Forty years and counting
The tomatoes are well started and peas are in the ground, the cows are bred and pastures are greening up nicely. The Harrison Lewis Centre on the hill above the house is coming alive with the arrival of two summer assistants, university students Leah Strople and Abbie Hudson. Yesterday they were joined by David Boehm and Richard and Phyllis McBride, chipping in as volunteers cleaning and generally readying cabins and main building for upcoming workshops. (See pg. 48.)
Readers will recognize David Boehm’s name. He has written a lot for Rural Delivery over the years and this year was an Atlantic Journalism Awards silver medalist for “Enterprise Reporting, Print,” in recognition of his story in the Oct. 2015 issue titled “Lobster on a roll.”
Life is good. We feel for the dry bones West contending with drought and fierce wild fires and in Fort McMurray especially for hundreds of homeowners who lost everything.
Forty years ago this month Elizabeth, Marijean, and I finished laying out Rural Delivery’s “Numero Uno” in the offices of the Shelburne (Nova Scotia) Coast Guard, and went down the street for some ice cream. Elizabeth Donnelly-Nelson, who for the past many years has lived in Grand Bay, N.B., recalled the ice cream celebration when I wrote to her the other day asking if she had any early photos. (She did, and you can check them out by following the “1978 RD layout work bee” link at www.RuralLife.ca.) I’d forgotten the ice cream, as I have forgotten so much around those earliest years. On rare occasions I delve into that past by flipping through copies of the magazine from the 1970s and ‘80s. Then I remember stuff and then I want to take a nap. It’s been a long, long time and way back there were long, long hours.
June 1976, was also when Harrowsmith was launched. I don’t recall having known that that magazine was coming. Owner-publisher James Lawrence raised a pile of money to get his impressive magazine off the ground. We started with $70 for a flyer. That’s impressive. But add to that 70 bucks a king’s ransom in volunteer help over many months from people like Elizabeth and Jill Smith and Renee Davis, and Barbara Richman and Cathey Cranton and Gail Wolfe and Chris Curry and Sandy Cranton and my son Wim and on it goes. If I left you out, I apologize.
Rural Delivery was going to be a classified ad exchange only – an exchange for old farm and kitchen items we hated to see turned into lawn ornaments. I’d just published “The Family Cow” with Garden Way Publishing and negotiations for a second book, “Small Scale Pig Raising” (just now updated through the good efforts of Echo Point Books in Brattleboro, Vermont), were dragging a bit. Why not crank out an ad exchange in the meantime? Couldn’t be that hard.
Wouldn’t you know it, no sooner had we committed to RD than the pig contract came through.
The least expensive printing would be on a large sheet of newsprint, the paper of most any standard newspaper. Fold it twice and trim the edges and we would have an eight-page magazine; sort of. The only trouble was that for all the ads submitted by brand new subscribers and the scrounging of appropriate classifieds from every newspaper in the region, including Uncle Henry’s in Maine – we were not charging anything, so why not? – there was still a huge amount of space to fill.
The ammunition in an 18th century blunderbuss was whatever you could lay your hands on. “Numero Uno” was a blunderbuss in print. There would be fiction, foolishness, a book review I’d written for Garden Way, and early material for “the pig book.” (That first issue is reproduced in the pages that follow, in all its yellowed glory.) We were on our way. And darned if enough people who got their hands on that first effort didn’t mail four dollars for a subscription, giving us enough money to go to press a second time, and then a third, and . . . On it went, and goes.
Shortly, we dropped to 10 issues per year from 12 because mid-winter and mid-summer were slow. It’s safe to say that with this magazine we will have published more than 400 issues of Rural Delivery, and if there has been an average of five illustrations in each of the 400-plus, that’s – a lot. (“Cartoons,” James Lawrence called my scribbles, relieving me of ever again worrying if a duck really looked like a duck or a cow a cow.)
Enough looking back. Today and into the future we are fortunate to have an exceptional crew in the office “taking care of business” in administration (Chassity Allison), advertising (Janie Smith-Clattenburg, Jannine Russell, and Fred Holborn), circulation and sales (Tammy Wolfe), and production (Angie Fredericks and Stephen Nickerson). They are the core of our little universe, surrounded in nearest orbit by a dedicated team of editors (Managing Editor David Lindsay editing RD and Atlantic Forestry, Lisa Hines for Atlantic Horse & Pony, and Heather Jones for Atlantic Beef & Sheep) working from home for the most part as do regular copy editors and proof readers (Jack Scrine, Anne Gray, and Piper Whelan).
Of course there would be little for them to do were it not for a legion of excellent freelance contributors, long-time regular correspondents like Frank Macdonald and Fred Isenor, as well as subscribers who say “I’m not a writer,” before proceeding to send us well-told tales based on life experiences both recent and long past.
The latest addition to the office is Mike Bienstock in the editorial assistant slot. What good luck to have found him or he us. Mike comes with a duffle bag of relevant skills plus the kind of attitude and sense of fun that makes it a pleasure having him in our company. What more can we ask? I’d say time to allow Mike to fully open that duffle bag so’s to apply what he knows to improving our delivery of magazines in print and on the web.
It might be nice but we’re not working to get Risley-rich here. Although it’s dangerous to speak for others, I’ll offer that we share an interest in doing something we like, that is worthwhile, and we are ever optimistic that sufficient income will follow through subscriptions and advertising to keep beans on the table and a roof o’er head. Thanks to all who have contributed to Rural Delivery being around these many years.
Time to go for some ice cream. DvL