I was born and raised in rural Northwest, Iowa. We didn't live on a farm but since the town I grew up in (Smithland, IA) had a population of only about 350 and since my father was a grain and livestock trucker for our little valley, I certainly spent a lot of time on the farm(s). At first just tagging along with dad, but then as I got older, I started to help him.
Growing up in the 50's in a small-town America didn't give a person much of an idea of what was going on in the world outside our little valley. So, I was going to take over dad's business when he retired.
Trouble was as I was working my way through my teenage years, we discovered his business was probably not going to outlast him. Seemed as if every year another farmer would buy his own truck and not need to hire my dad.
Now, I began driving for/with my dad when I was fifteen. And when we realized his business was not going to last, we went about deciding what I was going to do with my life. Dad reasoned that I could drive and he would observe these certain professional drivers, wearing clean uniforms, working regular hours, making good money. So dad decided I was going to be a Greyhound Bus driver. He was pretty good at these things, so I said……OK.
Everything was going along according to plan until the last few months of my senior year in high school. I truly respect the hard work and professionalism of the Greyhound Bus drivers but as I approached graduation I realized that was not the direction I wanted to go. Trouble was, I didn't have any idea of what I wanted to do.
Higher education (anything more than high school) was pretty rare in my family. But God love 'em, when I told my mom and dad I didn't want to be a driver, they pushed me toward North Platte Junior College in North Platte, Nebraska. I had an uncle (Uncle Curt) who lived in North Platte and I think my folks thought he could keep a good eye on me while I found my way.
Two months after I moved to Nebraska, my folks decided that my uncle wasn't such a good influence after all. In a nutshell, here's why. Uncle Curt owned a Honda Motorcycle dealership and I fell in love with motorcycles. I sold a perfectly good 1957 Ford (two-door hardtop, V8) for a Honda motorcycle.
You probably know the winters get pretty cold in Nebraska and when dad found out I had sold my car for a motorcycle, he loudly questioned if I was absorbing any of this "higher education".
After this minor crisis, I continued my studies at North Platte J.C. and in the next few months, I began visiting a school friend who worked part time at the local radio station. The more I stopped by, the more I became interested and intrigued with the process of radio. And with the encouragement of my friend, I applied for a job and low-and-behold, two months later, the radio station actually hired me for a part-time job.
That's when things really started to get fun! Working radio was the first thing I ever had done that I really enjoyed. They were paying me for 20 hours a week and I was spending 80 hours there. Down the road, I eventually got a chance to try a part-time television job. And that was even a bigger kick than radio.
Finally, I landed my first full time TV weather job in Sioux City, Iowa, about 30 miles from where I grew up. I never thought I would be nervous but about an hour before I went on the air for my first time, I began to think of all my family and friends that would be watching me. So when I started the weather that first day, my voice was quivering so much I sounded like a 9-year-old scared out of my wits (which I was)! I sounded like this for the first three days (it's a wonder the station didn't fire me).
Finally on the fourth day I began to calm down and things started to get easier.
I worked four years at that first station. In subsequent years, I have worked in Miami, Oklahoma City, Dallas, back to Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, back to Oklahoma City and then finally here to Tampa. You may detect I had a fondness for Oklahoma City. It's hard country but some of the best people in the world live there!
Probably the biggest thing that has happened to this small town Iowa boy is getting to go up to New York and fill in for Spencer Christian, doing the weather on Good Morning America. The first time the show's producer called, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me. I told the caller just that and almost hung up before he convinced me he was on the level. Spencer Christian was taking six days of vacation at Christmas time and would I like to fill in for him. After hesitating for ½ a second, I said yes!!!!
It was a lot of fun. Everyone at ABC was very friendly and helpful and my first day there all I had to do was to 'shadow' Spencer to see what his duties were. My real test would come the next day (Christmas Day 1987), my first day on.
Good Morning America employed a separate meteorologist who arrived in the middle of the night and actually put most of the forecast together so Spencer didn't have to