Josh is the author of two bestselling memoirs, I Am Not Myself These Days, and The Bucolic Plague. From time to time, he shares new stories…

 

At the 1980 Wisconsin State Fair, I was honored by being chosen for the cover of Time Magazine.

Being only 11 years old, you can imagine my surprise at being selected not only for a cover, but for the very prestigious “Man of the Year” issue.

Naturally, I accepted their offer, and obediently sat for my portrait. As they adjusted a bright green background behind me, (how did they know my favorite color?…good journalism, that’s how!) I reflected on the many accomplishments that brought me to this moment…the “What Wisconsin Means to Me” statewide essay contest in which I placed Honorable Mention; my well received turn as Pappy Yokum in the Oconomowoc Junior High School run of “Little Abner;” the map I drew that included all of Oconomowoc’s historic buildings which hung for the entire month of June in the Municipal Library lobby.

It was humbling. Perhaps too humbling. I was young, and there was so, so much more I wanted to accomplish with my life.

So after the photographer and his assistant took their shot, I regretfully informed them that I would not be giving any photo approvals that day. “In fact,” I said, “I cannot accept this cover award at all.”

“You sure?” the assistant said. His dejection was as palpable as the gum he was smacking.

“Quite.”

“Well, if you change your mind, you can pick up your copy at the Main Gate anytime after 4pm.”

“I can assure you, I won’t.”

And with that, I turned towards the sun setting over the Swine Barn, and marched my way down the “Street of Wisconsin Yesterday” into my very bright future.

“Hey kid! I can put you on “Rolling Stone” instead!” the photographer shouted after me.

“Thank you, but no!” I shouted back. 2nd Chair bassoon was impressive. But hardly cover-worthy. “Try Barbara Mandrell on the Main Stage at 7:30! Good luck to you, sir!”

“Luck to you too!” he shouted back. Or something to that effect. It was hard to make out over the crowd.

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