Rick Brown began writing personal columns for the Kearney Hub after he sent a batch of letters to its editor, Mike Konz. In these letters-to-the-editor, he approached everyday subjects with more than a touch of wit and sarcasm, irony and satire, going so far as to parody a certain Hub columnist by writing-if she has a black cat, rides a broom and wears a black hat, she must be a witch.
This feeble attempt at echoing the hackneyed phrase-if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck-earned him scorn from supporters of the other columnist. But it also earned him a twice-monthly spot on the editorial page of the Kearney Hub starting in 2004.
Two years later in 2006 he began working part time at the newspaper as the arts and entertainment reporter. Rick began developing a stylized voice in his essays, employing exaggeration to make a point. After the city government took steps to punish dumpster diving, Rick wrote a column from the point of view of two overworked detectives on a stakeout, attempting to catch a certain snarky Hub columnist poking through a trash bin. Another column featured alternative ideas for a wall on the southern border with Mexico including a six-inch curb instead of a 20-foot wall, something that would really mess up the front-end alignment of any vehicle trying to cross it.
Public reaction to Rick’s columns ranged from non-existent to mild annoyance. The column that generated the most livid responses stated that the garage sale season ended in early June. Dozens of readers wrote in to lambaste the writer for this gaffe. To this day, Rick stands by his opinion writing-Oh, come on. Who wants to look through other peoples’ junk in the summer heat? Not me. I’m not a pleasant person when I get sweaty.
While working as a part-time reporter, Rick slowly moved his column from Wednesdays (not exactly a prime day for columnists) to the weekend edition-a highly desirable day for ego driven columnists. He also increased his twice monthly contributions to weekly-something that mostly escaped notice by the editorial staff at the Hub.
When Lee Enterprises purchased the newspaper and a new publisher took over, an email circulated that Rick’s columns would be demoted to Wednesdays and he would be writing about the arts instead of chronicling his haircuts, advocating for an equal distribution of darkness during the 2017 eclipse or his annual column trumpeting the value of adding only 23 minutes instead of an hour during the change to daylight saving time. After Rick expressed his displeasure, the new editor met with him and explained his reasoning for the changes, saying about his essays, “Sometimes you really hit it out of the park but most of the time I just don’t get it.”
Rick continued working for the Hub for an additional six months while he pilfered all the paper clips, highlighters and ball point pens he could carry, all before resigning his position in 2019. As punishment for his six loyal readers-including his mother-he discontinued writing columns until May 2022 when readers once again discovered his weekly wit and insights on the editorial page of the Kearney Hub, a newspaper Rick once described as Kearney’s only humor-based daily.
Now working freelance, Rick always said he loved writing so much he would do it for free. With the sporadic pay and the challenges of mastering organized billing, Rick now has the opportunity to write for next to nothing, something that guarantees a life-long commitment to journalism and to perfecting the personal opinion essay.
Among his other talents, Rick is a fine poet and one of the brothers, as in Prairie Art Brothers. His spoof of Twas the Night Before Christmas will highlight the December 8 Prairie Art Brothers night at Kearney Public Library, where he has engaged the Senior College Readers Theater for the performance.
Editor’s Note: Three games into the 2022 Husker football season and after a sloppy loss to Oklahoma Sooners, the University of Nebraska fired its home-town-boy coach, Scott Frost, capping off his six losing seasons in Lincoln.
An Open Letter to Scott Frost
I get it, man. I’ve been there. I got fired from a job in 1974 and it still stings, dude. While the circumstances might be a little different, I can still feel your pain. In the fall of 1973, I packed up everything I owned into the back of a 52 Ford pickup and set out for Arizona from my hometown of Norfolk. I think I might have had about fifty dollars to my name.
I figured if I was working a junk job, driving a clunker of a truck, writing short stories nobody wanted to read and dumped by my latest girlfriend, I might as well do all that in the warmer climate of Arizona. So, I traveled the back roads of several western states, headed to Phoenix but landed in Tucson where I ran out of money.
I also landed a job at Vince’s Italian Restaurant on West Speedway as a dishwasher. For some reason, I can’t exactly remember what it was, I sold my truck. I think it had to do with the gas crisis at the time but I’m going to let that part of the story remain a mystery.
Just like Bob Dylan’s song TANGLED UP IN BLUE, one day-as Bob wrote-the ax just fell-only I didn’t-drift down to New Orleans-as Bob sang. Vince, an ex-cop who owned the restaurant, said I threw away some perfectly good garlic. He showed me the door and told me not to come back. In the mid-1970s, Tucson played host to a string of suspicious fellows who wore white shoes, flashy shirts and dark glasses-on the run from the Mob I always assumed. Instead of hitting the road, I stayed in Tucson and found a string of other dodgy jobs including working as a juice maker for an owner who just needed a place to sell bags of marijuana. I quit that job when he claimed that a pound of weed went missing-and asked if I knew anything about it.
I’m telling you all this to let you know that I landed on my feet and eventually returned to Nebraska to find a string of equally dodgy jobs that I can’t describe until the statute of limitations runs out. Believe me, man, it’s all for the good.
While you may have suffered a short setback, in the long run, all this coaching stuff in Nebraska will just be a blip on your life path. At least that’s the way I looked at my constant failures. I’ll bet you have a novel in you. My advice: Go for a novel and forget bothering with short stories. Nobody wants to read them.
After I got fired from washing dishes, I started writing a book called-So You Got Fired, Big Hairy Deal, Bucko. I worked on that project for a few months until I started another one called-Burn This Book: A How-to Guide on Book Burnings, aimed at conservatives who promoted the practice. I intended to sell that book by the pallet but all that came to a crashing halt when the book burning went out of style.
I guess the difference, if I may be so bold, is that you received a 15-million-dollars soft-landing buyout from your contract. I had nothing of the sort and I found it best not to use the word “contract” at an Italian restaurant in Arizona in the 1970s.
Some readers may accuse me of kicking a dog while he’s down or reaching for the lowest hanging fruit. To those I have offended, I ask for forgiveness-especially to Bob Dylan.
Keep your chin up, look on the sunny side and enjoy your fifteen million buckaroos, money that really should have gone to Kindergarten teachers in the state instead of a football coach.
I feel your pain, Scott.
Best regards, Rick Brown – Yard Light Media
Open Letter to Scott Frost September 19, 2022 Column
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