by Dan Smith
These days many of the folks I bump into are kind enough to tell me that I should ignore the negative rants and letters about my column that show up in this paper.
People I meet are usually kind and assume I have been hurt by the shots some readers have taken at my offerings.
Actually I am pleased to hear from anyone who takes the time to write, pro or con, about something I have written. For nearly four years now, Hometown News has given me a forum where I may express my opinion on a wide variety of subjects. What fun that has been!
Each week, I can attempt to entertain you with whatever I might conjure up. I know my job is an enviable one. As you may have noticed, I enjoy flexing my supposed sense of humor in this space and sometimes I use it to make a valid point.
One of my earliest Land Lines was like that. I had a lot of fun complaining about the fact real estate salespeople feel compelled to put their mug shots on every sales sign. I took quite a few shots at them and concluded by saying that if you want to sell a house, you might be better served by posting a photo of the bathroom. Most of you told me you really enjoyed that piece, but the Realtors -- not so much.
A few of them wrote to let me know I was lower than dog grunt. Some complained Hometown News should not be allowed to litter the area with trash like mine. Oh well, I guess those good folks are working too hard to retain much of a sense of humor.
As a student of local history, I like to include columns about our area's varied past. That's a safe bet for me and usually evokes some nice mail. When I wrote about the beautiful old coral post office in Daytona Beach, the letters were very complimentary. One lady even sent me a nice print of a painting she had done of the building. That sort of thing is very rewarding.
When I take on social issues, I know that will draw some flak and when I did a column on food stamp abuse, it sparked a rash of complaints. People ignored the fact I stated it was a necessary program to help those with a legitimate need and suggested I had branded every food stamp user as a crook. As I read the rants, it occurred to me the writers might have a personal stake in the matter. I don't know for sure, but I believe my critics may have even been employed by the food stamp program. Why else would anyone claim that there is zero food stamp fraud? Although I didn't reveal my sources that piece was well researched. I had heard from admitted food stamp abusers that stores in our area were illegally trading the stamps for booze and cigarettes. Recently a market on Ridgewood Avenue in Daytona Beach was busted for just that and since that column ran, the federal government and the state of Florida have both initiated major investigations into fraud in the program.
At least the gentleman who wrote to complain about my piece on gasoline price gouging was honest enough to admit he was a retired Exxon engineer.
When I did a column on the blighted portion of U.S. 1 in Daytona Beach, I received several complimentary e-mails. One was from noted writer Ernie Saxton, who wrote that he loved every word. High praise indeed from a man I so admire. Ernie has been a top writer on the motor sports circuit for many years.
After the terrible shootings at Newtown, Conn., I was moved to write a column about the violent society we all now live in. Instead of guns I chose to blame the breakdown of families. When I wrote I believed it began in the late 1960s when the mothers of America joined the workforce, I must admit I was hesitant to hit the send key. Sure enough, my readers did not disappoint. I was taken to task on many levels. A couple e-mails even seemed to question the marital status of my mother and father. Of course I didn't say the lack of stay-at-home moms was the only reason young nuts shoot strangers, but I do believe it could be a factor. One woman wrote to say the paper should not print such rubbish and it was only my opinion. Of course she's right. My job as a columnist is to write my opinion.
Most of the people who get in touch are nice. One lady recently called me to say how much she loved my work. She said she thought of me as her son and told me how much she liked all that I did. Just as I was getting a big head she qualified it. All but that one, she said. Oh well, if she was my real mom she would not be happy about all that I do.
Recently, Marian Tomblin, herself an author, wrote to tell me that my columns made it easier for her to get her two young sons to enjoy reading. It can't get any better than that. Keep reading and keep writing. If you disagree with me, let me have it. I can take it.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.