Upon taking the reins as editor-in-chief, one of my first goals as I began working with the many writers and contributors of Trailer Life, was to get to know each and every one of them, to better understand their expertise and style.
That was easier with some, such as Jeff Johnston who I have known since a stint together as staff editors at one of the premier four-wheel-drive vehicle enthusiast magazines very early in both our careers. Other long-time staffers and regular contributors such as Ken Freund, Chris Hemer, Bruce Hampson, and Gary and Monica Wescott are also familiar through prior associations with other automotive, RV, marine or outdoor publications, professional organizations or events. Our mutual interest in just about anything on wheels, with or without an engine, has drawn us together over the years.
However, there were some I didn’t know at all. For instance, I have read and enjoyed Bill Graves’ last-page column “America’s Outback” for years. During our first few interactions, a letter from one of Bill’s fans came to light. The letter writer was also a long-time reader of Bill’s column and was accustomed to hearing of Bill’s dog, Rusty, from time to time and was inquiring about the canine companion, as it had been a while since Bill had mentioned her or that she had shown up in pictures. Bill let me know that the reason his dog has slipped from the pages of Trailer Life was because Rusty had passed on some time ago. Even though a couple of years had gone by, I could feel the weight in his words.
My portrait in Camping Life (as editor-in-chief) contained a photo with my yellow Labrador retriever, Emma, who loved to travel with me but had recently passed away, and so a new headshot for the column was going to have to be created. This occurred to me as I was suggesting to Bill that if it was not too sore of a subject, he might want to answer the reader’s letter through the pages of the magazine, or allow me to do so, as his fans would probably want to know what had happened to his beloved pet and friend. Bill was surprised (but I wasn’t) that his fans would remember Rusty, and said it might be a good idea to let people know what happened, and that as Bill puts it, Rusty loved to travel but that she is doing it someplace else now. I’ll bet Emma and Rusty are getting along just fine.