Today marks 16 years as a columnist (and my editor’s drinking problem)

Looking ahead to another 16 years from the employee break area.
Looking ahead to another 16 years from the employee break area.
Today, my column has officially been around longer than some of my underwear. As I’m sure my editor would say, it’s a true testament to how a combination of hard work, dedication and “using powdered bleach instead of liquid can prolong the life of your boxers.”

I wear boxer briefs, actually. (Sometimes I don’t think she knows me at all.)

Regardless, 16 years ago my first column appeared in Siuslaw News, along with my first stories and photos as the news sports editor. I had returned to my hometown after a 16-year absence, working as a chef in Texas and Atlanta. Writing wasn’t new to me, but journalism was. I still marvel at my good fortune of being chosen over two journalism grads from the University of Oregon by then-editor Bob Serra, who saw something in my writing that spoke louder than my lack of experience or college degree. Or perhaps it spoke of a drinking problem.

Whatever the case, I still remember the mixture of excitement and terror as I opened that first issue and saw my name in print, along with this photo accompanying my first column…

Yeah, I've always had good hair...
Yeah, I’ve always had good hair…

“There’s no turning back now,” I heard Bob say from behind the folds of his newspaper. “They know what you look like.”

That first column was titled “Suddenly 16… Again,” and spoke of what it meant to be home again, walking the fields and pathways of my youth while listening to the footfalls of my first child on those same grasses…

The stands are empty. Chalk lines are scuffed. No numbers illuminate the scoreboard as seagulls and crows scrimmage over candy wrappers and stale nachos beyond the 30-yard line. From the empty Viking bench I look across the field to the stands where VIKS is proclaimed in blue against shiny gold…

… And I’m suddenly 16. A sophomore, watching as players in mud-stained jerseys rip through a homecoming poster squeamishly held in place by cheerleaders. I remember prowling the sidelines for yearbook photos, the smell of “Coach Lutero Burgers” and a lanky senior quarterback named Dodson. From the stands, “Go! Fight! WIN!” echoes across the field.

Across the years.

I’ve changed a lot since then. The mustache I couldn’t grow as a teenager is now something I fidget with when I write. A wedding band sits on my finger. I get bills with my full name on them. If I don’t work out I get fat. “Barney” is no longer a bungling country deputy but a terrifying, purple dinosaur. I no longer consider 30 to be “middle aged.” And after living in places like Atlanta and Dallas, Florence is truly home.

It always has been; I’m just a slow learner.

The wind picks up, stirring my thoughts back to the present where, in the end zone, my daughter has found something shiny. Walking toward her, I’m struck by the notion that we’re sharing a moment that’s about as close to time travel as I’ll ever get. Where I once stood as a teen, hooting and howling, making my first awkward conversations with girls, now stands my own child.

“It’s a penny!” she says excitedly, and readily hands it over.

I check the date and smile in amazement. It’s 1984, the year I graduated from Siuslaw.

“Can I keep it?” I ask.
“I’ll share it with you.”
“Deal,” I say.

In the years ahead, I look forward to sharing this small corner of the newspaper with all of you.”

In the same way my writing and column have evolved and changed over the years, so have the mugs that accompany them β€” and like both, some have been a little better than others…


2003 (I think I was stress eating)
2003 (I think I was stress eating)

2005  (Don't judge me)
2005 (Don’t judge me)

Just kidding...
Just kidding…

2006 (Also my photo)
2006 (Also my photo)

2014 (Hey, WTF what happened?!!)
2014 (Hey, WTF happened?!!)

The same goes for some of the promos that have appeared over the years. All of these are from 2006. Parental discretion is advised. In fact, you may even want to warn your pets…

At least it promotes good hygiene. I also believe it sparked a short-lived comeback for shower caps.
At least it promotes good hygiene. I also believe it sparked a short-lived comeback for shower caps.
I'm just glad I stopped carrying pencils in my pants.
I’m just glad I stopped carrying pencils in my pants.
Bat Boy's lawyers are still after me for this one.
Bat Boy’s lawyers are still after me for this one.
I also tried using my tongue. Man did that hurt.
I also tried using my tongue. Man did that hurt.

As I’m sure you’d agree, my humor has clearly become more sophisticated since those early days.


Ok, maybe not. And maybe that’s why, after 16 years, I still feel the same excitement and anticipation whenever I sit down at the keyboard in hopes of making people laugh. Part of me is still that same goofy 16-year-old, while other parts have matured and grown. I can’t really show those parts here because of my “PG” rating. And in another 16 years no one is going to want to see them anyway.

Even so, I still hope to be at the keyboard stringing together words that elicit a few laughs.

When I’m “Suddenly 16… Again.”

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be released this December from Port Hole Publications. You can write to him at, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

74 thoughts on “Today marks 16 years as a columnist (and my editor’s drinking problem)”

  1. I have read some of my stuff from years ago and thought what drivel. Then again maybe it was better than the drivel I now right. All I know is I peck at the keyboard with a mind that appeals to me and maybe a few others.

  2. Congratulations, Ned!! I loved seeing this peek into your past.
    If you and Hook switch jobs, please write about it and don’t erase the photo evidence.

    On a more serious note, I’m not at all surprised that you were picked over the other two applicants. Clearly your literary voice and mad writing skills will always speak louder than a writing degree. In all honesty, this gives someone like me the same hope. Now, if only I had your hair πŸ˜‰

    1. I’m sure my editor is already making phone calls to the hotel manager to arrange the switch!

      And thanks, Michelle. I’m always glad to know when I can give someone hope or inspiration. About writing, not my hair. I mean, let’s be realistic… πŸ˜‰

  3. 16 Congrats. No offense to any of the hard working writers and journos of the world but a college degree ain’t SHIT compared to a wealth of experience. I was lucky enough to hear Kurt Vonnegut speak once and he said colleges can WRECK a writer.

    Who’s that handsome young buck in the first picture? Is this some kind of gullibility test?

    1. There have been times I’ve regretted not going to college. Then I look at tuition and the moment passes.

      As for the photo, even I wondered who it was when I first ran across it!

  4. 1998, the year Google was founded, a portable MP3 player was made, Old Blue Eyes passed, and Britney hit us baby one more time. Wow. Congrats to you and your longevity and your amazing hair. I don’t think “Barney” is really anything these days.

  5. You know, Ned, I’m no judge of male beauty (I recently joked that I should “bat for the other side” so that I could have better luck, though my neighbor’s wife was quick to point out that “you probably still couldn’t get a date, Kevin”), but I like the recent photo the best. Marriage and blended family have “sat well” on you, I’d say. You look a little bit like a serial killer in the 2001 photo, really. Um, just for the record, I have no evidence of any crimes committed by you, so there really is no need to seek me out and murder me (you know, if you actually WERE a serial killer, which I’m sure you weren’t).
    On a serious note, the part about sharing the penny with your little girl just warms my heart. I remember when my little girl would be excited about things like an ant in the driveway. Now it’s all Minecraft, all the time. Maybe a Minecraft ant might interest her (still a sweet kid, though).
    Here’s to many more years of columns from you!

    1. Wow β€” thanks so much, Kevin. I have to say, meeting my wife and bringing our families has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I can’t help but smile whenever I see my wife or think about her, and our kids have definitely benefitted from seeing how people who love and appreciate each other should be treated. That said, if I weren’t already a happily married heterosexual, I’d be all over you, Kevin.

      Oh, and my little girl with the penny? She’s turning 20 in January… *cough cough*

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Now I don’t have to kill you…

  6. Congrats on a huge accomplishment! That early editor knew what he was doing. I’m sure many of your loyal readers, like me, wondered what kind of gift is appropriate for a milestone like this. I knew the first year gift was paper, the 25th silver, etc., but I had no idea what 16 was. Being the kind of person who will stop at nothing to avoid writing her blog post, I looked it up, hoping it would be the Chia Pet year. No such luck. It’s wax. So, uh, wax on, Ned.

  7. How ironic because I think tainted cotton weave is the theme for the 16th anniversary!

    They say that to become expert in something, you need to do it 10,000 times, and if my rudimentary math (and what about me isn’t rudimentary…or at least rude) is correct, you have truly achieved Expert Status…

    …at least in the words “the”, “a”, “an”, “very” and strangely enough “latrine”

    All the best, my scribbly (and perhaps dribbly) friend!

  8. You grew older, then actually got younger, again. Is Dorian Grey’s picture hanging in your attic, by any chance?

  9. I actually prefer the salt and pepper look you’re sporting these days! πŸ˜‰
    Your writing is amazing and you give hope to those of us who also don’t have degrees in writing or journalism from school.

    1. Thanks, Suz. I’d like to say I’ve worked hard to get that salt and pepper, but having four teenagers has made it easy πŸ˜‰

      And sometimes I think my lack of a “formal” education beyond high school has been a bonus. Except for that six months I was a psychiatrist. I probably should’ve gone to school for that.

  10. Congrats, Ned. Hey! Are you staring off into the future at your future self in 16 years, when you will meet up with your hero? You know, the you in 16 years, McConaughey psycho style?

    Otherwise, I have to tell you, you in the years that end in 5, not your best look. Might want to use a bag for next year. :p

  11. Congratulations! Sixteen years is quite an accomplishment. Has your editor figured out that you’re drugging her yet?? Seriously though, I think you’re a great writer and a super funny guy. I love reading your stuff and am really glad I get a chance to do that here. I am a little pissed that you have better hair than I do but I’ll get over it. Maybe.

    1. Haha! Thanks, Sandy! I don’t have to worry about drugging my editor; she works with me, remember?

      She drugs herself…

      And I’m not so sure about the hair πŸ˜‰

  12. You wear your age well. I have wrinkles that are older than you so I remember the boy that was and is still somewhere inside of me. May life be a bowl. And may you fill it with the fruit of your liking.

No one is watching, I swear...

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