Al worked with Ron for about 30 years at the Regina Leader-Post and I knew Ron because of that relationship. I had left the L-P and was working as a freelance journalist by the time Ron came in from the Leader-Post’s Moose Jaw bureau to work in Regina. Al took early retirement from the paper in 2008, leaving his job as news editor, while Ron continued to write humour columns on all things Saskatchewan. Ron Petrie was a Prairie farm boy who never lost touch with that part of his being. He loved his rural roots and everything about Saskatchewan including its people. He was kind, caring, clever – and funny.
In the spring of 2010, Al and I decided to approach Ron about the possibility of publishing a selection of his humour columns in a book. Ron was delighted. He had been approached before about getting his work into a book, but it never quite seemed right, he told us. He was looking forward to working with us, and we definitely were happy to be working with him. When the Leader-Post gave us permission to reprint 70 of the columns Ron had written over the past couple of decades, we were all pleased.
We started the project laughing and never really stopped. Al and I guffawed while reading through the stacks of Ron’s columns – often reading aloud a particularly funny line or paragraph, or even an entire column that we knew the other person would appreciate. Al went through the piles of printed columns first – skim-reading the more than 3,000 columns to see which ones caught his attention. He narrowed it down to about 200 and we each read those columns and gave them our own rating of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best. There were a lot of 5s. The top 70 made it into the book Running of the Buffalo, named after a column in which Ron pondered the concept of having a brand new major event at the Regina Buffalo Days summer fair. Problem was, the buffalo failed to show up. Darn buffalo!
Ron worked very hard at writing his columns. He often paced the halls and parking lot of the Regina Leader-Post to come up with topics and story lines. Being funny was sometimes very strenuous work. Other times, the columns came to him easily – and he told us later that those were among the columns which garnered the most feedback from readers … when he wrote of his frustration in replacing the kitchen cupboards at home or recalled his failed attempts at learning French in high school. Many readers related to Ron’s antics and self-deprecating humour. The columns about the birth and growing up of his four children – the triplets and ‘one more on the bonus round’ – were among his finest.
After the book was published in October 2010, we enjoyed watching readers pick up the book and skim through it while standing in front of us. They would invariably burst out laughing or, before they even picked up the book, tell Ron how they read his column all the time. Ron would quickly respond with: “You’re the one!” He never took himself too seriously, but he did look at his responsibility as a humour columnist and journalist in that way.
We will miss Ron's wit and humour, his compassion and caring. I will always remember how his face lit up when his wife Joan and their four children arrrived at the location where we were signing. We teased them that they were Ron’s groupies … but that was the wonderful truth ... and we were blessed to share in those moments.
Ron may be gone, but his spirit lives on in his children, in the memories of his family and friends, and in Running of the Buffalo. As someone recently told us, that is how Ron should be remembered – for the good work he did and the compassion and humour he shared with the world.
We will leave the final words to Ron himself. His friends at the Vancouver Province recently ran one of Ron’s columns that was read at his funeral … in which Ron gives thanks. And we all say ‘Amen.’
|Ron Petrie got a chuckle out of his Running of the Buffalo book being on the|
'Hottest Titles' table along with Stephen King's new book!
|Authors Alan Buick (left) and Ron Petrie (right) were thrilled to find their books |
The Little Coat and Running of the Buffalo among Chapters Regina's bestsellers!