By: Leeanne Leary
MSMU Class of 2017
While driving up to Winterbilt Farm, the serenity is palpable, the perfect example of a farm tucked away from the chaos of the world. Knocking on the door, I was greeted by Shannon Bohrer author of the Words from Winterbult and immediately introduced to his dog, Lily. There was a gentle air about the place, and his love for animals was instantly obvious by the calm interactions with his dog. In fact, his love for life, his wife, and his farm were evident the minute he greeted me. I started off with a few background questions and ended up thinking more in that hour than I had all week.
Bohrer shared his passions and influence both on and with the paper. His purpose in sharing his words and thoughts is simply – or not so simply – to be thought provoking. Through talking about his time in law enforcement and his reflections on his life, Bohrer shared lessons with me that he yearns to encourage his readers to think about. One of my favorites came from his mom: “Don’t think you’re ever better than anyone, because you’re not. But nobody is better than you.”
Through his commentary, Bohrer wants to make people think. He wants to make them think about their lives and choices, about what we miss and what we gain each time we decide something, about lessons that we never truly appreciate until later in life, and to give a different opinion than the popular press. Through everything that Bohrer hopes to, and does, share with his readers, he emphasizes the importance of careful consideration. Why we look at things the way we do, and why we believe what we believe. He wants readers to not only learn lessons and listen to what he has to say, but to also truly think about their waking days.
Before retirement and his time with our newspaper, Shannon was in law enforcement for 42 years. He spent 27 of those years as a state trooper before becoming a trainer with the FBI for 4 years. He then went on to work as a range master for the Maryland Police doing weapon training. Now he works for himself part time as a weapon training consultant, traveling around the country about 8 times a year. All of these jobs, as he says, just kind of came to him, and he considers himself incredibly fortunate. A lot of his lessons and thoughts come from his time in law enforcement, but most come from his family, animals, and the simple act of day to day living.
Through his years writing for the Emmitsburg News-Journal, Bohrer has written each article with the goal of making people think. He doesn’t aim to press his opinions or beliefs on anyone, but simply to make them think about their own. He writes monthly about whatever is pressing or thought provoking at the moment. He has written about his dogs and animals, world events, farm policy, local government, and more. He began the column with some writing experience, but never for a newspaper. He got the inspiration for the column’s name: “Words from Winterbilt” from his own farm. He and his wife chose to name the farm “Winterbilt” in 1977 after they experienced 28 straight days of bad weather as they were building. The name beat out its contender “Bentnail,” and history was made. Now that he had a name for the column, Bohrer chose his first article to be a parody of the Wall Street workers, and claims that his original piece of writing is still one of his favorites. His wide range of articles are fueled by his opinion that writing is really just like artwork; it’s easy to write feelings as long as you have the inspiration, but it always takes polishing. Some of his ideas come out and onto paper freely, and others take days to articulate, but in the end they are all sharpened exactly how he wants, ready to prick readers and remind them that there is always time to contemplate the world.
After getting to know Bohrer and being let into his world for an hour, several things are obvious. He has an intriguing perspective on life that both the newspaper and the readers benefit from, and he loves the life he lives, as he called himself “fortunate” several times. He has an appreciation for life that comes with experience and his time with his family, wife, and animals. He believes in education and likes to take a historical view when he can with his articles. Most importantly, Bohrer’s work has a value to the paper that is undeniable. His thoughts are those that cannot be bought on a wall decoration or read on a daily inspirational quotes iPhone app. They are unique to him but also universal in their relatable nature. The last thoughts that Bohrer shared on life and on writing for the paper struck me the hardest. He told me, “We’re always looking for more time in life, but that’s not something we have. It’s how you use your time that’s important. The clocks never stop. Using my time to write affects me in a positive way.” The next time you leaf through the Emmitsburg News Journal, make sure you stop by “Words from Winterbilt” and take some time to appreciate and consider your life.