The art of column writing
I wrote my first newspaper column, which I titled “On the Road Again,” in July 1998 while working as editor of the North English Record. The title name was based on two over-the-road trips I took in a semitruck with my brother, Tom, in November and December 1997. He was driving for Mayflower Moving Van Lines and it was my job to help load and unload the truck.
I had just wrapped up my BS degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia and returned to the Tulsa suburb of Bixby, Okla., where I lived briefly with my parents, before hitting the road with Tom.
The first trip we took was from Nov. 5 - 28. We covered 23 states and 8,000 plus miles on that trip, traveling from Oklahoma through Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and northeast to Maine. We even made a couple stops in New York City and moved a family from southern Minnesota to the panhandle of West Virginia before returning to Oklahoma.
The second trip was in early December and took us from Tulsa to north of Detroit to pick up a load and move the family back to Tulsa.
It was during that trip that I received a call from Alan Sieve at Marengo Publishing Corp (MPC) to interview for a job at the North English Record. We just happened to be in Princeton, Ill. staying with a friend I met in Tulsa.
Ironically, while headed north on Interstate 44, I mentioned to Tom about returning to Tulsa via Iowa. I just happened to have my portfolio on the trip.
When asked about an interview, I checked with my brother and then told Alan that I could be in Iowa in a couple hours. We stopped at the Landmark Restaurant in Williamsburg where I was picked up and interviewed in the back seat of a company car by Alan and then Williamsburg Journal-Tribune editor Dan Adix.
Tom and I then drove all night to get back to Tulsa where we spent the next day unloading the moving van at a south Tulsa residence.
Those were great trips filled with memories of showering and eating in greasy spoon truck stops and sleeping in a semi truck.
I was hired as the Record editor one week later on Christmas Eve 1997.
As editor of the Record, I started re-publishing columns written by former North English Record editor and long-time owner, Carl L. Hogendorn. I walked across the street to the North English Library where I descended into the basement to dig through Record archives looking for his columns.
Carl had been gone nearly a dozen years when I arrived in North English in December 1997. I heard it said that Carl would send his crew of children around town once a week to gather what I called, chicken dinner (local happenings) news.
It’s who eats what and where and all the other gossip fit to print
Someone brought up the idea of me writing a column.
I hadn’t done anything like that in college, but decided to give it a try.
My first column was on Texas-style or smoked BBQ
During the Fourth of July holiday in July 1998, I made the trek from North English to Van Buren, Mo., deep in the Missouri Ozarks near the Current River, to attend a Jackson family reunion on my mom’s side of the family. My mom graduated from Van Buren High School in 1955, before following an uncle and aunt to Tulsa where she met my dad, who was born and raised east of Tulsa.
Out front of the Mom and Pop motel we stayed in at Van Buren for a few days was a Texas BBQ truck. I had to try a sandwich. I got to talking to the owner about Texas BBQ and what makes it different.
He said the key was smoking the meat, not cooking it over a fire. The fire is a box on the side of the grill that pushes heat through the meat, he told me.
Many of the pellet type grills use that concept these days where the heat is in a box and it moves into the cooking chamber. I’m not much of a meat smoker, but do enjoy grilling out on occasion.
I also enjoy sharing many of my life’s travels and happenings in this column. I appreciate the many friends and supporters of my columns, news features and photos and the many kind notes I have received through the years. What makes it even more special is that I barely passed high school English but went on to attend and graduate from one of the top journalism schools in the world. Anything is possible, you know?
As a journalist, my goal has been and always will be to share local positive news, stories and photos.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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