I haven’t done the numbers.
That would be a complicated undertaking.
But I suspect page designer Ralph Walter has handled more of my columns than any other staffer charged with laying out the front page of the features section since 1992.
Ralph has been promoted and will be focusing his attention on another section.
So I thought this might be the perfect time to recall a few highlights of his long, troubled association with The Slice.
I’ll never forget, for instance, the time I first introduced the idea of the Marmot Lodge in print. That column appeared while I was on vacation. We ran it with a large photo of … a prairie dog.
Of course, that wasn’t the only occasion when Ralph selected a picture of the wrong animal to go with my column. I can’t recall all the details, as I have tried to put it out of my mind.
There’s no forgetting, though, the time he selected an image of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to accompany a column item referring to the board game Monopoly.
There was one little problem. It had somehow escaped Ralph’s notice that the online photo he picked had been inexplicably adulterated to show Mr. Moneybags squatting over a steaming pile of human waste.
My friends, that led to one readable correction.
Wondering what he might do next became a fascinating part of my workday.
Of course, the truth is, he did exceptionally fine work 99.99 percent of the time. More than once, I had conversations with colleagues behind Ralph’s back about the outstanding headlines he wrote. He did that day after day.
And he never failed to accommodate a longer-than-usual column.
Still, if you really want to know what kind of teammate Ralph has been, here’s the best example I can cite. It did not involve me. I overheard it because, for a few years, I sat right next to him.
Over and over, features editors Carolyn Lamberson and Kimberly Lusk would present Ralph with page-design challenges. Ten pounds of content to fit in a five-pound bag. Or layout problems more complicated than that.
Every time, Ralph would say the same thing: “I’ll make it work.”
And he would.
Today’s Slice question: How many post baby boom listeners would get it if you described a bowling league, assisted living facility or some other hotbed of social intrigue as “a Peyton Place”?
Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email firstname.lastname@example.org. March in the Inland Northwest is going to come in like a (insert your animal of choice here).