I was looking at Saturday’s date when it dawned on me that it was a special one.

It’s not only the birthday (never mind which one) of my sister-in-law, Jane Crawford Anders, of Oakdale, but it’s the 32nd anniversary of this column.

As I mentioned before, I left the Advocate business desk with some trepidation to start this column.

It was an experiment, and we didn’t know if it would catch on or not.

I was assured by my editors that I could go back to covering business news if the column didn’t work.

But it turned out that a lot of Advocate readers had a story to share with us — and some readers had a LOT of stories.

I love my regular contributors — you know who they are — but I also love the folks who only write in once, or just once in a while.

They tell of funny things their grandchildren say, or recall favorite events in their past, or thank some nice person for a kindness, or tell of some worthy cause that needs promoting.

And they tell their stories so well that little or no editing is required.

That’s why we started the Saturday letters column — because some of our writers were so talented we could run their tales pretty much verbatim.

The idea for this column is a simple one — you do the writing, I get paid for it.

It’s worked for me for 32 years Saturday.

Hope it works for you. …

Me and Paul

The announcement of the retirement of WAFB-TV newsman Paul Gates reminded me of a great evening I spent with that affable gent.

Years ago we were invited to judge a gumbo cooking contest down the river, and drove down together.

It was a cold night, and the steamy bowls of gumbo hit the spot.

After the contest Paul suggested that we drop by Hymel’s in Convent to continue dining. (As you might have noticed from his work with John Folse, Paul enjoys food.)

So we wound up that magical evening with boiled shrimp and crabs and frosted mugs of root beer.

I’ll once again be lifting a mug in honor of an old friend. …

Senior moment

Earl C. Johnson says, “A while back I had a rare necessity to fly.

“A couple of days before departure I realized my ancient suitcase was an embarrassment, so I bought a new travel bag.

“On arrival back in Baton Rouge I went down to retrieve my luggage. As I stood in the crowd it hit me — I had absolutely no recall of what my new suitcase looked like.”

So he waited until all the other bags had been claimed, and picked up the only one remaining, which was indeed his.

Further evidence, Earl says, that man was not meant to fly.

For the birds

Terry English explains his technique, mentioned in the Wednesday column, for using apples to protect his tomatoes from birds:

“I use bruised apples you can buy or get free from some stores.

“I peel the apples halfway, from the bottom up, leaving the peeling at the crown. That way they won’t dry up too fast in the summer sun.

“I spike the apple stem on a nail set on a 12-inch stub of a 2-by-4. I place it near a two-inch-deep square baking pan filled with fresh water every morning.

“The birds will still peck the red, juicy tomatoes, so the trick is to not to let them get too ripe on the vine.”

Special People Dept.

Helen Caston celebrates her 90th birthday Friday, and Helen and husband Edgar Caston celebrate their 72nd anniversary that same day.

Jean Barlow, of Pierre Part, celebrates her 90th birthday Sunday.

R.E. and Mae Amrhein, of Zachary, celebrate 60 years of marriage Friday.

Merrelle and Eugene McGehee celebrate their 60th anniversary Sunday.

Defining moment

Mel Prust offers this definition:

Retiree: Someone who knows it all and has plenty of time to tell it to you.

After the fall

James Culotta says he got one of those “Power Balance Bracelets” advertised on TV that claim to help with your equilibrium:

“I was wearing mine while visiting with some fellow retreat-goers at Manresa before our annual Holy Week retreat.

“I noticed my cousin Joe Culotta from Mandeville was wearing one, and showed him mine.

“One of the men asked Joe if it worked and he said, ‘Yes, I have only fallen nine times since I started wearing it.’ ”