just finding and pondering engaging topics. After penning a draft, I revisited and tweaked repeatedly before submitting the piece. Who knew?

Avoiding work is my main hobby, so I view this with some relief; but the work has also offered a lot of fun.

I’ve cultivated the acquaintance of some fascinating folks, some of whom have lived the history I sometimes write about. A brilliant man, a musician and educator, kicked out of the Hitler Youth for insubordination, now retired in Ellis. A survivor of the orphan trains, here in Hays. A wise, funny farmer and educator from Hoxie.

Feedback, from Connecticut to California, has almost all been positive. Usually it’s angry people who are motivated to write.

Another surprise has been the emergence of so many freethinkers who must conceal their disavowal of religion, fearing rejection and alienation from family, friends, and customers. They maintain the outward appearances, attend church to keep the peace, but don’t buy into the "faith." “I’m glad somebody is saying these things in public,” wrote one.

Some responses were hilarious. Several years ago I riffed on intercollegiate trash-talking. My mistake was choosing an actual college as the foil, instead of a fictitious school, like Port Mays State. But it seemed natural to focus on Silo Tech.

No reasonable person would regard those silly insults as literal accusations of academic insufficiency. Had my intent really been an indictment of K-State’s scholastics, however, several respondents would’ve validated it.

One email was full of misspellings, fractured grammar and invective. Three others all forwarded the same PR flyer from K-State, extolling all the smart people affiliated with the school. As if to say “yuh-Huh! We up hereabouts are also smart too.”

A Halloween tale, padded with factual military and historical details, took the form of a dying Civil War soldier’s letter.

The opening identified it as a Halloween horror story. It featured hideous ghouls feasting among the corpses on a moonlit battlefield.

Within 24 hours, a message arrived from the battlefield’s museum director, asking if the letter was “genuine,” and if so, the name of the soldier who wrote it.

She also consulted two local military historians, who checked regimental rosters and reports: no “Sgt. Perkins” listed, and no records of a surgical arm amputation after the fight! They pronounced the tale a “hoax.” Busted!

The editors have graciously allowed me to address any issue that interests me. So, no ballet or high finance. We’ve still managed to tackle science, law, history, environment, medicine, religion, politics, sports, horror, music, UFOs, marketing practices, and (this is debatable) humor. We’ve shared experiences of growing up in Stockton, and living on the Northern Cheyenne rez.

There were many other issues I intended to treat, such as the international refugee/immigration crisis, or pain’s role in generating the opioid OD epidemic. Perhaps in my next life — unless I’m reincarnated as an illiterate toad, as I deserve.

I’ve enjoyed pestering the HDN staff, e.g. trading nature stories and pics with Mike Corn. Four editors weathered my efforts — Nick McQueen, Nick Schwein, Ron Fields and Pat Lowry. Pat recruited me to the Loco Voices stable. (I turned him down the first time.) He is a consummate journalistic professional, committed to quality, ethics, integrity, and personal involvement in the community.

Pat, I wish you and your family great happiness.

HDN soldiers on. Today’s print media confront unprecedented electronic and corporate challenges. The amazing, unsinkable Mary Karst has provided continuity for more than 40 years. Who better to facilitate an ongoing transition?

Finally, my gratitude to the many readers who have provided encouragement and feedback over the years. I will miss you most of all.

We bid you all a fond “adieu.” On with the show! Good health to you.