My friend and writing mentor John Schlageck decided to retire. I doubt if retire is quite the right word. If I know John, he will be the farthest thing from retired--he just won’t be coming into Kansas Farm Bureau each morning.

In any case, the idea to fill the hole with guest columnists was hatched and I was asked to help.

I admit it, I struggled to come up with an idea. After all, I write a weekly column and to ask my little-pea-picking brain to come up with two ideas in one week is a lot. Then it dawned on me, the first column should be about John. Oh, it’s an idea he would hate. You see, John would never go for the idea because he reveled in the idea of bringing the focus of this column on the farmers and ranchers he worked for and not himself.

I also contemplated writing this in the same style John would have and then I realized that I could not. There truly is only one John Schlageck and try as hard as I might, I could never replicate his style and voice. His writing has a warmth and depth that I have never found anywhere else. He paints a picture with words like very few can. A picture with depth, color and detail. One that takes you to the very place and time he is describing.

Over the past decades of service to Kansas Farm Bureau, John has explored every corner of our state. He has gone to places like Sin City…I mean Sun City (it’s an inside joke that probably everyone who has ever went to Busters can understand). More importantly he has covered nearly every inch of this state meeting the very men and women he worked for. Getting to know them so he could share their stories in vivid color.

For those of you who have not met my friend, although I know there are not many, the man is even better than his writing. John has one of those personalities that fills the room without taking all the air out of it. Much like his writing, he is always focused on other people rather than himself. That is an exceedingly rare quality and one that should be held in highest regard.

Shortly after I started my column, John gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received. He told me he liked my writing because I wrote from the heart and about things I knew. Those words meant so much to me because I knew that was how he writes. John never really worked a day at Kansas Farm Bureau. He loved what he did too much to have considered it work and all of us in the Farm Bureau family benefitted from that dedication.

I also don’t want this to sound like a memorial because it is far from that. It is simply the last sentence in a very good chapter. I know I echo the thoughts of many when I say we wait with anticipation to find out what exactly the next chapter will bring. I don’t know what it will be, but I know it will be good.

"Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.