Bud Olson: Editor in Chief – Part III | Enumclaw Centennial

When the regional Junior Livestock Show opened at the Enumclaw fairgrounds, I was sent to cover it. I expected to see a petting zoo of baby animals. I gleefully took my camera and plenty of film to document these little cuties visiting our town.

Instead, I found the fairgrounds bustling with the full-sized variety of farm animals and hundreds of teenagers in Levis and blue shirts with Future Farmers of America emblazoned on them. The publicity chairman gave me a thick stapled document listing the three days of events such as “Showing and Fitting” (a fashion show?) and “Judging” (Judge not, lest ye be judged?).

Mr. Porter, a young FFA adviser and teacher from the high school, was kind and willing to help me. He was sympathetic to this city girl and smiled shyly when I admitted I didn’t know anything about livestock. Throwing myself at his mercy seemed to be the shortest route to a story. That was when I learned it usually pleases and flatters other people to be regarded as the true experts on themselves and their programs. Because they are. Better to ask an “obvious” question than to assume a wrong answer and put it in print. I felt I could trust him.

Young Mr. Porter in his cowboy hat and denims began a simple but somewhat lengthy explanation of his FFA kids and the 4-H competitions. We stood near a corral that was nearly hidden by 6-foot-high solid fencing. He talked and I tried to concentrate, taking notes furiously. But my peripheral vision became distracted by some activity behind the fence. I couldn’t help but notice the head of a large black cow rising above the fence like an impromptu puppet show over Mr. Porter’s shoulder.

What an enormous cow, I thought. I said nothing. The teacher continued to talk.

The head of the bovine began to bob, its snout pointed upward and eyes half closed, as if he was standing on two feet dancing, grooving to some cool imagined music. I stared.

Mr. Porter’s eyes caught mine and followed them to the scene of the action.

“Oh my,” said young Mr. Porter, looking at his booted feet and blushing. The situation finally sank in. I was getting my piece of the story while this bull was getting his. The bull’s head sank behind the fence, leaving me with fantasies of bovine afterglow. It wouldn’t fit in the story.

The excitement continued in another direction when the grand champion hog appeared for cameras and the press. A few flashes ignited and the hog keeled over. He was as dead as the expression on the bull’s face when he sank behind the fence.

Apart from my stunning introduction to the world of animal husbandry, Mr. Olson’s decision to hire me led to a cast of characters who became endeared to me.

With President Ford in the White House, it was amusing to all who entered the Courier-Herald office that Betty Ford took the desk. Unlike her White House counterpart, Betty did not consider diplomacy vital to her job.

“Hey reporters!” she would yell. “WE GOT SOME GOSSIP UP HERE!”

The well-meaning news source, standing at the counter, usually shrank a little.

Betty’s husband was named Henry Ford. Henry kept the presses running in production, much the way the other Henry Ford kept cars rolling off the assembly line. There was not a poster, ticket, menu, invitation or advertisement that did not run through Henry’s machinery. When I arrived, there was still present at the C-H a hot type machine using molten metal, operated by an aging technician named Heime. It was a toss-up as to which was the more antique—the machine or Heime.

Genteel Una Waldron handled the archives and billing. In the open office, she provided a wise counterpoint to the circle of activity around her. Occasionally, a phone call from a reader came with a challenging question. Once, when Betty answered the phone, she put her hand over the speaker and said to Una, “This guy wants to know how to write to the president.”

“Tell him to address it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D. C.,” said Una.

“How did you know THAT?” said Betty, incredulous.

Una took another call. “This guy wants to know how old a cow has to be before she freshens,” she said to Betty.

“I don’t know,” said Betty. “I haven’t freshened in so long.”

Life in Enumclaw brought a steady stream of annual events such as the Dairy Princess Pageant, a statewide competition. It was a big deal since the Enumclaw Plateau hosted dozens of dairy farms. I covered the pageants, traveling as far as the Holiday Inn in Everett for the crowning. My reward for the long trip that year was winning a door prize. I was a little embarrassed to win since I was there as a professional journalist covering the story. The purity of my professional reputation was at stake. But frankly, I needed the 20 pounds of laundry detergent.

Every newspaper has its publicity hounds. At that particular time, a woman I will call Maxine kept our phones busy. A new reporter’s initiation wasn’t complete without fielding several calls from Maxine. Her voice was unmistakable. She had an accent which was quite uncommon for our region—a  Brooklyn, New York, accent. The accent and its connection to urban city life was the only explanation we had as to why she called frequently with her urgent, stop-the-presses news and suggestions for a feature story.

“Did you know you can eat pumpkins?” she asked earnestly. “Every year there is a shocking and deplorable waste of pumpkins at Halloween.”

I suggested she call Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes.

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