“You wrote columns for the Toronto Star didn’t you?” Paddy asked as I sat my coffee down and shrugged out of my jacket.
“Twice,” I told him. “I did a humorous column for a couple of years back in the early 70s, and then a column on executive coaching for about a year right after I retired in 2003.”
“Didn’t you get in some kind of trouble over one of your columns back in the 70s?” Paddy asked.
“If you mean that I wrote what turned out to be a very controversial column that upset a lot of people; then yes I did.” I admitted.
“I never actually read the column,” Paddy said, “I just heard about it, so tell me the details.”
“My columns back then appeared on the op-ed page, usually on Saturday, so they were fairly widely read,” I told him, and then paused for a few sips of coffee/
“Go on,” he urged impatiently.
“It was a fall weekend just before hunting season opened, so I did a column on hunting that a lot of hunters took seriously, even though it was intended to be humorous,” I explained, before pausing again to enjoy my coffee and Paddy’s impatience.
“So, what happened?” he asked, his impatience mounting even more.
“The late Martin Goodman, then managing editor of the Star, told me they received a record number of letters; in the thousands actually, and ninety-nine percent of them were negative,” I explained.
“Was he upset?” Paddy inquired.
“Not really,” I responded, “such a response meant that an awful lot of people read the column, which would please the Star no end. But the negative letters weren’t the main problem resulting from the column. The main problem was Anne and I started getting threatening telephone calls.”
“What in Heaven’s name did you say in the column?” Paddy asked.
“Well,” I told him, “I said something along the lines that your typical hunter was a three-hundred-and- fifty- pound weekend warrior, armed to the teeth with the latest and most expensive lethal weapons and ammunition legally allowed, who hid in the bushes before dawn (with his cooler of beer or mickey of rum of course) and then when a little three-pound duck flew by, jumped up and shot it from behind.”
“Wow,” Paddy exclaimed, “I can see how that would rile lots of hunters!”
“Yes,” I agreed, “but Martin said it was the last line in my column that caused most of the uproar because it offended more than hunters and gun enthusiasts.”
“Do tell,” Paddy gleefully prodded.
“I wrote,” I told him, “that anyone who got shot being mistaken for a moose was better off dead anyway.”
“Yeah, I can see how that would do it,” Paddy said as he abruptly got up and left without even finishing his coffee.
“It was supposed to be funny,” I said to his departing back. But, like the thousands of upset readers who took the time to write to the Star back then, I guess he didn’t think it was.