LIFE IN THE STICKS 

When Mona (Scott) and I first met, nearly 35 years ago at WKYC-3-NBC in Cleveland, our lives were moving in entirely different directions. She was married, with two small children. I was single, drove a Corvette, and wore my hair long. I anchored sports and reported for NBC. She was the first primetime "weathergirl" in Cleveland history.

We encountered each other many years later, under much different circumstances, and discovered that we shared many of the same goals in life. I had long since left the television business, and she was in the waning years of her TV career.

As most of you know, or will soon discover, TV people have a tough time figuring out what they want to do when the studio lights dim for the final time. In 1998, shortly after Mona retired from WBNS-10-CBS in Columbus, Ohio, we started NewsBlues. At first, just to fill time. But it soon became a full-time occupation.

Today, we live near the tiny north-central Florida town of Reddick, not far from I-75, midway between Ocala and Gainesville. We're about 100 miles north of Orlando and Tampa...and about 120 miles southwest of Jacksonville. We live in what Nielsen Media Research calls a "white zone," meaning we are "unserved by commercial television."

We get Orlando TV (Market #18) on a DirecTV high-def satellite dish. Gainesville (Market #163) is the nearest TV market but too far away for an over-the-air signal. We have DVRs on all of our televisions, and we subscribe to Netflix. Movie theaters are too distant and too much trouble.

Reddick is worlds apart from the metropolitan madness of Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, in an area known as "The Horse Capital of the World." The countryside is gorgeous, with endless rolling hills of Bahia grass and towering live oaks. Our community is rural and oriented toward agriculture and livestock. Most folks drive big diesel-powered pickup trucks and tow horse trailers. 

Sarah Palin is worshipped here...and the Fox News Channel is watched avidly. There's a Baptist church on almost every corner. Locals know us as "the writers." We don't discuss politics or religion, a policy that has served us well. 

Local newspapers in Ocala and Gainesville both suck. Local radio isn't really local, and it tends to lean heavily on George Strait, who is a horse owner and is very popular in these parts. The New Yorker arrives in our mailbox, usually about a week late, and is quickly read from cover to cover. 

We used to have Paso Fino horses, but we sold them a few years ago and, frankly, we've reached the ages where we no longer want to risk injury. Horses are lovely creatures...but they're unpredictable and dumber than a box of rocks. We now satisfy our equine urgings by slipping treats to the neighbor horses (and cattle). We have a cat who thinks we're her servants, and we sorta are.

Mona used to volunteer in nearby Cross Creek, giving interpretive tours of the former home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling.

I fill my spare time tending to a sprawling vegetable garden. My honeybee hives have long-since been wiped out by a variety of bad things hiding in the environment. 

On a daily basis, white-tail deer, wild turkey, foxes, and raccoons stroll across the property. Eagles, hawks, and owls patrol overhead. The morning is rich with song birds.

In my younger days, I dabbled in sports car racing and had grandiose dreams of someday driving in the Indy 500. My TV career got in the way, and I eventually outlived the dream. 

But, in 2009, I began campaigning a Porsche Carrera 997S on the club circuit, and my resurrected driving career has taken me to America's great road racing courses. I'm also a high-performance driving instructor for the Porsche Club of America, and I do private instruction and coaching for several track clubs.

That we can live such a rural lifestyle, yet remain actively involved in the television news business and directly tapped into the national culture, is a ringing endorsement of the internet...and modern technology...and its ability to shrink the world and make all things possible. These days, we truly exist in one technological universe.

 

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