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Making it up as we go


Next month I will have been a Dallas Countian for 65 years, arriving with my folks in Sheridan Township in August 1957.

Exactly 21 years later I came to Buffalo to become editor of the Buffalo Reflex, and I’ve been here all along, save a few short detours.

If any of that appears to be part of a grand plan on my part, rest assured it’s not. I never had a scheme. If anything, I expected to be shed of Buffalo within five years for bigger and broader newspaper horizons. Yet, I’m still here.

As I look over my shoulder it’s clear the only true plans were made by God. For my part, I just had to let life happen.

I’ve long been envious of folks with definite plans for the future. My wife, Martha, for example, always planned to become a school teacher. She went to college after high school in Salem, married a high school classmate, became a teacher, had children and lived in a nice house in a nice subdivision in Bolivar — the sort of life that looks great on paper. But, the plan fell apart. I won’t go into details — wouldn’t even if I knew them. I guess I became the next big unplanned event, and we’ve been making it up as we go ever since.

That was my modus operandi from the start. For all I know, I may have been an unplanned surprise for my folks in December 1947. I’m sure my arrival two months early was not part of the plan, but I can see now God had a hand in that, too. Otherwise, I would be a 1966 high school graduate, rather than 1965, and I’d have a whole different set of old friends. I’d have had a different 1969 draft lottery number, too.

Though I had nothing to do with where we lived, I went to five different schools before starting fifth grade at Fair Grove. For the subsequent eight years my only plan was a daily effort to get to school, pass my classes and graduate. After that, I had no idea, other than making a bit of money hauling hay and going fishing as often as possible. Besides, I knew Uncle Sam already had me written in his long-term planner.

College was a tentative plan, not an expectation, and when I finally settled on a writing degree I had no idea what I would do with it. My bread-and-butter job while in college was in a steak house, again not part of a grand plan.

The nearest I had to a plan while in college wasn’t mine at all, but still Uncle Sam’s, and in the first semester of my senior year he let me in on it. I didn’t care. I was still making up life as it happened. Then Dee came along, and in the spring of 1971 I became a married man and a U.S. Air Force enlistee. Neither of those were on my calendar at the start of that school year.

Making plans while in the military was useless, especially with a war going on in Vietnam. When we landed back in Missouri in 1974 — three, rather than a couple — the only plan was to get a job and finish my last semester of college, but a blank page from there.

A host of unplanned events followed, both good and bad. Losing a daughter in a car crash and Dee’s untimely loss to cancer were the worst. 

Martha was the best. I never expected to remarry, but in the absence of my planning, God had a better idea than allowing me to continue on my own.

That was nearly 27 years ago, and it’s pretty clear we’re not truly making it up as we go. We’re just enjoying every day and mile of the ride with God at the wheel, blessed to discover new vistas around every bend in the road.


Copyright 2022, James E. Hamilton; email jhamilton000@centurytel.net. Read more of his works in Ozarks RFD 2010-2015, available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from the author.

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