Seven years ago I wrote my first column for the Bangor Daily News.
Since then, on every other Friday, there is a real feeling that the readers and I are sitting down and sharing a morning cup of coffee or tea as we look toward the weekend.
But, while the coffee and tea will still be poured here on Rusty Metal Farm and weekends continue to come and go, this will be my last column appearing in this space.
If, as they say, all things must end, that time has come for my bi-weekly ramblings from up here in northern Maine.
But what a time we’ve had!
Over the years you, my wonderful readers, have been with me for some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say your support was always helpful and definitely appreciated.
You’ve been with me running sled dogs, bicycling across states, meeting dogs in Paris, climbing mountains; through loss of family and friends and beloved pets.
When the first chickens arrived on Rusty Metal Farm and I had not a clue what I was doing, there you were with suggestions and words of encouragement.
Ditto whenever my tractor operating aspirations went beyond my actual skill levels.
Who can forget the day I got my tractor stuck in mud up to the axles and my long-suffering logging neighbor Andrew rode in on his skidder like a hero on horseback to pull it out?
How hard did we all laugh when this same Andrew, after responding to a panicked call from me that something black and oily was oozing out of the tractor looked at the drips, looked at me and uttered the immortal words, “she’s an old girl, she’s going to leak.”
My own friends and family have been column fodder over the years and have been such good sports about it, and readers have come to ask about how they are doing as they feel they know ones like Kim and Julie, too.
When my longtime house dog and regular column star Corky the Shusky died last fall, I received dozens of emails of consolation from people from around the country who had followed her antics.
When the new, tiny dog Chiclet moved in, you were there with words of congratulations.
Over the years it’s been my honor to learn that my words have actually inspired others.
When I completed my first triathlon, or as I called it, “Putting the ‘try’ in triathlon,” I met the father of an Aroostook County serviceman killed in action who told me, after reading the column, he was going to run the event in his son’s honor.
Other middle-aged, not exactly your stereotype looking athletic women like myself have told me it has been my stories of training for and completing distance bicycling events that have gotten them out and moving.
When I had breast reduction surgery a year ago, women who had feared even considering it contacted me to tell me they were looking into it.
Over the years I have learned we have some of the best and most dedicated readers here in Maine who love their Bangor Daily News.
It does not take long for the regular ones to start feeling like old friends as they comment or email after a column appears.
I’ve been lucky to actually meet some of these readers, who I can now count as real friends. And how great is that? The words on paper brought us together. One of the best days ever was when, in the mail, I received a parcel addressed to, “Julia Bayly, Rusty Metal Farm, Fort Kent.”
As a writer, one of the greatest responsibilities we have is the trust we earn from people who not only tell us their stories, but allow us to re-tell them to the public at large. That is something I never have, never will, take for granted.
Beyond that privilege, I have been so humbled the past seven years to have had so many people not only invite me into their worlds to hear their stories, but who have accepted my invitation to come into mine via this column.
So, as I prepare to hit send for the last time, just a few more words.
Thank you Bangor Daily News editor Rick Levasseur for giving me the chance seven years ago and editing my work until Sarah Walker Caron took over last year. Thank you Sarah for being every bit as supportive as Rick had been.
Thank you, my readers for hanging in there for all these years.
And finally, here’s the really good news. Rusty Metal Farm, Chiclet, the chickens, my retired sled dogs and I are not going anywhere. Nor is the Bangor Daily News. I’m looking forward to my new role at the paper covering all things having to do with Maine’s back to the land and rural lifestyles as part of the Homestead section.
You can bet that will include stories on chickens, dogs and other critters!
We’re still here, the coffee and tea is always on and you always, always have an open invitation into my world.