Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “Whether you think that you can or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
Life is like that – if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish great things. If you doubt what you are trying to do, you are in for a tough ride or worse, you won’t get off the couch and get going.
Thirty years ago on Aug. 13, 1992, I loaded a rented Budget truck and my Chevrolet S-10 with most of my belongings and left my boyhood home of Tulsa headed for new pasture.
I wasn’t unhappy in Tulsa, I was ready for a change.
It all started in the early winter of 1983 while working in the circulation department for Newspaper Printing Corporation (NPC) in Tulsa. NPC oversaw the printing and distribution of what was then two Tulsa papers, the World and the Tribune.
I was an assistant district manager and my job was to make sure the daily newspapers were delivered to the customers on time.
I met John, who had moved to Oklahoma in April 1982 from Riverside, Calif. Ironically, John was born in Iowa and lived in Burlington before moving to California with his mom and family at age 3.
We had a bet. The goal was to see how much weight we could lose in a two-month timespan. The bet started on March 1 and went through April 30 of that year.
The winner would receive $50.
I won with a weight loss of 39 pounds to John’s 26 pounds. I got into short-distance running (2-6 miles daily), quit drinking Pepsi and changed a lot of my eating habits.
At the time, John didn’t have an extra $50, so a couple months later, he gave me his old camera, a Konica FP-1. The camera paid far greater dividends and opened more doors than $50 could have ever done.
I had an Argus twin lens reflex camera that I was given in junior high school by the neighbor family to the south and I used it a lot through the years, but never took the art of photography too serious. This new camera was like a piece of gold.
I started with some adult education photography courses through Tulsa Community College and that led me to enroll in Rogers State College (now University) in Claremore, Okla.
I started part-time at RSC in August 1987 with a black and white class at the recommendation of the teacher. I then ventured into color photography. This was back in the day when film was king. I learned a lot about photography working in the darkroom developing film and making prints. That led to me taking more classes such as English, humanities, history, speech and science.
While at RSC, where I earned an AAS Degree in Graphics Technology in 1991, I begin to believe in myself. Growing up, I was shy and didn’t always see myself in the best light.
That was changing.
It helped that I was attending a God-centered church where I was learning that all things are possible and that my past wasn’t my future.
I learned early on in life that struggles and challenges were there to propel you into a better life. And so was the paddle of love my mom shared with my backside many times through the years. I’m thankful for every spanking I got.
Anyway, while at RSC, I decided I wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree. That led to me applying and being accepted to the University of Missouri-Columbia.
I never took an ACT test, but somehow got into the school. I enrolled in the Agricultural Journalism program.
It took me three tries to get into the journalism school. I worked at night as a custodian and went to school during the day. I got involved in a church and made friends. I listened to Bible teaching tapes while sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. I associated with people who believed in me and prayed for me. And most importantly, I believed in myself.
I asked for help and I took advantage of it. Thinking back, I remember the many struggles I had with algebra. At one point, I was getting tutoring from a friend at church twice a week and I was spending Sunday afternoons attending math tutoring at the university. I passed.
When I failed, and I did many times, I got up and kept walking.
After graduating from MU in 1997 at the age of 38, I returned to Tulsa briefly before making the move to North English, Iowa on Dec. 27, 1997.
Looking back on all of this, I’ll never forget Aug. 13, 1992. My brother, Tom, drove the rental van and I drove my pickup on that hot August early evening. We stopped for pizza and then hit the turnpike to Missouri.
After spending the night in Springfield, Mo., we rolled north and east and arrived in my new home, Ashland, Mo., 15 miles south of Columbia, in the late afternoon of Aug. 14, 1992.
What I great ride these past 30 years have given me.
I met my wife at the Iowa State Fair, published two Iowa photo books, co-directed a writing workshop for 10-years, bought a house. I believe I have made a difference through my pen and camera in the lives of many.
And there is so much more to come!
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
I grew up attending the Tulsa State Fair.
I always looked forward to the fair as a youngster because I got a free day out of school and a ticket to attend the fair. The Tulsa State Fair opens on the fourth Thursday following Labor Day and runs for 11 days.
I usually went once with a friend or by myself and a second time with my family. We enjoyed touring the animal barns and I liked walking through the midway. The Tulsa fair features the IPE (International Petroleum Expo) Building on the fairgrounds. It is more than eight acres under one roof. During the fair, the building is filled with vendors, food and fair contests. You can spend an entire day in that building.
I grew up about two miles from the fairgrounds and on any given fall evening, I could open my bedroom windows and hear the noise from the fair.
I had never heard of a butter sculptor or the famous Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair until I moved to this fine state and attended my first fair in 1998.
And the campground is like a small city with transportation, a grocery store and electric and sewer hookups. I enjoy being in the campground where I get a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones.
During my first year at the fair, I got on the wrong tram and ended up in the campground by mistake. I was trying to get to the parking lot and ended up getting more than I bargained for.
I failed to have my hand stamped at the gate as I thought I was going to the parking lot. I almost had to buy a ticket to get back into the fair to get out of the fair. The ticket taker let me in after a little persuasion.
Once back on the fairgrounds, I ended up hitching a ride on a golf cart with two policeman after asking for directions. They were nice fellows, but the one cop must have been having life problems of some sort because he was talking about it as I hung on to the back of the golf cart for my dear life.
It was quite an ordeal and made for a great newspaper column. It was also a precursor to being in the campground five years later in 2003 where I would met Debbie, who would be become my wife just more than a year later. It’s a match made in Heaven, via the Iowa State Fair Campground.
My favorite things about the fair are people watching, visiting with total strangers, taking naps on fair benches, spending time in Pioneer Hall where I enter antiques each year, staying in the air conditioned buildings as much as possible and eating at Beattie’s, better known as the watermelon stand. They serve tasty tenderloin sandwiches as well as beef and ham sandwiches. They are a great family.
There’s also a family-owned polish sausage stand behind the Varied Industries Building that makes the best polish sausage sandwiches. Toss in a glass of ice cold tea and all is good with the world. Last year, Debbie and I purchased large drink glasses for $10 each from Hardenbrook Concessions. They have two food stands on the fairgrounds. We get free refills of ice tea for the entire fair. A fun fair fact, Hardenbrook Concessions also sets up at the Tulsa State Fair.
I enjoy eating at the Iowa Pork Producers tent and a trip to the Cattleman’s is a good choice. And I tried the pizza last year and plan to eat a slice or two again this year.
Here are some things you may not know about the Iowa State Fair. The Pork Producers serve approximately 48,000 pork chops during the fair. I wonder how many pigs it takes to have that many pork chops?
Also, more than 40,000 ribbons, rosettes and banners are awarded annually at the Iowa State Fair. I have a tough enough time sorting out the awards and honors at the Poweshiek County Fair. I can’t image sorting out that many awards and honors.
The heaviest pigeon on record at the fair weighed in at two pounds, 7 ounces in 2014. The biggest Big Boar was 1,335 pounds in 2012. The World Super Bull chimed in at 3,404 pounds in 2009. The Giant Ram weighed in at 507.5 pounds in 2014. And the Largest Rabbit was 22 pounds, 5.5 Ounces in 2012.
About 1,600 tons of animal bedding is hauled away each year from the state fair barns.
Approximately 500 exhibitors and concessions operate daily at the Iowa State Fair. This includes food (cotton candy to corndogs), merchandise (T-shirts to tools), craft and exhibit vendors (farm machinery to hot tubs).
The first Hog Calling competition was held in 1926. Check out the Pioneer Hall for a long-list of competitions from cow chips to fiddling.
And the toilet paper used each year at the fair stretches 1,818 miles. That is five trips from Des Moines to Chicago or one trip from Des Moines to Los Angeles.
That’s a lot of miles and a lot of toilet paper!
And lastly, here are the lyrics to the song, “Our State Fair,” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein music titled, “State Fair.”
“Our State Fair is a great State Fair,
Don’t miss it, don’t even be late.
It’s dollars to doughnuts that our State Fair,
Is the best State Fair in our state!”
Life is about living and making memories with family and friends. If you have a little extra time, take a trip Des Moines and enjoy the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 11 – 21.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.