Editers Need Not Apply

In the Heat of Battle, Hit Mute

There are obviously those who can write coherently from battlefields, riots and the scene of natural disasters. I’m not one of them. I can’t put two thoughts together unless the butt-chair-keyboard combo is stationed to the left of the window with the barn in the near distance, the butterfly bush just out the window, and the coffee cup at arm’s reach, making circular stains on the desk blotter. Bring in a couple of smallish children even there, and I’m out to sea. Yesterday, new sound-blocking earbuds arrived. This morning, I’m looking for white/ambient stations on TuneIn, RadioTuna, etc. Suggestions?


I despair of the state of the written word, having read at least a half-dozen web articles just today (and some, from academic or scientific sources) with words missing, mis-spelled or containing other reader-halting glitches of syntax that would have been caught (you’d think) by even minimal editing. In most cases, the problem seems to be the result of a “we can’t afford a real  editor so let spell-check do it” attitude. One piece I read this morning suggested readers find “more extensive descriptions bellow.” Makes me want to below. Come on, peopul. (I, for one, plead sanctuary from such grammar and punctuation requirements because…well, I can’t come up with any good reasons other than I’d rather criticize than correct.)

(Not the) The Last Roundup

I’m seeing more and more bad news about Roundup–not that this is altogether unexpected. First, take a look at the startling rise in “roundup-ready” crops that are being foisted upon the farming community, a front-end loading that makes absolutely certain huge volumes of glyphosate (Roundup and others that contain this active ingredient) will be sprayed on the resistant soybeans or corn to wipe out the susceptible grasses, sedges and broad-leaf weeds. It is harmless, the totally believable and trustworthy Monsanto has promised us. Oh, maybe not. And oh, by the way, the big M will pay you a bonus to use the stuff, unless the SEC puts the lid down.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hi, Fred,
    This is apropos of nothing you are discussing, but I was so excited to read in the June 24th issue of my favorite weekly newsmagazine, “The Week,” a long quote about Floyd from a recent NY Times article about the Crooked Road. Floyd sure showed the author, Sara Wildman, a great time at the Country Store Jamboree! She called it a “whooping, stomping” dance party! I hope you don’t get overrun with urbanites after that piece.

  2. We’ve been in the NY Times, WaPo, Smithsonian and other features over the past ten years, and some of our new friends were indeed attracted to come visit on the strength of some of those articles. We can only hope they attract folks who want to accept Floyd for what it is. Or as I like to say, “to be thankful for the pace, scale and authenticity that can be too easily lost” if we don’t have a firm collective idea of what is precious here and not to be changed. Floyd County is most definitely NOT for everybody as resident, but it is a fine place to visit for all!