It's a week before Christmas and I'm sitting in my mother-in-law's Florida room (actually all her rooms are Florida rooms; she lives in Pensacola), and I'm musing about how rapidly another year has retreated with me wondering how it could have disappeared so quickly and with too many items on my to-do list still unchecked.

Is it just me or does the earth spin a lot faster than it used to? While Pat and I were laying out the lights we always drape over the Indian hawthorn and holly trees we decorate each Christmas, I remarked that it seemed that we packed these strands away only about six weeks ago.

Time used to pass much slower, I mused from the balmy perspective of a 72-degree day in the Florida Panhandle. New years seem to slip up on me before I'm quite ready to give up on the old ones. And I never accomplish nearly everything I meant to before they take their leave.

Looking back, one might be tempted to say good riddance to 2008: The economy plowed headfirst into a bar ditch from which we'll be years digging out; weather ranged from awful to truly awful; commodity prices suffered from a fear of heights, dropped to sea level and commenced to dig. I had the worst stomach bug in the history of human illness. (Perhaps I'm exaggerating.)

But maybe it wasn't all bad last year and I'm at a stage where I appreciate every year a bit more than I used to. I'll be looking at my 60th in 2009, after all. (You're all invited.)

So, what was good about 2008?

I caught some pretty good fish — a nice redfish from the Texas coast and a few nice trout in Oklahoma. I took my grandsons fishing in Tennessee and watched in wonder when they squealed and giggled as they landed their first sunfish. Both asked if I'd get them their own fishing rods. Of course I did.

I made it through a whole year without falling into an icy river, a monumental achievement that also meant not having to strip to my altogether on the side of a road to change into dry clothes.

I read some good books, saw some good movies and heard the Eagles in concert. I enjoyed a few dozen glorious sunsets and a few less spectacular sunrises. (I'm awake more often when the sun goes down than when it comes up.)

I had to contend with minimal bad weather and was not snowed in all year. I managed to get by without mowing my grass once, thanks to a company that will do it for me for a reasonable fee. I cleaned out the garage back in the summer, but it needs tidying up again already.

And, as happens more often than not, I met some of the finest people on the planet and was privileged to write their stories and print them here. I interviewed farmers from as far north as a rock's toss from Oklahoma into Kansas and as far south as a stone's skip across the Rio Grande in South Texas into Old Mexico. We talked about cotton and corn, grain sorghum and peanuts, canola and sesame, ethanol and crop insurance. We discussed the weather, politics (respectfully), and the price of cotton in China.

We talked about old dogs, young children, and how our bones ache more than they used to.

And once again, as I do this time every year, I decided that I just might have the best job in the world.

Happy New Year.