Greetings from an old Texas lawman/private investigator (turned "galvanized" North Iowan), and welcome to a place of distinct four seasons, which I have found pleasantly different from hot and humid Houston, Texas most of the year.

However, I must say that even though I suffered a major heat stroke in August 1981, it left me with no memory of 14 days of my life. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn't object when my wife, the former Karen Brownell, a native-born Mason Cityian and world-traveled ice skating performer, said she wanted to move from her home in Bellaire, Texas, back to her childhood home. Since our arrival here on Nov. 1, 2011, we have made a lot of lasting memories and enjoyed these ever-changing seasons.

No matter where in the good ol' U.S. of A. you are leaving behind, you will find about the same mixture of personalities among the people you meet here that you have been accustomed to back there. But you may also, as I have in the past seven years, become acquainted with surprisingly interesting and, yes, lovable characters (Mason City stalwarts) like Jack Leaman, Joe Fiala and a genuine comic-strip-escapee named Max Weaver, a consummate citizen-involved and all-around good guy.

Again, welcome to Mason City! Kick off your shoes and make yourselves at home. Karen and I wish for you all the best things that can possibly come your way here in River City.

Gene Blackwell, Mason City