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Observing the new year tends to propel me into retrospection. And, this year, the newspaper turned 55 years old, prompting me to revisit earlier editions. The following is the column I write upon returning to Pea Ridge and the newspaper business in January 2006. I had worked for newspapers in Louisiana, moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work at the Bentonville paper and later married a Pea Ridge native. We moved away from Pea Ridge for a time (from 1998 to 2005). And, I returned in January 2006 to the helm of the Pea Ridge newspaper.

Almost eight years ago, my family (which then consisted of six daughters and one son) and I moved from our home on Sugar Creek (before the golf course) just south of Pea Ridge to southeast Missouri. We had always intended to move back here, but didn't know when that would be.

Just two weeks ago (December 2005), I received a call that Becki Tyson (former managing editor of The Times) had turned in her two-weeks notice. Would I consider moving back?

A lot has changed here in the past 10 years -- and even more in the past 20. But much has changed in my life as well. I gave birth to two more sons while in Missouri. This past year, two daughters were married to wonderful young men -- new sons-in-love. For those who remember us, let me bring you up to date. Sara, 21, is a junior at College of the Ozarks. Rachel, 19, is married to a wonderful young man, Landon Thurman, and living in Rogers, attending NWACC. Rebekah, 18, is married to Brian King and living in Piedmont, Mo. Hannah is 16 and a junior; Mary Louise is 13; Deborah is 12; Daniel is 11; Joseph is 7; and Samuel just turned 4.

I'm excited about the great possibilities here! Pea Ridge has grown, but it has maintained its wonderful flavor! Yes, I remember the first Mule Jump held on the school grounds downtown! I was an outsider, but welcomed with open arms 23 years ago when I moved to Pea Ridge. I look forward to coming back home. Over the past two decades, many of my family members have moved from Louisiana up here to these Ozark hills. Some have gone on to eternity, but some are still here, now calling this land home.

Over the years of working with The Benton County Daily Record, I met many great people. I first moved to Arkansas in February 1980, when I went to work for a small weekly newspaper in Bentonville, that was undergoing the transition to a daily. Ralph Patrick was the editor, for those of you who've been around a while. I had just graduated from college in Louisiana and applied for a job through the Arkansas Press Association. The newspaper in Bentonville was small (I had been working on a Gannett paper in Monroe, La.) and I was excited about the opportunities to learn more phases of newspaper work. Over the next couple of years, my work changed a bit. I first covered Rogers city government. I married, had children (one every year, it seemed), decreased my newspaper work, but continued to write.

After moving to Pea Ridge, I focused my work in Pea Ridge. I attended the school board, city council and planning commission meetings for the Bentonville newspaper. I wrote feature stories and began a column -- Out of My Mind. As my children grew, I was able to combine field trips for the children with feature stories. It was a good time. I was blessed to know Billie Jines and Mary Lou (and Cal) Beisner. This year, as we prepare to celebrate the 40th year of this newspaper, I am especially excited about revisiting history and the people who've helped make this community -- and newspaper -- what they are today. I look forward to getting reacquainted with those whom I know and meeting you whom I don't.

•••

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, six sons-in-law, nine grandsons and three granddaughters. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected]

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