Picking a resonant topic

There is an experience that goes along with writing an opinion column that never ceases to amaze me. The column I wrote this past week was a good example. It was just something I threw together in desperation. I thought it was about as lame as any I had ever written.

It was about the Youngest Daughter wanting me to find five pounds of sliced American cheese for her late in the afternoon on July Fourth. Even though I did not want to, I drove to another community to find the cheese so her restaurant could serve some special dish.

It was a nothing column to my way of thinking. I typed the appropriate number of words about the issue to get to a rather lame point, and I was done. In other words, I just squeaked by.

Well, guess what happened? You would have thought I wrote another column about that cute red fox family that took up residency around our warehouse near the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe railroad track several years ago. At the time, I caught one of them, early on a summer’s morning, sitting near the tracks as a train headed east. The fox was moving his head from right to left in perfect time with the train cars. Stopped at the tracks, waiting on the train, I watched that fox for quite a long time. I finally decided he was “counting cars.” We had enjoyed watching the foxes parenting their offspring that summer, and I was actually pleased to be able to share them with my six regular readers.

Oddly enough, this opinion column struck the fancy of many readers. It is long-buried in the newspaper archives, but former residents, alums, and even current residents still comment on how it made them feel as if they were sitting with me at the railroad crossing, watching the fox that summer morning. At the time, I thought it was just an OK excuse for an opinion column. I have been surprised by its popularity.

This week I am looking at a similar issue, except this one is about the need for sliced cheese. Yes, it is true. A kind comment by a social media friend about “cheese and moms” sent friends from my high school, college, and adult years looking for an online copy to read. There was a flurry of comments, emails, and private messages. I wonder what it is that triggers such a response. What is it about a topic that makes people want to tell me what they think?

I think the printed word is dying. I think newspapers are less relevant than ever before, but not nearly as irrelevant as they will be in the future. It is just the way of the world. However, when something pops up about a nearly nothing local issue and people start coming out of the woodwork to either comment in person or on social media, I wonder whether I am wrong.

I appreciate all of you who tell me what you think, whether it is about college hoops, foxes, city government, taxes, cheese, Ol’ What’s His Name, or any other topic. I may not agree with you, but I am glad to have you still reading.

Thanks also to readers from my past who check in now and then to see whether I have written about them. You are next — yes, you are.

—Susan marshall

Last modified July 13, 2016