Paperwork: Sometimes a Facebook friend can be a mentor

I yelled a little bit at my friend (aka mentor) today.

It was a gentle bellow, though. More of a nudge stapled to a subtle compliment.

I was following an impulse that has been building over time.

Bob Hill is a newsman. Retired. Worked for newspapers for many years and eased into the perfect gig as a columnist for the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times.

Perfect for him, that is.

Bob has the ability to walk into a room (or situation) and sponge up characters (emotions and idiosyncrasies included) along with the little details that bind them together.

Sometimes the main character is himself or his family. Or his backyard.

Whatever. He gathers his details and then tells a story. A story that triggers a memory, a feeling, a response like, “Oh yeah. Yeah. Been there done that. ... seen that ... felt that.”

His stories remind people of our common denominators. The things that make us human.

Bob has other loves besides writing. He and his wife Janet ran a nursery for years. But it’s clear his need to meet and play with words each day has not gone away. And will not go away.

He no longer has a newspaper column, although he still makes guest appearances in his paper of record. (Who better to offer some insight into what it’s like to get that first vaccine shot?)

I also should note the news he posted earlier this year:

“Happy to report on New Years Day 2021 that on my way to becoming an accidental historian my thousands of columns, feature stories, magazine stories, letters, books and photographs collected over 40 years of journalism will now reside with Louisville’s Filson Historical Society for selective permanent residence.

“And tapes of many of the On Good Authority public radio shows I did with Bob Schulman and Bonnie McCafferty and Home Grown garden shows with Jeneen Wiche are in U of L library audio archives.

“The only person more happy than me is Janet.”

Easing into retirement, Bob has found a comfortable outlet for his keyboard pecking. The same place many of us share part of our day ... on Facebook.

Bob has 5,000 friends on Facebook.

He shares thoughts, observations, and photos of his feet as he stares over them into his nursery.

I’ve been reading his rants and ruminations over time and more than once they have influenced my writing. Or pulled my thoughts into new directions and discoveries.

So ... it hit me the other day after reading one of his posts. He’s still writing that column. Telling stories. About people he knows or meets. About the times we live in.

And like all those newspaper clippings, his postings should be saved, I told myself. They are part of his legacy. A slice of time so also our legacy.

I see his posts as pages from a journal, a diary written by a retired newsman and editor.

So I yelled at him a bit via email.

“I hope you are copying and saving those trains of thought you push out into Facebook world,” I said. “You realize it’s your journal and should be preserved.”

He said he thought Facebook preserved his wisdom. Not good enough, I said.

I think he agreed, offering me a “Will do.”

And then he added …. “I’m learning I’ve always been a better writer at 6 a.m. (column time) than 6 p.m. Hell, I guess I knew that.

“Words just show up.”

I hope he is saving those words, as you would any personal journal.

Facebook has it’s dark side. And ridiculous aspects. But it’s always there. Ever ready. An empty canvass. And, of course, we all have a story to tell.

I am glad Bob pulls up that blank “sheet of paper” each day.

Because I look forward to when and how those words show up.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the retired managing editor of The Times. Email to or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.