So much variety; what’s not to like?
I’ve been on the job here at The Ledger five months — and I’m surprised to still feel like the new kid. (OK . . . I’m taking great liberties calling myself a kid.)
After a 21-month break, I am happy returning to a newsroom. I like writing. I like meeting people to hear their stories. I like playing my part in reporting tax-payer-supported organizations’ workings to those taxpayers who care to inform themselves by reading the newspaper.
I also need external deadlines to stay on track, and I need the variety this job provides to keep from getting bored.
Yesterday I spent an hour inside Fairfield’s Agri-Industrial Plastics, learned a bit of its history and products, ate two Yummy’s cookies and enjoyed a tour of the production floor led by Chad Christensen.
What’s not to like watching blow-mold plastic fuel tanks (non-automotive use) being made? How fascinating is it to see robotic arms swing around and operate in computer guided precision to drill holes in exactly the same place on each product? How many times does one get to watch a blob of molten plastic extrude from a machine about 20 feet above the floor? As that black blob slowly, slowly, stretches longer and longer, (it looked like a huge licorice being stretched) the robotic arm swings over to the desired target, clamps it off at a precise length so the blob falls perfectly on an upright spindle, briefly deflates, two sides of a mold slap shut like a clam and air is blown into the plastic just like a balloon . . . and viola! The clam sides of the mold open, the human operator steps up, grabs the newly created tank and the process begins again.
Hearing politicians talk so often about manufacturing and how much of America has lost these type of jobs, jobs of making a product, it was doubly satisfying to witness workers in Fairfield making several sizes and colors of plastic blow-mold products.
Last week, I had a brief outing in a more bucolic setting. Fairfield’s own Radiance Dairy owners Francis and Susan Thicke were recognized as the 2012 Organic Farmers of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. It was an excellent reason to drive a few short miles to be in the country.
I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego. My childhood experiences of agriculture included one Brownie Troop visit to a dairy farm (in the late 1950s there were still dairy herds and farms on the drive between my suburb El Cajon and San Diego. No more.), my family’s annual drive to Julian in the mountains for the fall apple crop — and, well I think that’s about it.
I interviewed the Thickes inside their cozy country home, then we put on boots to go see the cows. I wanted to see the cows. And I figured it was a good photo op. Even for a brief few moments, it was glorious to be out walking in a pasture in the afternoon sunshine on one of our more temperate February days. The cows were as friendly as large dogs and nuzzled their owners. One cow wanted to keep licking our gloves. It was peaceful and energizing at the same time.
Earlier in the week I was assigned to write a story about a volunteer, which led to talking with three delightful citizens, volunteers Jerry Hendricks and Glorine Hellweg as well as homeowner Marsha Leo.
A reporter’s job is a revolving door of experiences and getting paid to be nosy. What’s not to like?
Diane Vance is a staff writer for The Fairfield Ledger.