After 45 years of looking forward to each week’s issue of The Western Producer ending my subscription is wrenching. But I can no longer justify paying $82.95 (plus 12 percent HST) for a newspaper designed for farmers dealing mainly with shrinking markets, expanding machinery, and invading species. Amusing articles that drew me have been cut back or eliminated.
Humour has always been a draw for me but those columns are now gone. Even its op-ed pages no longer offer occasional short entertaining pieces on various topics written by unknown writers. The previous editor, Barb Glen, not only bought such articles for decent pay, she also wrote light articles on a range of topics, informative yet even whimsical. Somewhere in my files is a collection of her articles I liked enough to clip.
The new editor has swung to gloomy warnings of falling commodity prices, crop failures, and income destroying weather.
The only remaining columns of interest to me are on legal issues, medical conditions, and one homespun type written by Ryan Taylor, a North Dakota rancher/writer/state senator who has shared with his readers the growth of his family from firstborn to three sons now old enough to attend school, ride horseback, and make Dad appreciate his old fashioned country upbringing.
My first association with The Western Producer began in the 1940s when I was a farm kid. The newspaper had a Pen Pal page lively as today’s Facebook, and introduced me to comics – Katzenjammer Kids. Blondie. Popeye. I clipped the words to songs of the day (my sister still has the scribbler I filled with songs glued in using a flour and water mixture).
Family took turns reading the paper as though it were a TV remote. Dad read the classifieds. Mom never missed home economist Emmie Oddie’s column. After evening chores Mom would grab a handful of peanuts in the shell from the pantry, sit on her knees at the kitchen table to ease her arthritic hip, and starting with Oddie’s column, read as much of the Saskatoon newspaper as her bedtime allowed.
From 1978 to 1991 each weekly edition included a book-sized 16-page insert, “Western People”, featuring people, small towns, rural art, crafts and music. One of the columnists in those pages was Adele Dueck, from Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan, whose humorous style encouraged my writing. Dueck went on to publish children’s books.
In the 1990s the insert transformed into eight tabloid-sized pages. (When I painted my kitchen in August, I unearthed a three-inch thick stash of Western People dating back to 1993.) The September 16, 1993 issue has an article on the 11th Annual Big Valley Jamboree in Craven, Saskatchewan. The star lineup included Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakum, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Billy Ray Cyrus. The jamboree continues as an annual after-harvest get-together for my music loving family.
All those happy associations jostled my thoughts whenever I weighed the pros and cons of renewing my subscription. As we age, our reading tastes shift. With the changes in farming, I don’t even recognize many of the machines farmers use or what job each machine does. As for women’s content, articles aimed at them wrestle with preventing suicide, bullying, and elder abuse. I can read similar viewpoints free on-line in any daily newspaper.
Monday morning at 8:30 Kathy of The Western Producer phoned to remind me I would receive only one more issue. I asked myself, “Did I want to pay for another year?” At my hesitation, Kathy offered me several more issues free if that would help me to resubscribe.
I held fast, explaining my reasons for not renewing. “Don’t feel bad,” I said. “You can’t satisfy everyone.”