And, when you aspire to being a “story-teller,” then you feel someone is rolling out the red carpet when a funny story evokes a column via your keyboard. I just try to stride right on down that plush floor covering and crank out another one.
I may embarrass an old friend here, but she passed the shy, innocent age a few years back.
In previous columns, I’ve mentioned my short-term association with a pageant, Junior Miss, in a couple of towns where I published a paper. I treasure those times for a lot of reasons, but probably the biggest of those are the friends I made during those exhaustive productions.
My first total involvement in such a pageant was Cleveland, TX. The young woman about whom I’m going to relate a tale or two was one of the most naïve high school seniors I’d ever met. That Junior Miss pageant was her coming out party, her debutante ball, if you will.
She was extremely bright, the progeny of a schoolteacher mom and a Baptist music minister/juvenile probation officer dad.
She was one of the runners-up in the pageant, finished Cleveland High with honors and went off to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches to major in elementary education and follow in mom’s distinguished footsteps.
When she came home for the summer after her freshman year, the world had changed for her. She’d decided she wanted to be a tough news reporter and writer and was transferring to the University of Texas at Austin. So I hired her for the summer, sort of her freshman introductory course to journalism.
My newspaper, The Cleveland Advocate, also covered the eastern segment of abutting Montgomery County — Splendora, Patton Village, New Caney and Porter. Those towns were located on U.S. Highway 59 that came out of Houston into East Texas. That became her assigned beat.
I GAVE HER names of city and school officials for those places and sent her out on her own.
Let’s stop here while I give you a little background and history on one of those beats, Patton Village. The little municipality was named for (and by) its founder, H.L. “Huey” Patton, about whom I’ve written before and who was a real character.
Huey was the original oil- well firefighter, before Red Adair came along. They just never made a movie about Huey…but they should’ve.
He’d had his right arm blown off in an oil well fire blast. Huey was bald, had a long nose and a propensity for controversy. And, he was wealthy.
My eager young cub reporter took off on her first day on the job to cover that U.S. 59 beat.
A little while later she came storming in the front door of the newspaper and stomped right to my office. I met her at the door. She stopped, fists clenched, arms stretched straight down by her sides, gritting her teeth and spewing: “Why did you send me to see that dirty old man?”
“What old man?”
“H.L. Patton, that’s what dirty old man!”
“Just what did he do?”
“He told me I sure was pretty.”
“Well, you are. That’s a compliment and the truth.”
“Oooo, oooo! He told me that he would like to take me to Neiman Marcus and buy me a whole new wardrobe IF he could watch me change clothes. Oooo, oooo!”
“Well, you should have let him. First of all, his wife was there. Secondly, he’s in his early 80s and I doubt that he could ‘do’ anything. And, you’d be a whole expensive wardrobe ahead.”
THAT WAS Jan Jarboe’s introduction to real newspapering. She went to UT, graduated, worked for the San Antonio Light and did so well she was assigned to the paper’s Washington D.C. news bureau. Then she came home and made even more of an impact as a reporter, writer, then columnist for the San Antonio Express News.
She’s authored three books, the first a great missive about Lady Bird Johnson. Currently, Jan is working on a fourth book. She’s a mother of two, a wonderful human being I am so proud of and whom I absolutely adore.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.