2013 — It was a very good year
Merry Christmas. Whether you are reading this column online after Skyping with friends and family, or curled up in your easy chair, newspaper in hand, in front of a roaring fire — I hope you are enjoying this most joyous of holidays.
It’s a time of year when most of us reflect on all that has happened during the year — both good and bad.
We journalists (If I dare include myself in that category) often take this opportunity to look back upon the events of the year, recalling what was “newsworthy” and trying to make some sense out of it all.
Because this column is opinion and not news, I can choose to reflect about anything and everything I have written about.
This gives me wide latitude — from goats to granola; beer tasting to bunny rabbits; buying local to just being plain loco.
I don’t exactly have “free reign” with my writing. My dear wife reins me in when I get too far afield. This time of year I call her my Rein Dear.
And you can thank her for being the one who said, “I think that’s enough about goats.” Or, “Don’t get political.” And even an occasional, “How many beers did you have when you came up with that idea?” My signal to rewrite.
I have exercised some restraint on my own, like the time the receptionist at The Mountaineer showed me that after they destroyed the beautiful maple trees in front of the courthouse, she could see clearly into the main floor bathroom windows.
Did you know? — I could have written about how most men don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. But that was TMI.
It probably wouldn’t have been a very popular column anyway.
Speaking of popularity — Did you know? — The Mountaineer website tracks the number of online “page views” of both stories and columns. Using that as a guideline, the five, best-read DYK columns of 2013 were as follows.
#1 The Swag — The Pinnacle of picnics.
This iconic inn really puts on a spread every Wednesday during the season. The fine food, diverse mix of people and the view from Gooseberry Knob make it a day to treasure. If you haven’t been to The Swag, you should “treat yourself.” BTW, gift certificates to The Swag make great Christmas presents.
#2 This is eating about as local as you can
The spring story about my Tower Garden and the “Porch to Table” way of growing your own produce was a big hit. I am still a champion of this incredible growing system.
#3 A vibrant look at Lake Junaluska
The photography of Dr. Allan Zacher is nothing less than spectacular. Whether you routinely walk Lake Junaluska or just occasionally drive by, you should take a closer look at his images. They are truly “eye candy.”
#4 The coolest Blue Ridge Parkway view ever
Part of photography is just being at the right place at the right time — and having your camera with you. So on the one day I left my camera behind, my wife got all the great photos, and the glory.
#5 Watch out for “Big Red.”
This story of angst and retirement really resonated with readers. And it is a never-ending saga. Carol is back at the Lifestyles desk right now — filling in for the holidays. I hope The Mountaineer returns her to me soon.
So there you have it — those are the stories/columns that you seemed to enjoy the most. If there is one common thread, it’s photography — beautiful photography. Which is testimony to the old adage the “A picture is worth a thousand words."
As for my favorite story of the year — it’s one of the lowest in page “reads” but the most fun to research and write — Bonding with the squirrels.
No squirrels were harmed during the writing of this column, but my aim is getting better every day.
If you have seen the TV commercial from DirecTV, where “The squirrels just aren’t listening to Dave” — they're attacking him — you have an idea what I’m going through.
Writing a weekly column is certainly not “a walk in the park,” but I love it. Thanks for reading along the past five years.