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Cold Iron consists of random bits of irreverence, surliness, and contumely; sometimes it's even funny. Reading it is entirely optional.

...the iron monger and rusticater himself

Cool Iron

"Never hit someone over the head with a hot iron. Wait until it cools so you don't burn them."

...the source of my ideas


December 1, 2018


Following a wandering time Ė that included stays in such places as Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Missoula, Montana; Seattle, and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco Ė I became a newspaper reporter because that was thought to be the way for a writer to begin things. Actually, I wasnít all that conscious of myself as a writer. I was conscious of myself as a newspaper reporter, which was all I wanted to be.
That paper was the DeKalb Daily Chronicle, and I began working there in the sixties part-time, full-time, and, amazingly enough, occasionally whenever I felt like it. My part-time wage was $1.25 an hour, and my full-time salary was $65.00 a week. There were no benefits beyond my feeling that I had the most wonderful job in the world, although the money was enough to keep me in food, a car, and a small apartment over on Pleasant Street.
A good friend of mine, Paul Rozycki, had been working at the paper as a photographer, and when he found out there was an opening for a darkroom worker he told me about it and then introduced me to the editor, Eddie Raymond. Of course I had no experience with darkrooms, but if I lacked a resume I didnít lack for enthusiasm, reliability, and a good respect for work, and those things were important to Eddie. Eddie hired me on the spot and it all, as they say, worked out.
Eddie, with his white shirts, white hair, and bow ties, was the quintessential editor. He was thin as a whisker and had a smile that could make a lightbulb look dim, and he had a flip-side scowl, too, that you didnít really want to see aimed in your direction. Later, when I began writing, I revered him as though he were the great editor Maxwell Perkins. I think Eddie viewed me as a reason not to run out of blue pencils (and he did edit with a blue pencil Ė whole reams of my greatest purple prose consigned to oblivion).
One time, as I tried not to complain about covering yet another Peanut Day or Rotary luncheon, Eddie told me there were no minor stories, only minor reporters. Eddie was not generally given to spouting pithy little sayings.
In the office next to Eddieís was Bob Greenaway. I think Bobís official role was that of publisher. He was definitely managerial and looked more like a banker than a newsman. He was a bit intimidating in his manner, too, at least to the younger staff. He was supportive, however, and never failed to praise good work. Most importantly, throughout the newsroom there was always the feeling that being part of this news business was hugely important, regardless of the major or minor role you might have.
Eventually, as my knowledge of photography grew, I was armed with one of the giant Speed Graphics and sent out on my first assignments. I chatted up and immortalized DeKalbís socialites for Marcella Aspengrenís Womenís Page (yes, times change, but the marketing mavens ought to take note that that page was read, and not just by the women in town), shot every conceivable kind of high school athletic contest for Curt Beardís Sports Page (one of the assistant sports editors was a very young Brent Musburger), did the Corn Boil, the airport show, the NIU Homecoming parade (atop the old Post Office at First and Lincoln and leaning perilously against the dome). I wrote feature stories on the old folks at the DeKalb County Farm; did picture spreads on new developments at the DeKalb Public Hospital; and wrote a very sad story on a farm auction. There was also the regular mugging of just about every politician, Rotarian, Kiwanian, Lion, and Elk in the area, along with their Catholic Daughters, Womenís Club, and hospital auxiliary counterparts. My goofiest memory, however, as a photographer, came on the day I was assigned the DeKalb County Bar Associationís Play Day out at the country club.
As the judges and lawyers began filling their plates I sat down at the end of a long picnic table bench, camera in hand. Gradually the far end of the table began to fill with lawyers and judges, many of whom were feeling no pain. Deciding finally that I had enough notables present for the inimitable group shot, I popped a flashbulb into my flash unit, stood up, and realized that my weight at one end of the bench had been supporting a half-dozen barristers at the other end, all of whom teetered as I tottered. They ended up on the ground, while I had either the fear or the professional decency not to take a picture.
The newsrooms Iíve been in in recent years seem much too quiet. We worked back then amidst the clatter of old Royal typewriters that were about as big as a PC monitor, as well as the constant sharp chugging sound of the United Press International teletype machine Ė the ding of a bell now and then telling you that an important story was coming through, with multiple dings telling you that the end of the world might well be near. Of Palm Pilots, cellphones, and PCís, we had no clue, but I still remember how proud and how technologically advanced I felt the day Bob Greenaway had a Motorola two-way radio installed in my car. I mean, I was so cool I was hot.
I never knew much about the technical end of producing a newspaper, but once in a while Iíd have reason to go out into ďthe shopĒ where the presses and the Linotype machines were, usually to take one of my heavily-edited stories out to be set in type. It was noisy out there, as well as fumey: hot lead, oils, and greases. What amazed me most about the process, however, was the sheer physical aspect of my writing Ė how my words could be transformed by the punch on a Linotype keyboard into heavy metal, from there be converted into something that could be incorporated into a huge machine, and finally reduced to something that could be carried by a twelve-year old kid until it ended up on the kitchen table or in the living room near dadís chair.
To paraphrase an old saying, the miracle of a free press is not so much that it is done, as that it is done day after day after day.
Iíve often wondered what Eddie would think about how those early lessons of his on getting your facts right enabled me to become an award-winning fiction writer, but I donít think Iíve ever written anything without feeling him standing somewhere behind me Ė blue pencil in hand.
G.K. Wuori © 2018
Photoillustration by the author

Selected Works

I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes a dark crime story set in a rural, somewhat remote part of Maine in a time when the radicalism of the nineteen-seventies was sweeping the country.
Ellen DeLay, an upstanding citizen of Quillifarkeag, Maine, suddenly and unpredictably leaves her happy, twenty-five year marriage for a lonely cabin deep in the Maine woods, where she makes a living dressing hunters' kill - bears, moose, deer. It seems an idyllic life, punctuated only now and then by rifle fire as she shoots into the air to scare off cheeky teens who come to taunt "the crazy woman."
A small-town lawyer in the middle of a gruesome murder case finds salvation in the world of a homeless woman and her daughter.
A young woman's morning walk through her small town finds her immersed in a small tragedy, an indifferent government, and the "science gone mad" of her best friend's husband. Quirky, goofy, nutty - yes, but a gentle look as well at some of the values that keep us from falling off the planet
A hint of generally true autobiography, this piece is part of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill's "How I Became A Writer" series.
Quillifarkeag is a state of mind, one marked by innocence and regret, by guile and sympathy. The people there will let you into their lives - but not very far. Go too far inside and things start to echo, people get close. Honesty becomes negotiable. Bare all and someone might still say, "Were you naked or nude?" It's an important distinction. In a small place like Quilli the naked truth is hurtful. The nude truth is not so bad.

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