It should come as no surprise that longtime Index-Journal editor William Ansel "Bill" Collins hasn't let his retirement from the newspaper Dec. 31, 2011 signal an end to his writing. And it should come as no surprise to learn he produced a book since retiring.
What might come as a surprise to those who know Bill is the book's title: "Pull my finger ... Fairy tales, foibles, + bald-faced lies." Don't be fooled. While Bill certainly has a sense of humor and enjoys a good laugh as much as anyone, the book title does not signal Bill's foray into pranks and humor. In fact, he makes sure the reader understands that from the git-go.
Flip open the cover and Bill sets the record straight with these two words: Serious title. He goes on to explain that the phrase "pull my finger" references pulling a prank or playing a trick on someone, all in good fun. But his use of the phrase is very pointed. "These days, however, Americans have become victims of political trickery and it's far from being funny. It's tragic. ...the people of this country are being 'taken to the cleaners' by politicians with incompetent and questionable un-American political agendas."
And so it goes, once again, that those who read Bill's editorials and columns during his storied career at the Index-Journal should not be surprised to learn his book very nearly seamlessly picks up where his newspaper career left off in that Bill reflects on what he witnessed during the course of his nearly 80 years. A Depression-era baby born in Florence, S.C., Bill has — and readily shares — a perspective on life, politics and society few of today's generation, or even yesterday's generation, can relate to or understand. But in sharing his thoughts, he hopes to provoke younger people to reflect more, think more about their future, and the future of their children in today's world.
Just an old man who doesn't get it, who isn't keeping up with the ever-changing times? No, not quite. To be sure, Bill is an older man, but a newspaperman is very much accustomed to changing times. Editing a daily newspaper, keeping up with local, state, national and international news each and every day certainly qualifies a person as keeping up with a changing world. But keeping up with the changes does not always translate into embracing those changes, nor necessarily should it. And Bill readily accepts the label of "geezer." In fact, that is the topic of the book's first chapter, "A gift of time."
Bill writes: "There's no shame in growing old It is a glorious journey into the land of golden memories and is, without question, an adventure worth having. It is a shame, though, to waste time along the way and leave little or nothing to reassure those we leave behind."
He continues: "No one knows who said it, but it's a testament to what some describe as Old Geezers and what they mean to this nation and the American people. 'This country needs Old Geezers with their decent values. We need them now more than ever. Thank God for Old Geezers.'"
In short, learn from the wisdom of others, those who have many miles of life's journey already behind them. And more to Bill's overarching point, some things do not — or at least should not — change along life's winding road, from morals and ethics to values and principles. That applies as much to our existence as a country as it does to the individuals that make up this country.
In 34 relatively short chapters, Bill reflects on life, politics, the American fabric and the American family. What he writes is not written to make readers comfortable. Many who read Bill's book — especially those who were avid followers of his newspaper writings — will nod their heads in agreement as they wind their way through each chapter. Others might find themselves at odds with his view, but that's OK. He hopes to make people think, assess and even reassess their own perspectives and, if nothing else, come away with a better understanding of his views as an "Old Geezer."
In reading Bill's book, one thing is clear: He dearly loves his country and his family and wants nothing but the very best for both. That is evident not only in his writings, but also in the fact he dedicated the book to the grandchildren he and his wife, Betsy, thoroughly enjoy.
And that's not pulling anybody's finger.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.