Forrest Laws may be the tallest man working in agricultural journalism. I’ve yet to ask him his exact height but I’m tall and I know he stands well above me. In fact, literally and figuratively, he is far above many in our ever-shrinking herd.
Forrest has been a dear friend to us over the decades that Owen Taylor and I have been in the business of gathering agricultural news and photographs. And now he’s checking out of the office.
Forrest could always be counted on to keep the rest of us on our toes. It seemed like he never missed a meeting! If I attended a small gathering of farmers and Extension workers on the backside of rural Arkansas, Owen usually greeted me with this question: “Was Forrest there?” Most times, I would roll my eyes as if to ask why he even bothered with that rhetorical question. Then one of us would surely comment, “How does he keep up the pace?” And, that was 20 years ago!
We all have moved through cycles of change in journalism – computers, cameras, less staff, more responsibilities. There’s been no choice if you love the business. Forrest transitioned with his own grace and style. In meetings, I would still catch him taking notes, but more likely he had marked his space with a digital video camera mounted on a monopod capturing the action for the Farm Press website. Later, in the “media room,” where everyone else might be kicking back with a drink or having a meal – there would be Forrest leaning over his keyboard clicking away in his legendary 2-finger style. Gotta file that story, our “upholder” of getting the job done. Man, he put pressure on us slackers!
In June, Forrest was nationally recognized for his steadfast determination to create quality work when he received the Reuben Brigham Award at the 2017 national meeting of the Association for Communication Excellence. Farmers, friends, and peers have benefitted from his truth telling coverage of agriculture for all these years. It sure was great to see him recognized publicly.
I enjoyed those random times we ran into each other at meetings, and got a minute to discuss our mutual political views, which for the most part usually didn’t match the tenor of the room. Or, we might just do a silent head shake at each other and know we were in good company.
Dear Forrest, I’ll miss your tall, lanky shadow and warm, gentle smile in those random convention meeting rooms or tractor driven wagons full of hay bales and farmers. Guess we’ll just have to make a road trip to see you now since the serendipity of coming together at farm meetings is behind us.