Last week, I attended another TPA meeting in that island city by the Gulf. Never would I have dreamed those six decades ago that in 2010 The News’ founder, G.B. Dealey, and I would be two of the four people elevated to the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame. It was an overwhelming and humbling experience, about which you can read more in this issue.
The convention itself was both inspirational and entertaining.
RANDY KECK, publisher of the Community News in Aledo, gave the Friday night banquet speech, combining his avocation as a magician with his experiences as a small-town publisher.
He told the story of how a staff member once left out two pages of an issue, one of which included a full-page, 4-color ad. He picked up a copy of his paper and started to tear it apart to illustrate how mad he got as he realized the problem.
The pages were soon in small shreds, at which point he magically turned them into the original intact paper.
Randy admitted afterwards that he made up the story to go with the magic trick. But the rest of his talk was all true, about inspirational stories he has covered in his Parker County small town west of Fort Worth.
Most of them involved residents of the town who had fallen onto some kind of hard times or misfortune that brought a more-than-charitable, wide response from their fellow citizens. Along with all the other involvements of a community newspaper publisher, he said, these are the things that make newspapering more than just a job.
Rather than owning a newspaper, he said, he feels he is owned by one— a sentiment that struck a spark with his audience, for sure.
ANOTHER memorable program was given Saturday by Dave Lieber, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist. Unlike most writers, he is an excellent speaker, and he wrested many a laugh from his stereotypically hard-bitten, cynical listeners.
Lieber told of being raised as a New York City Jew, and working for 10 years for the Philadelphia Inquirer before moving to Fort Worth in the early 1990s in pursuit of his lifelong dream of becoming a columnist.
On the way to achieving that goal he ran into some amusing roadblocks, since the first step was to become a Texan.
Some of the shocks were predictable: he had to be instructed that “y’all” is a singular noun and “all y’all” is its plural.
Invited to spend an evening at Billy Bob’s Texas he showed up in his New York outfit with blazer jacket and tie, and wondered why everyone else was in “cowboy costume.”
BUT THE BIGGEST problem he encountered came from a white Labrador retriever owned by a Texan divorcee he fell for soon after his arrival.
The female dog was totally devoted to her female owner, who had rescued her from a pound after the previous male owner had abused her.
Lieber soon learned to get along with his two prospective step-children, a girl, then 10, and a boy, 12. But Sadie the Psycho Dog was another matter. Lieber inroduced her to the Star-Telegram readers in a 1994 column which also served as a proposal of marriage (Karen said “yes”).
Winning Sadie over became such an important part of Lieber’s Texanization that he wrote a touching column when the dog died at age nine.
HE QUOTED the late Texas Observer editor and writer who wrote a book titled My Dog Skip. In it Morris said that the dog of your boyhood “teaches you a great deal about friendship, about love, and death.” Lieber said that since he didn’t get his first dog until he was 37, he came to those lessons late.
The columnist also told about learning that instead of “cowboy costume,” real Texans wear “Western attire.” He not only got some, but himself became a rodeo cowboy after a fashion. A 1,300-lb. bull he rode at a church rodeo on a dare obligingly staed in the chute for most of the 8 seconds Lieber needed to stay on. And he actually won a later celebrity steer-ridingcontest.
Lieber came to dub himself “the Yamkee Cowboy everybody loves to hate.” He published a book, The Dog of my Nightmares, now in its fourth printing. TPA’s exective director, Mike Hodges, arranged for all those present for Lieber’s program to have a copy of the book. Which was extra nice for me, because I had already planned to buy it.