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Bob's retired, basa, blues and my Viking funeral

I just returned from Clarksdale, Miss., headquarters for Farm Press Publications. We had our sometimes-annual meeting of editors, during which we made excuses for the stuff we meant to do but didn't over the past year and promised to do better. We probably won't.

While we were in the vicinity, however, we seized the opportunity to wish well our good friend and long-time managing editor Bob Frazer, who has retired after 32 years with the company.

Bob is one of those crucial people in our organization who toils behind the scenes and whose work is noticed only when he doesn't do it. Which, in Bob's case, was never. For more than three decades, Bob has made me and other field editors look better than we probably are by his judicious editing and fact checking.

We would have been hard-pressed to get an issue out without Bob's keen eye, wit and intellect. We will miss his efforts, his professionalism and his friendship but understand that after 32 years having to deal with editors such as yours truly he deserves the rest.

We wish him well and expressed as much during a retirement luncheon/roast at our annual meting. I was most happy to aim a few pointed barbs at his tough old hide.

But Bob did pretty well at this send-off. He made off with some pretty good loot, including a new fishing rod, a case of fine California wine and a handsome mantel clock, though it does perplex me why a recently retired person needs or wants to know what time it is.

Bob's good wife Betty and I, over dinner one evening and possibly resulting from too much Kool-Aid, fell into a discussion of Viking funerals, which is my favored means of exiting this world. According to legend, Vikings placed their warriors into open wooden boats filled with highly combustible matter, shoved the vessels into the sea and shot fire-tipped arrows at the floating funeral pyre until some skillful archer actually hit it and set it on fire.

Betty has volunteered to shoot the flaming arrows at my Viking funeral, which should take place at night to enhance the visual spectacle. I must admit, however, to being a bit concerned at the enthusiasm with which she embraced this project.

During our editorial meetings we discussed basa, a fish of Vietnamese origin sometimes disguised as good ole U.S. farm-raised catfish and sold to unsuspecting consumers as such. I mention this only because we discovered basa to be one of the most frequently hit Internet topics on farm Web sites and I thought I might lure an extra reader or two to this column with a mention or two.

We spent our final evening in Clarksdale at one of the city's fine blues clubs, where I feasted on U.S. farm-raised catfish. I'm relatively certain it was not basa.

Oh yeah, we also did some work.

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