Years are passing by, 27 so far

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Dennis Clay

On Feb. 13, 1991 this column first appeared in the Columbia Basin Herald. It was titled “With Clay Feet,” at the time. My mentor, Fred Peterson of Spokane, gave the column the name. It came from a verse from the Bible which stated the words, “With feet of Clay,” as I understand the words.

One of several editors didn’t like the words indicating they didn’t have anything to do with the outdoors. My discontent was to no avail, so the title, Clay Feats, was agreed upon.

Observing the anniversary every year give me a chance to look back, not just one year, but 27 years in this case. Would be fun to publish at least a small publication of some type to recognize the 30-year anniversary. This could be at my own expense if need be.

So, what stands out at this point in the 27 years of weekly outdoors column? My first outdoors columns were published in The Outdoor Press, a weekly publication published in Spokane by Fred and his wife, Gwen. This was before modern computers, so my columns were written longhand and sent by snail mail. But this began my weekly regiment of writing, before any CBH column.

I approached the editor of the CBH in September of 1990 about a weekly column. He said no. He called me a week later asking if I would write a story for the annual CBH hunting publication.

“Yes,” I said, “How many do you want?”

“Five,” he said.

I ended up sending three and my friend, Jack St. Marie, sent in a couple.

After this publication settled down, I ask if the editor wanted a weekly column and he said no.

A new publisher, one interested in outdoor subjects, was installed at the CBH the next January. He wasn’t in the position for a week when he said, “We are in the middle of an outdoor paradise, why don’t we have a weekly outdoors column? Does anyone know someone who could week a weekly column?” The editor said he did know of someone and I was called.

This beginning of an outdoors column started the formation of three more columns. Later publisher, Steve Hill, called me into his office and said, “I have the need for a weekly column for unusual items.”

He used the example of having Mrs. Smith’s pet bird flying away and it ending up at Mrs. Jones’ house. I was on it like a flash and the Bits & Pieces column began. This year will mark the year 20 for the column.

After a few years of Bits & Pieces, which has been labeled the most popular column in the CBH, I started writing about gardening. The head of the Grant County Master Gardeners called me.

“If you are going to write about gardening, you should take the Master Gardener Course,” she said.

The course was extremely educational, but I didn’t have the time to fulfill the volunteer requirements of a master gardener. Still the course paved the way for me to propose a gardening column for the paper, which was a weekly column from March through June every year for several years.

The last of my columns appearing weekly is the Hunting and Fishing report. My wife, Garnet, and I put this together to inform outdoor-minded people of outdoor topics of interest.

Several points of interest stand out at this point in my column-writing career. The last column of each year is a recap on the yearly points of interest, with the theme of what happened this year.

Giving back to the outdoors is the theme of the first column of each year. Picking up after other slobs who throw trash out the vehicle window is the central idea. Teaching our youth is central to this theme.

Anything outside of the front door and back door of my house is fair game for the column. This includes bird watching and bird feeding, but also fishing, camping, hunting, wildlife watching and anything else involved in the outdoors.

Humor is a large part of the column, perhaps my favorite part. A series of columns from the early 1990s are being prepared for publication in a book. These should have been published years ago, but…but, I’m having trouble letting go of them.

Friends Sally Hewitt and Cheryl Schweizer are proofing them and suggesting wording changes. Look for the book out later this year.

The most important feature or aspect of this outdoors column, and the other columns as well, is the feedback from my readers. Garnet and I are approached while shopping on a regular basis and a reader will comment about one column or another.

The most common remark is, “I just love reading about you two and your adventures.”

Of course, this just encourages me to write about Garnet and our misadventures. I’m always the fall guy and the butt of the jokes. Why? Because I know better than to have it any other way.

Thanks to you, my readers, to make these 27 years so pleasurable. Now on to number 28.

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