After 65 years of penning columns, Jerry Apps says goodbye

Jerry Apps
In his 65 years of writing columns, Jerry Apps says he's learned to power of a story and a way to connect to readers.

With another year ending, I’m sorry to report that this will be my last column. It was a difficult decision to make, as I have been writing columns nearly every year since 1957. In that year I began work as a County Extension Agent in Green Lake County and wrote columns about Extension activities for the Berlin Journal.

In 1960 I moved to Green Bay and worked there as an Extension Agent, writing columns for the Green Bay Press Gazette. Ray Pagel was Farm Director for the paper at the time. He would have made a good English teacher, for with a red pen he took my columns apart and showed me how to make them better. He showed me how to say something with 500 words or less. For his patience and instruction, I am forever grateful.

In 1962, I moved to Madison to become Publications Editor for the State 4-H Department, editing all the many 4-H bulletins that went out by the thousands to 4-H member around the state. Bulletins that ranged from how to raise a dairy calf, to tips for sewing and canning. I had no time for column writing, indeed no time for any of my own writing.

By 1964, I was teaching in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education in UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and married with three little kids. Learning a new job and helping take of my family left little time for column writing. Glen Pound, then Dean of the College of Agriculture said I must earn an advanced degree before he could increase my salary. So, in 1966, I was a full-time in graduate school, learning the nuances of academic writing, which was informative, well researched, and often without much heart.

In 1966, in addition to my academic writing, I began writing a weekly column titled “Outdoor Notebook” for the Waushara Argus in Wautoma, and soon also for the New London and Hortonville papers as well as The Central Wisconsin Resorter. I wrote for these papers for ten years. A bit later I wrote weekly columns for the Country Today, and Agriview newspapers. And for the past few years, I wrote “Sit Awhile” for the Wisconsin State Farmer. I have also written this column for the past 15 years as both a blog and an entry on my Facebook Page.

I’ve learned much from my many years of column writing. I’ve learned the power of a story. I have learned that putting a little heart into a story will often take it from ordinary to something better. I have worked hard to do that. A little humor helps too. I write with the hope my words will get people thinking, and perhaps remembering. Memories are powerful tools to make a life more interesting.

I know I will miss reading all the comments and stories that my columns have evoked. Thank you everyone for reading my words. I plan to continue to write books and do TV and radio work, and perhaps write a few articles.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS. Thank you. Without readers, where would writers be?

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to or contact him