Woodworking again: An apologetic columnist

By Dave Wood
Posted 9/14/23

I’m fortunate to have my weekly column adjacent on the op-ed page to the column by my boss, Sarah Nigbor, a very talented young woman who is not only an excellent editor, but a fine …

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Woodworking again: An apologetic columnist


I’m fortunate to have my weekly column adjacent on the op-ed page to the column by my boss, Sarah Nigbor, a very talented young woman who is not only an excellent editor, but a fine investigative reporter and a no-nonsense stylist whose prose makes me think she’s talking directly  to me, no easy feat, but a skill I truly appreciate.

Not all journalistic duos get along as well as I do with Sarah. When I worked at the Star Tribune, the newspaper of the Twin Cities as it was called, featured two popular columnists who sniped at each other again and again. It was fun for the reader, but probably not for Robert T. Smith. When Smith, who could pump out a column in 20 minutes or less, pointed out to his adversary Larry Batson that he, Smith had a larger following of readers than Batson, Batson, an Arkansas native, replied, “It don’t take time to slop the hogs, Bob!”

I’m happy that Sarah has never pointed out my shortcomings. She is, nonetheless, very capable of delivering a rant with the best of them, recreating in her own column complaints against her kids, her husband, even her beloved mother(!) when she thinks they have it coming.

But in a recent rant she hit home with me. She admitted that when she makes mistakes when in high dudgeons, SHE ALWAYS APOLOGIZES WHEN SHE REALIZES SHE WAS OUT OF LINE. Very good advice for an old hack like me. And so now I’m going to apologize for a mistake I made several years ago. Yes, I actually made a mistake, a big one, one on day when I, like Sarah is occasionally, was in high dudgeon. Readers may remember a column I wrote for the River Falls Journal about the miserable condition of the sidewalk that runs past our house on Walnut Street. In the course of my continuous rant, I alienated mayors and councilpersons, probably the chamber of commerce as well as my own neighbors, who never complained about how this fair city was operating. Feeling my oats one day, I made the worst mistake. I wrote something to the effect that if the city didn’t act on the sidewalk issue, I predicted that our neighborhood would become a SLUM.

Today, after pondering Sarah’s advice about apology, I, like the allied forces who attacked Holland in WWII, acknowledge that I had gone “a bridge too far.” More specifically, my dander had dragged me a complaint too far. 

And more to the point, the “slum” never happened. Maybe readers who live away downtown haven’t noticed, but Walnut Street has taken on a new sheen, with homebuyers making purchases of dwellings they themselves actually plan on living in. Landscaping projects have blossomed; one of our neighbors held an open house for all of us to hear his architect and interior decorator explain how he helped the new buyers reconfigure their new home. Even our most recent hailstorm helped us along when our skilled workers from south of the border came to reroof and shingle most of the residences between Main and Sixth. 

The “Cocaine House” near us has been rehabbed and apparently serves as an air B & B. Neighbors help neighbors during illnesses and absences, and we just signed a contract to repaint our house for the third time during our stay here (and stay here we definitely plan to). Like any neighborhood we still have problems. Since the reconfiguration of Cascade Avenue, Walnut has become and probably will remain a speedway, despite all the little children who live in the neighborhood. Our sidewalks need repair, but we realize some neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks, so who are we to complain? We all are just careful to step nimbly over the gravelly, uneven slabs. Look before you leap and pay attention to the glowing lights we are going to put near the spots where sidewalk slabs are most precarious.

An apologetic columnist would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

Woodworking again, Dave Wood, Sarah Nigbor, apologies, accountability, column