I was saddened to hear about the passing of Dr. George Mullendore. It is strange how a person I never was around much could have had such a profound influence on my career, but he did.
When I went to work for the University of Arkansas in 1974, I was green as a gourd trying to find my direction. The one thing I knew was I liked working with farmers, county agents, or anyone else out in the field. I would get this paper called Delta Farm Press across my desk and every issue would have this column called “Report from the Field” by Dr. George Mullendore. First, I liked the title but I also liked the fact a university guy was out in the field.
It also did not take long for me to figure out he had a cult following among farmers everywhere I went. Everybody talked about his articles. I can even admit to being a bit jealous at the time, but my perception of what he was doing as a cotton specialist was a lot of what I wanted to be as a weed scientist.
I started writing an article and submitting it to Delta Farm Press, partly because of George and partly because I had to write so may news stories a year for my evaluation. Not too long after that I got a call one day that absolutely scared me to death. It was from William McNamee, then owner and publisher, asking me to consider writing a column each week for him. I thought, “There is no way I can do this. I will run out of stuff quickly.” Mr. McNamee was a very persuasive individual, but the thing going through my mind was the following George Mullendore had with his weekly column.
I finally said I would give it a try and the rest is history. I always go back to that decision as being the single most important one in my career.
From that day in 1974, I have always received more comments about these articles than everything else I may have accomplished put together. I have always done a lot of speaking, because that goes with the job. I thoroughly enjoy it and it surprises folks that I still get nervous.
Most talks go about like you expect them to. Some days, however, you just do not have it — I hate those. Other days you feel like you really nailed it. I could not count the number of times after a talk that I thought I nailed, that someone would come up and I would be expecting a comment about the talk. More often than not, however, they said, “Don’t quit writing those articles!” It still happens today and I have to wonder why.
Articles are a lot like talks. Most days I can sit down and the writing goes about like I thought. However, some days you just don’t have it. I cannot tell you how many times I have struggled to get something in by the deadline.
Often I think, “This is not worth printing.” There will be other times I will think of an article ahead of time, write it and rewrite it in my head for a week before I sit down to do it. Naturally when I finish it I think it is a masterpiece and cannot wait for all the feedback I am sure to get after it is published. More often than not, I will not get a comment about that article but a ton of feedback telling me how good the article I thought stunk was!
Because of this, I gave up trying to figure out my readers a long time ago and just try to write a variety of different types. This part of my career happened all because of George Mullendore, and I never took the time to tell him. That I regret.