Dave Paxton

It is a strange feeling approaching semi-retirement, particularly when facing one of the busiest weeks in a career spanning 45 years. Officially I enter a 12-15 hour work schedule Aug. 1. Which basically means I’ve got between 45 and 50 hours of brand new retirement time on my hands.

What will I do? What will I do?

My contributions to the Albia and Chariton newspapers will be continuing my weekly column, doing other editorial work, some sports and feature writing and special projects as it fits into my schedule. For the short term, at least, I’ll continue to cover some of my regular news beats like school board and city council in Albia.

In the past month, we’ve had a successful transition in terms of the business end of the newspaper. I still answer phone calls and then direct them to our new publisher and have had just one hand-wringing call from a vendor who thought I owned the company. “What am I going to do?” she pleaded.

“Uhmmm, just like you always did, except now with Becky,” was my answer.

But I’ve got to wander through this week first. Between the two companies there are two county fairs, a state softball tournament appearance and Albia Restoration Days. I won’t do much of anything to help with the Lucas County Fair because I’ll be in Fort Dodge most of the week as their fair opens up.

In my long career as a community journalist, I’ve had the pleasure of covering individual state champions, conference, district and regional team champions, a runner-up in state softball and several third place team finishes in football, wrestling, boys track, softball and baseball, but never a state champion.

It’s highly likely I will help with 4-H fairs in years to come (I like 4-H fairs) and even big community celebrations like Restoration Days, but having the top-ranked and top-seeded team in the state tournament provides a rare opportunity.

If things progress like I hope they will, my family and I will return Wednesday to Fort Dodge and then stay through Friday afternoon, spending the in-between time in Clear Lake with my cousins at their lake home, then hustle back Friday to do 4-H fair photos and perform with my wife an intermission set of folk music at a Bluegrass concert for Restoration Days.

My first official day of retirement will be as a parade driver, then beef show photographer and Restoration Days photographer. Everything about my first day of being semi-retired is fun. I just wish the fun was spread out a little more.

Last week I turned 66, which provided me the opportunity to start collecting Social Security without penalty. I’ve got my Medicare health insurance card and AARP continues to pester me about joining their organization. Not going to happen. I pretty much wrote off AARP (American Association of Retired People) ever since I chanced upon one of their magazines and it was clear they have no concern at all for young families, except to keep them working to prop up Social Security. (If anybody should get a meal discount it’s a young mom and dad with four kids.)

I’m told there is another retirement group out there, more conservative politically that actually has some love for young families. I might consider joining that group, although I’m thinking my days of joining anything are pretty much over, unless it’s an old car club of some sort.

The last couple of weeks I’ve spent helping long-time friend Todd Ratliff tear off shingles on my house and garage, repair the underlayment and put on two new roofs. After my heart attack three years ago, my cardiologist laid out some minor restrictions (partly because of prescribed heart medication) and one of those was not to get on a roof. Apparently one of the pills I take can make you dizzy and falling off a roof can be more dangerous than having a heart attack. Who knew?

My wife used that warning to purchase covered rain gutter for the house and garage and we hired Coach Ratliff instead of doing it myself. It was a good decision, but it didn’t keep me off the roof (I helped shed the old roofs), I worked a few hours laying out shingles for Coach and his power nailer and I took five trailer loads of shed shingles to the landfill (two with my wife, one with another roofer worker and two with a grandson).

It was funny at one level and irritating at another to have 48-year-old Coach Ratliff making sure I didn’t do anything stupid helping out. He cautioned me about lifting bundles out of a tractor bucket and when I told him I was okay doing it, he said I was just like his dad. I took it as a compliment to both of us.

I shared last spring that my wife and I are building a retirement cabin tucked back into our timber and that work began in earnest, almost exactly at the same time as the roofer arrived and as the summer careened into county fairs, state softball tournaments and a big summer celebration.

There is something about watching big equipment work that has always fascinated me. And the operators make everything look so easy. On my bucket list is to one day operate a bulldozer. Maybe just for an hour or so, pushing out a stump or leveling off something. Watching a backhoe operator dig a basement is a wonderment.

So, anyway, this is my last column as a full-time community journalist and I thought about writing a grand swan song, but that seemed sort of silly since you’ll get a new column from me next week. I look forward to seeing what the new retirement me will look like and translating that into a weekly newspaper column. This column has morphed several times, beginning as a snotty college sports column, to a meandering daily newspaper farm column to what it is today, which is a combination of rural, sports, political, religious and parenting (grandparenting) observations.

Over the weekend, I watched “Ford vs Ferrari” a movie featuring Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as hall of fame driver Ken Miles. In the movie, Ken Miles, a former British tank driver who survived D-Day to become a very difficult race car driver and designer, talked about the “Perfect Lap,” which actually happened for him at Le Mans in 1966.

I think that’s what I want to shoot for heading into retirement. Having the time and mental focus to write the “Perfect Column.” If it happens, you’ll be the first to know.

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