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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

From Tinkerbell to tractors

Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2012, at 6:12 PM

I knew how Tinkerbell flashed on the stage. I'd seen where they kept the footbridge from "The Music Man," and I'd touched the bunker from "Les Miserable." The summer before my senior year of college, I supported myself during an unpaid internship by working nights as a tour guide at The Muny in St. Louis. While waiting for sources to return my phone calls or killing time between jobs, I studied that script. I knew how many seats were in the house, how much power it took to slide the scenery on stage and how the beast turned into Belle's prince with one sparkling explosion. I forced that information into my head.

I remember preparing for those tours.

Even though I left Tinkerbell and my overly enthusiastic tour guide attitude at The Muny, somehow I've unknowingly acquired a new set of information about my new home. Although this time I didn't force it, I absorbed it.

As a child, I'd seen grain bins in an episode of "Chip and Dale," but now I can explain how those vessels are filled. When I first moved here, I recognized the fields lining the highway as corn, but I never imagined those stalks produce cattle feed instead of something fit for a side dish. In an elementary school science class, someone taught me that farmers rotate crops for the sake of soil. In the past year, I witnessed the fields swap corn for soybeans and soybeans for corn. Furthermore, I would have thought the scattered corn stalks in the middle of a bean fields were weeds, rather than leftovers from the year before.

Most of all, I never expected for this information to pop as painlessly into my dialogue as it did earlier this month. After a year of hearing stories about riding four-wheelers, hunting frogs and attending tractor pulls, a friend I've known since high school decided to come see my new life for herself. This girl has known me since my plaid skirt and Razor cellphone days. Back then I was knowledgeable about Harry Potter, Disney Princesses and a plethora of other nerdy things that lined the inside of my locker. However as she and I drove from Marshall to Slater, I rattled off these farming factoids just as easily as I could have recited the actors in the Harry Potter movies in the early 2000s.

Even if I now know that a White tractor is a brand and not the color of the machine, I certainly don't consider myself an authority on rural Missouri. In the past year, I've tread carefully around agriculture and rarely write about anything farm related without consulting our agriculture reporter first. If I know anything about rural Missouri, it's my level of illiteracy regarding it.

Still, my friend marveled at the meager information I'd given her during our informal tour. After she mentioned it, I caught myself marveling, too. I often forget I'm still learning even though I don't have professors insisting upon final exams and annual report cards.

Unlike my sheet of theater facts, I don't remember forcing this information or preparing for this tour in any capacity. There isn't a study guide to life after college, and what I've learned more than anything is how much I didn't know before.

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Maggie you are doing a great job thus far. You are sharp, and able to dig out information because you know the right questions to ask yourself, and those whom you query. You are a natural. I hope that you stay in the field, and don't pursue a career as just another pretty face news reader, even though that's where the money, and status are found. Good luck to you.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Sat, Aug 11, 2012, at 6:34 PM
Maggie Menderski
Thank you very much.

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Maggie Menderski graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri in May 2011. The St. Louis native began working as a staff writer for the Democrat-News shortly after. In her Out of Ink blog, she (typically) muses about the differences between rural and suburban life.
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