It has always been my intent throughout life to maintain a low profile. I've never been one of those needy people who crave constant attention, planting themselves firmly before any and all and proclaiming, "Look what I did! Look what I did!" Perhaps it has been due to a subconscious knowledge that those who stand out in the crowd always become a bullseye for well, the rest of the crowd. And maybe my desire to fly under the radar has simply been a result of my introvertedness. Really, take it from an introvert, introverted people are not seekers of fame. So, as little fame as I've garnered over the years as an author, I like to refer to myself as 'anonymously famous,' even taking the alias of 'The Rusty Goat' to ensure my flight from fame would be a success.
I have achieved my goal to become a non-famous writer. However, I've not been so lucky in my role of...wait for it...a pecan farmer. I wholeheartedly agree with you, pecan farmers should not be amongst the famous and to make it clear, I am only famous among folks who dicker with pecan trees. Over the years, twenty-five to be exact, I have become the 'go-to guy' when someone has a question about growing pecan trees. This is how it came to be; with the purchase of a spot of west Texas dirt on which over a hundred young pecan trees stood, I set out to learn everything I could about growing pecan trees. Now, stay with me...there's a story here and it's not about trees.
My venture in the pecan business became successful with me shipping pecans to customers all over the world. It was quite common for folks to stop by as I worked in my orchard and ask questions about their own pecan trees. I'd even receive phone calls and e-mails from people asking about how to care for their trees. So, realizing the opportunity to share my knowledge about these trees, I created a website called Texas Pecan Trees. It became an instant success and even more folks began contacting me about how to take care of their pecan trees. I wrote a book on the subject and it became a best seller on Amazon. Lucky me, right?
An email notification came on my phone while I was watching Gunsmoke on MeTV the other day. I glanced down, figuring it was nothing more than useless spam. But alas, the message was from a reporter for the Texas Monitor, a popular news organization for folks in Texas. Curious, I decided to read his message.
'I am curious about your opinion on HB32, a proposed bill scheduled for the Texas legislative session in January...'
Well, he obviously had the wrong person. I don't do politics. I grow pecans. I sent a reply asking what this bill was about. He responded that it concerned pecan weevils. I thought how odd that our state government would take up valuable time and resources pondering an insect. I found the bill proposal online and read through it and sure enough, a state representative from El Paso has proposed that the great state of Texas declare war on the pesky bug by...wait for it...imposing a licensing fee upon pecan buyers to the tune of four hundred bucks a year. Well, I thought, there are several ways to get rid of a pecan weevil, but I'd never heard of this method. The reporter said he was told I was the 'Nut Guru' of the pecan industry and I thanked him for the compliment but no, I was really just some old goat who picks nuts up off the ground. But, in spite of the fact that I was missing Gunsmoke, I sent a lengthy and detailed response about everything I know about pecan weevils. And as is typical with me, I threw in a few personal opinions as well. Little did I realize at the time that his article was not about bugs, but rather a focus on how stupid government officials can be if left unattended. I played right into his scheme.
It was not the reporter who alerted me of the published article a few days later, but an assistant to my Texas representative. My phone rang right in the midst of yet another episode of Gunsmoke, and assuming it was likely a scam call, sighed in disgust as I muted the TV. I'll get back to that phone call in a bit, but first let me tell you about the article, which I had not seen when I got caught up in this conversation.
I don't follow the Texas Monitor and was unaware that its primary function is to be a watchdog publication, shining light on 'all things stupid' within the Texas legislature. I admit I smirked as I read the article, which you can see here. It contained little information about pecan weevils, but how irrelevant and irresponsible this piece of legislature is. And yes, it quoted me.
'Rodney Strange, a West Texas pecan grower and curator of all things pecan on his website, Texas Pecan Trees, was not aware of the bill until told about it by The Texas Monitor. After reading it, he called it irrational.'
“As is typical with the Texas Legislature, yet another attempt to tackle an issue by initiating a revenue-producing fee of $400,” Strange said.
And then there was this quote:
“I’m not one who believes the government can solve all my problems, especially by imposing a $400 license fee on me..."
I obviously came off as a dissident, right? I suppose I am much of the time, but a dissident under the radar...until now. Back to the phone call from the state representative.
"Mr. Strange, our office came across an article published in the Texas Monitor, and the representative asked me to contact you concerning this proposed bill. If the bill comes before the legislative session in January, would you be willing to travel to Austin to appear before the Texas Legislature?"
I paused for an uncomfortable length of time, "Well...sure. I would be happy to drive to Austin (not a short drive in the dead middle of winter) and give the legislature my expertise (on bugs, of all things!)
Throughout all my adult life, there have been so many things I would have liked to have the opportunity to confront my state legislature with. Bugs were never one of them. Standing before the people who govern my great state and discussing insects...that's way off my radar!