John Latimer was once accused of being
part of the worst ten minutes on radio. "So
what did management at KAXE do?" he asks.
"Doubled my time on the air, apparently
hoping I would get tired and quit. Fifteen
and a half years later I'm still coming in
on Tuesday mornings to do my air shift. I
guess I'm beginning to be the old man at the
station, having survived several changes of
staff and management."
John Latimer is not only KAXE's official
Staff Phenologist, but also a rural mail
carrier. The rain, sleet, snow, dead of
night axiom certainly applies on the dirt
roads of northern Minnesota. John breathes
dust all summer, bounces through axle deep
ruts during mud season, and slogs through
snow and ice in winter. "I had one really
bad day this winter. Had to get a running
start to get up this one hill. It was so
slick I didn't make the corner at the top.
Took out a mail box and wound up with two
flat tires." Fortunately his circuitous
route through the woods and sloughs and
countryside also gives John ample time to
John confesses that he is a person of
many habits. He swims three days a week.
"That's a habit that's been part of my life
since the mid-eighties. It was also about
that time I discovered Carhartt logger
jeans, now another habit. The Carhartts
almost border on a uniform," John continues,
"and except for the months without an â€˜r' in
them they are my steadfast companions. Lots
of pockets for my stuff: hand lens, knife,
coin purse and of course my lucky turtle.
The turtle is a symbol of age and wisdom.
I'm gaining some of the former but as to the
latter I don't possess it in any appreciable
quantities so the totem will have to carry
me until I do."
John Latimer talks to listeners on the
radio the same way he would talk to a
friend. "It really feels like a conversation
to me. I try to imagine just one other
person with whom I am having a friendly
chat. I hope the person listening will come
away from the show with a little more
appreciation for the natural world that we
live in, a heightened awareness of how it
all fits together."
John traces his phenological interests to
an early penchant for travel, a search for
something that was never quite defined.
"Once I returned home I resolved to learn as
much as I could about the world that was now
my backyard. All the little things I had
previously overlooked had to be discovered
and, once discovered, assembled into a whole
picture. It could take a lifetime but then
what better way to spend my allotted
moments? Sharing the whole process of
discovery is just frosting on an already