The Nevada Journal staff had always known Bud Strum, whether it was because he stopped by our office to point out a matter of interest, comment on something that had run in the paper or drop off a letter to the editor.
Bud – whose given name was Wendell V. - passed away last week, leaving behind a legacy of written work, including many poems and other pieces, and his well-known columns that appeared for a number of years on the pages of the local newspaper.
In 2002 the Nevada Journal allowed Bud Strum to start writing a regular column in the newspaper. It started when he brought in a piece called “Remembering my best friend – Luke” that ran in March of 2002. Luke was a miniature dachshund that had been Bud’s best friend for seven years. In that story, Bud wrote that Luke’s death was one of the hardest deaths he’d ever experienced. He touched readers with this heartfelt piece that so many pet lovers could relate to.
By April, Bud brought us another column, called “Remembering Something You Never Forget.” This was another emotional one and a thought-provoker. It was about a “tap, tap, tap” sound that Bud heard one day, and followed with his ears to find his 5-year-old son trapped in an old refrigerator.
As he dropped that second column off, he asked if he might start writing a little more regularly in the paper. He was asked to come up with a name for a column. A few days later, he had one – Pocket Lint – telling us that he liked that name, because it’s the stuff you feel in your pocket that might not be worth anything and is basically useless, but then again, you might just roll it around in your fingers awhile before throwing it to the wind.
And so it began … Pocket Lint, a column that was offered occasionally in the first couple years, and then became a pretty-much weekly occurrence up until about three years ago.
During his time of writing for the Nevada Journal, Bud Strum became the most “well liked, yet sometimes disliked” columnist that this newspaper ever had. Along with his much accepted emotional and melancholy-type columns, or columns that focused largely on history or historic happenings in the local area, Bud also had a strong flair for the controversial. Through his heavily opinionated columns on issues of the city, county, state and world, he often angered local readers because of the straightforward expression of his thoughts on various matters.
One of his best friends in Nevada, Harold Brinkman, a fellow member of the “coffee club” that hung out at Denny Horn’s Auto Repair business, remembers how Bud upset the locals; but also how those who knew him best still loved him.
“Although some people were upset about some of his columns, I believe he provided a very good public service for Nevada,” Brinkman said. “He wasn’t afraid to take on causes if he thought something wasn’t right. Nevada misses that.”
Brinkman remembers two things that really upset Bud and that he wrote often about in the local newspaper. One was the new City Hall, Public Safety Facility in Nevada, the “Taj,” as Bud labeled it. “He was upset that the (city) council bypassed the voters (on building it) and (upset) about the size and the cost. He knew the public wouldn’t buy it as presented,” Brinkman said.
The second thing Brinkman remembered was Bud’s opposition to building a new hospital in Nevada. “He didn’t think it was necessary. He was unreasonable at our morning coffee when we discussed this. He wouldn’t even listen to valid points of why a new hospital was necessary for eastern Story County,” Brinkman remembered.
“It is ironic that he died there,” Brinkman pointed out of Story County Medical Center, the place where Bud was taken last week as he was dying. “That would have really frosted him.”
But Brinkman, like others, appreciated Bud’s independence. “He could care less what people thought, although deep down I think he did. When he was really on a terror about something, he would run the column by me to see if I thought he could get it by Marlys (Barker, the editor). Several times I would tell him to calm down and rewrite a paragraph.”
Denny Horn, who closed his auto repair business in Nevada in November of 2011, said Bud was the member of the morning coffee club that kept a finger on the pulse of Nevada.
“I know his articles were a little controversial, but we always told him to keep it up, because that kept people aware of things and got them to speak up, whether it was positive or negative. Some people didn’t agree with him, but he usually said what he believed,” Horn said.
When Bud quit writing his regular columns, Horn missed them. And he wasn’t the only one. Many people looked forward to Bud’s musings and missed him when he wasn’t writing in the paper.
Fellow writer and friend Ed Rood, who was the longtime publisher of the Tri-County Times and himself an avid columnist, said he enjoyed Bud’s many word battles, but also enjoyed his stories of “the good old days,” another very common thread in Bud’s many writings. “Bud had the unique ability to recall experiences from his past, create them in words and keep readers entertained - not an easy task.”
Bud wrote about Ray Price’s roosters, about days of growing up on the farm, about the fact that “I’ll Never Swim Bear Creek again,” about fishing trips and more, so much more. In his poetry, much of which is printed in his self-published book - “Often Times … I Reminisce,” he shares in stanzas a variety of his life experiences and observations. Bud’s memories came from an assortment of places, some from his youth near McCallsburg, some as a high school student at Nevada High School, some from his years of service to the U.S. Air Force, some from raising his own family and working at the USDA in Ames.
And when he wasn’t writing about his memories, his life, history or “something nice,” he was making statements that could aggravate folks. Like, “Why in the name of Mrs. Gates can’t the city of Nevada and the Nevada Schools share Gates Hall?” Or “Whose money is the city spending? You can always tell when someone is spending someone else’s money. They waste it!” This was, of course, in one of his rants about the new City Hall.
Bud also wrote plenty of humorous stuff, like “They’re coming to take me away,” his column about believing – or not – that we’ve been visited many times by other forms of life.
In one column back in 2006, Bud writes humorously about organ donation and whether or not he will fill it out on his driver’s license. When you’re pushing 70, he wrote, your organs are pretty well used up. “I can still see and pee, but not very well at either.” He said he chose not to check the organ donation box, considering that “being the guest of honor at a class meeting of Anatomy 101 ain’t my bag.”
On Jan. 8, 2009, Bud showed his sensitive side when he wrote the column titled “Losing a Friend,” about his dear friend Alton Carsrud, “who struggled with a disease he told us would probably get him ended, and he flew away to a place we hope is filled with peace and tranquility.”
Perhaps the best indication of what Bud thought about life’s end lies in the words of several poems that appear at the back of his own book. In “As I Go In Peace,” Bud writes: “Life…is just a puzzle, So fill it in complete. You must recall, The bitter and the sweet. So … I’ll cherish all my golden memories, And take them with me as I go in peace.” In “The Grand Finale,” he writes: “There shall be signs to the watchful eye, Revealing the nearness of the time. A time to which no man can testify, When subtle clues will unveil a paradigm. Earthquakes and famines, the beginning of sorrow, And false prophets shall rave of their power. Some will say - prepare, prepare for tomorrow, Yes - it will happen, but no man knows the hour… So watch … be prepared and never bend, For the time is near … are you ready friend?” And finally, at the end of his poem, “Cincquains of Life,” Bud writes: “At last, My fears are lost, In ectasy I climb, The stairway into heaven’s grasp. In death.”
A celebration of Bud’s life was held Wednesday at First Christian Church in Nevada. A full obituary for Bud appears in this week’s Nevada Journal on page A6.