Kesley Colbert
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It’s all about being lost, and found

I’m teaching a class at Gulf Coast State entitled, “Will You Know Where You Are When You Get Where You’re Going.” I did not think up that moniker. I “borrowed” it from a guy taller, smarter, and funnier than I am. He explained his version to a laughing “Grand Ole Opry” crowd. 

There is a section in the class where we discuss the importance of being, or at least feeling, independent. And we are talking about “independence” from its broadest national sense, right down to how it affects our individual thoughts, actions, and decisions. 

We started with the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. You can’t get more national than that. And we zeroed in on Frederick Jackson Turner’s thoughts on the subject as he outlined them in his “Frontier Thesis.”

Turner believed we might have gained our “on paper” independence with a war and a declaration, but it was not imprinted on our hearts until settlers started moving into the unknown lands of the American frontier. The first ones came to Kentucky while you could still smell the gunpowder from the revolution. More moved into Ohio the year before Washington was elected president.

They had to clear the land, hunt for food, build shelters, fight Indians, protect their property from fire, wind, rain, and pestilence, and keep a gun and knife close by – they were the police, doctor, school teacher, chief cook, and bottlewasher…. It wasn’t that you might tend to become a tad more independent; everyone’s life depended on it!

This scene was repeated as our nation swept across the Midwest, Great Plains, and over the Rockies. Life was harsh and dangerous. You had to “get tough or die.” But don’t you think there was more than just a bit of pride built in along the journey? They’re the ones who ought to be singing, “We Did It Our Way!”

My older brother jumped into my mind right in the middle of the lecture. Good golly, I musta been listening to myself! Leon was the most independent of the Colbert boys by far. And it wasn’t so much that he beat to his own autonomous drum, which he certainly did, but he seemed to live by some self-governing mantra… if he could think of it, he’d do it!

I was way too cautious. I was more comfortable getting someone’s advice. I didn’t want to make waves by being one of those self-thinkers. And that could be a problem at times, like letting Yogi talk me into hopping a freight train to Memphis. Or Leon exhorting me to climb the First Baptist Church steeple, “You can see all the way to Huntingdon!” 

Shoot, I couldn’t hardly see past the city water tower.

In high school, when we started talking about graduation and leaving home at our Dairy Bar gatherings, most of the guys would get excited as all “git out” at the prospects. My French fries would turn cold, soggy, and tasteless.

I don’t think I would have been a very good frontiersman.

College forced me into a different mode. I HAD to make decisions. By necessity, I became less dependent on other people’s thoughts, opinions, or unsolicited advice. I steered clear of trigonometry, psychology, and advanced chemistry. I got in those long lines for P.E., clay modeling, and basket weaving. This newfound independence was growing on me.

By the time I moved to Florida to teach school and coach, I was actually feeling pretty good about my growth in so many areas. I knew better than to hop a freight to Jacksonville and shinnying up church steeples was no longer on my radar.

I was living large and enjoying life. I didn’t bother with a bank; I just carried my money around in my front pocket for the whole world to see. Everyone in Port St. Joe was extra nice to me. I went back to Tennessee, found a girl who said she would marry me, and figured my life was pretty much set.

Way before I could get engaged, people started telling me, “You are going to give up your independence.” Friends would come by the radio station, “Kes, you’ve been down here five years, this marrying thing will take away some of your freedom.” Cliff Sanborn stopped me after football practice, “Has anyone mentioned you are fixing to kiss your independence goodbye…”

They were looking at it backwards. I’m thinking after living alone, by myself, with no one around, no one to eat with, no one to talk to if I “came up with” a good story…. Listen, if she can cook, wash clothes, clean this place up, knows how to open a bank account, rubs my back every now and then, and she’s got a good-paying job…. MY independence can take a small hit!



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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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