Singing A Song Of Cicadas

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, June 6, 2013

You know you've been in a place a long time when…

A.) you've started to grow roots like a mulberry tree.

B.) you find yourself constantly telling “remember when” stories.

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C.) you can't remember exactly how many computers you've gone through.

In the pantheon of staying one place a long time, I am far down on the list at the Farmville Herald. A gentleman down the hall has been here since the late 70s (though he doesn't look weathered enough). Others on top of the longevity totem pole include a graphic designer, paste-up artist/pressman, and some advertising folks.

By their standards-though not a newbie-I'm just getting started at, now, 25 years behind the typewriter-er, make that keyboard or some combination thereof. Still, silver anniversaries are special nowadays and are worth noting.

I'm sure I bludgeon the real newbies with “remember” stories or anyone else willing to listen. And, truly, I have lost count on the number of computers, though not typewriters, I've used to wordsmith. (It's hard to forget the number one.)

You don't see too many gray beards going to marathon boards of supervisors and school board meetings, hoofing it to the scene of a fire, or otherwise hitting the writer's block wall again and again for column ideas.

That takes a pretty hard head, or at least a stubborn attitude which, I suppose, I have.

I am, admittedly, a dinosaur. And that's quite OK. There's still stories to write, ideas to pursue, simmering back burner projects…And, no matter how long someone does anything, they have never, ever quite seen it all.

Not that I really needed any reminding (my mind is still, relatively good), but the arrival of the singing cicadas put me in this reflective mood. The year was 1996 when graduate students John Cooley and David Marshall traveled here from Michigan to give our special breed a listen and a study.

You probably know that cicadas come every 17 years, but did you know that North Carolina has the same sort of creatures that come every 13 years?

Someone called to let us know about the graduate students' visit and, phasers on stun, I beamed at the chance on the story. (Sorry for the Star Trek allusions, but I agree with Mr. Woodley. These things do sound like phasers.)

About now, I could go into a detailed retelling of my “remember when” story, but I'll spare the details. It's just sufficient to know that I wrote about cicadas 17 years ago and I'm writing about their offspring. That is almost unbelievable enough.

I used to think it was testimony enough for me to take a grand opening business picture at the same location, or having covered schools long enough for children to enter kindergarten and complete graduation.

But cicadas? That gets my antennae up.

I won't bug you about it much more, but if I should make it another 17 years, I'll be pushing retirement age when the grandchildren of the first set of cicadas burrow from the ground and take flight and telling “remember when” I told the “remember when” story.

If I remember, of course.

Incidentally, I searched the Internet to see what become of Cooley and Marshall. The cicada experts are still at it-they even have their own website.

Maybe they're dinosaurs in their business too.