Losing a really good reporter — and a really bad French accent

By CHRIS COLLINS Baker City Hera July 17, 2009 10:08 am

Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, but a particular melancholy has come over me in recent weeks at the prospect of watching my colleague Mike Ferguson leave the Baker City Herald building for the last time as he prepares to move his family to Iowa.

I won’t say that I’ve enjoyed every day of working side by side with Mike. You see, I like a quiet work environment.

Mike, on the other hand, is a thespian and a storyteller. He even fancies himself as something of a song-and-dance man. On more than one occasion, upon arriving at the office with a less-than-enthusiastic attitude, Mike’s voice has been the first thing I’ve heard as I walked through the front door. Never mind that he’s still two rooms away at that point.

It’s not just that he’s too loud. It’s that he’s so darned cheerful. (Here’s where the song-and-dance part comes in: On any given day he might be dancing and singing at the top of his lungs upon my arrival —  and that’s before 7 o’clock in the morning.)

In recent years he has routinely greeted me and my pal, Lisa Britton, with a high-pitched Julia Child “Hellooooooo!” to help us start our day. (Lisa, being a cheery woman herself, has always been much more receptive to Mike’s silliness.)

Funny how my perspective has changed in the past few weeks as Mike and his family prepare to head off on their new adventure. I’m actually dreading the prospect of returning to work next week with no “Helloooooo!” in my future.

It’s hard to think of finding a replacement for this wild and crazy guy, but I hope when the bosses begin screening applicants they’ll consider these qualities:

• Ability to sing —  as the situation dictates — songs from nearly any era, including Broadway show tunes (even better if my new colleague would have at least some background as a thespian, although he or she should not be held to the Ferguson standard of having taken an acting class with Tom Hanks or having a close friend who’s an Academy Award-winning sound designer).

• A varied collection of Hawaiian shirts — including one featuring Mickey Mouse that inexplicably gives the wearer an aura of having just returned from Disneyland, the happiest place on earth.

• Talent for repeating movie quotes, hackneyed sayings and other repetitive phrases as needed in a way that can send other staff members, even the really grouchy ones, into fits of laughter.

• A really bad French accent.

• A really bad Humphrey Bogart impersonator.

• A really good reporter with a kind and caring heart.

Chris Collins is a reporter for the Baker City Herald.