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Thirty years gone already? Seems like only yesterday

On June 19, 1978, I started working for Farm Press Publications. That, according to my admittedly weak mathematical ability, comes to just about 30 years.

That's 30 years of a lot of miles over a lot of bad roads and a lot of nights on a lot of bad beds. But I suppose I've picked up a thing or two in all those travels and all those years. Fortunately, they make shampoo that takes care of a lot of the things I picked up, and good antibiotics take care of some of the others. But there are those mental images, the lessons learned, the experiences never to be forgotten (and rarely believed) that stick with me. I thought I'd share a few things I've learned on the road, so here are Ron Smith's tips for trepidatious travelers.

Happy, Texas, is a pleasant High Plains place to visit and I recall having a nice TexMex lunch there one time. But I would never order seafood in Happy, Texas. Tip number one: If you can't hear seagulls, don't order the fresh snapper. It ain't.

They put those deadbolts and chain thingies on hotel doors for a reason. One late evening in Greenwood, Miss., I had just fallen into a sound slumber in a fairly reputable hotel when the door flew open and a crew of folks who had not just left a church social, paraded in toting heavy coolers of iced-down adult beverages. Hotel clerks occasionally make mistakes with room reservations.

I suggested that their party might be going on somewhere else, so they called the front desk, found another room and left, only to return moments later searching for a lost wallet. Sleep was elusive that night. Tip number two: Lock your hotel doors, tightly — then stick a chair under the doorknob.

Arguing about barbecue can get you in almost as much trouble as bringing up religion or politics at a family reunion. Tip number three: Every barbecue place in the country is the best ever and folks will fight you if you cast aspersions on their ribs and briskets. (Although, truth be told, you find the best barbecue in the Carolinas, but don't tell the folks in Memphis, Kansas City and Dallas I said that.)

Most restaurants are not as good as they claim to be. One in south Georgia, however, used to brag that it served the worst apple pie in the world. I tried it; it wasn't. My aunt still holds that honor.

Tip number four: If the sign says “mama's home cooking,” believe it ‘cause she sure ain't fixin’ dinner at this dive.

I have consumed massive quantities of barbecue and fried things at farm field days, Extension meetings and company product launches. If it ain't barbecued or fried, you won't find it at a field day.

Tip number five: Don't order quiche at a tractor pull.

Some folks believe, erroneously (and I can't imagine where they get such a notion), that I spend a good deal of my time fishing. Nothing could be closer to the truth. I fish only when I have an opportunity and the weather is neither freezing nor tornadic. I do have collapsible rods that fit snugly into a suitcase and I own fishing licenses in more than one state, but that does not mean I fish any more than the next guy (who may be equally addicted).

Tip number six: Fish when you can; life is short.

And so has been 30 years during which I have eaten a lot of greasy food, slept in a lot of bad beds and had the privilege of telling the stories of the finest people in the world. Let's do 30 more.

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