Ah, Remembering the ‘Dwingling Framlands’

Posted on August 5, 2020

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By David Ettinger

A Sweet Memory
I thought after some rather “heavy” blogs over the past few days, I’d like to lighten things up, sharing a sweet memory from my early journalism days.

I began my journalism career in 1980 working for The Round Up, the school paper of New Mexico State University. Upon graduation in 1981, I was hired as a sportswriter by the Las Cruces (2nd-largest city in New Mexico) Sun-News. I eventually moved to the much-larger El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post in 1987, then to the even larger El Paso Times in 1987. In all, my newspaper days lasted just four months shy of 20 years.

But the “sweet memory” occurred in 1984 while at the Sun-News.

A New Writing Discipline
Though I enjoyed being a sportswriter, my son Aaron was born in November of 1983, and my wife didn’t want me out nights covering sporting events. Also, I wanted to get away from “the toy department” of the newspaper and move into more “adult” endeavors.

One day, a copy desk position opened, the managing editor offered it to me, and I pounced on it. Back then, each member of the copy desk was responsible for a different section of the newspaper.

The sections were local news, national news, world news, entertainment, and business. The copy-desk editor determined the stories with which to fill the sections he or she was assigned to, write all headlines and captions for those sections, and edit every word.

For me, nothing was as fulfilling as being in charge of the op/ed (Opinion/Editorial) page. That was definitely the “weightiest” section of the paper as it included nationally-syndicated columnists as well as local pieces written by our staff.

When I joined the copy desk, I had never written an op-ed piece, and knew I would have to learn this particular discipline. Therefore, I studied our five most recent op/ed sections until I learned what it took to write an opinion piece.

My First Assignment
Four days later, our managing editor handed out the list of op/ed pieces he wanted for the coming week. One topic was “Corruption in the Mayor’s Office,” another “Should New Mexico Have a State Tax?” Neither was assigned to me.

When I looked at my assignment, I was baffled. With my mind working overtime trying to figure out what I was reading, I mulled it again and again. My assignment was: “The Dwingling Framlands of the Mesilla Valley.”

The Mesilla Valley is the region of Southern New Mexico where I lived; that I knew. But what in the world was “Dwingling Framlands.” I should have asked, but coming over from sports, I didn’t want to seem ignorant.

I delved into the past few issues of the paper to see if I could get a clue as to what I was supposed to write on, and finally hit upon a headline that brought everything into view: “Growers Lament the Dwindling Farmlands of the Mesilla Valley.”

Hah! “Dwingling Framlands” and “Dwindling Farmlands”! The managing editor had made what I still consider the most entertaining typo I’d ever seen. Relieved, I read the story, which wasn’t very inspiring, and proceeded to write a rather uninspiring op/ed piece. I mean, what was I supposed to say? That businesses gobbling up rich, fertile tracts of land and turning them into brick-and-mortar places of commerce was good?

Actually, I did have to balance out the farmers’ lament with the local business sector’s economic aspirations. It was quite the high-wire act!

A Blast!
As time went on and I wrote more such pieces, I became adept at it, and enjoyed the opportunity to share my “2 cents’ worth” with our readers.

Today, editorial pieces are a rich part of my blogging. Though I mostly write Bible-teaching articles, I like to mix it up with straight-up editorial posts based on the headlines of these amazing days. (My previous post, “Amid Global Turmoil, Israel Still the Key,” is a prototypical op/ed piece.) And, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic and the riots have provided plenty of op-ed material to keep me occupied.

I don’t know how many op/ed pieces I’ve written over the past 36 years, but it all started with the “Dwingling Framlands of the Mesilla Valley,” and has been a blast ever since!