Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Bill Archer

May 12, 2014

Sharing personal observations about Tammie Toler and the news

— — During the July 8, 2001 flood in McDowell County, Eric DiNovo and I were seeing some of the most incredible images I had ever seen. A few days after the flood when we made it up to Kimball, Eric and I drove up Carswell Hollow and witnessed incredible destruction. When I parked and we got out of my little blue Cavalier, Eric asked me what I wanted him to photograph. We were surrounded by destruction, so I made a 360 degree turn and said: “Take your pick.”

A day or two later, I learned that the U.S. Postal Service was going to bring a manufactured structure to Kimball to replace the post office in town that suffered extensive damage in the flood. As I was leaving the newsroom, I asked Tammie Toler if she wanted to take a ride up to McDowell County to see all of the damage first hand. For some reason, she was in early that day, so she said: “Yeah. When will we be back?” I told her that I wanted to get a photo of the post office set-up, and told her we would be back by 2 p.m.

There was plenty of time to talk about life and things during the ride. I knew Tammie was working with the incredible photos, but I thought she would like to see the real thing. It was lunch time when we arrived at Kimball Elementary School, and there was no one else around. I told Tammie she could stay in the car when I took a couple of pictures and got out. As soon as I started walking in the direction of the post office, a little orange kitten came running out from beneath the wooden steps that were being built — meowing his little heart out.

He got on my foot, and I had to keep pushing him away as I walked around taking pictures. He followed me back to the car just as several huge deuce-and-a-half military trucks arrived in the Kimball school parking lot. I told the cat that if he didn’t get out of the road, he would get run over, but he didn’t stop meowing. Finally, I asked Tammie if she would mind holding the kitten while I brought him back to Bluefield.

Tammie suggested that we get him some water, so I turned off of Route 52 in Northfork and drove up to a couple of National Guard guys who were operating a water buffalo in Algoma. I filled up two film canister containers with water, and Tammie served the kitten water while I drove up to Worth to see Jake Potter’s store, and all the way back to Bluefield. Tammie held the kitten, who would later be named Mister Peaches, all the way back home.

I didn’t know it at the time, but after I dropped Mister Peaches off with Evonda and left, a neighbor came over and told her that she must really trust me a lot. He told her that most wives wouldn’t trust their husbands to drive around with anyone as beautiful as Tammie. Evonda just told me that here a week or so ago. That was the first I heard it.

Tammie and I went on another “McDowell County adventure” a week after the flood of May 2, 2002. We went to the settling pond above the old Alpheus Prep Plant in Main Gary that had ruptured and waded around in sludge, taking photos of the massive repair work underway. We didn’t get any kittens that time, but did get coal sludge all over our shoes. I took it as an occupational hazard.

Soon after that, Tammie took her talents to the Princeton Times. Although she helped me when I needed help and I helped her a few times as well, we were fierce competitors on stories. In terms of court coverage or coverage of major crimes, Tammie lived by the same code that I learned from the late Charlie Smith.

Charlie and I were great friends, but one late night when I was fighting against deadline to find out what happened in court earlier that afternoon, I managed to track Charlie down before he entered a meeting in Bluefield City Hall.

When I asked Charlie what happened that afternoon at the hearing, he said simply: “If it was that important to you, why didn’t you attend the hearing and find out for yourself?” Of course, he was right. I had been lazy. As a newsperson, I knew I would have to stop being lazy if I wanted to get better. In both federal trials as well as high profile state trials, Tammie demonstrated her willingness to work harder than me, which I didn’t think was possible.

Of course, Tammie knows how I feel about all that, but something she doesn’t know is that after one of my temper tantrum sojourns, I came back to work here after a former publisher asked me to work with Tammie at the Princeton Times when a position came open. I have jokingly told people that I was still waiting for Walmart to call me back, but I said yes to that offer before this job worked out in the end.

I know these past several weeks have been tough for Connie, Doug and all of Tammie’s family, but I don’t know anyone who works harder than Tammie, so I am confident that she’ll make it back.

I know I’m a dinosaur here, but seeing people like Tammie who are dialed into the future while rooted in the good traditions of the newspaper profession’s past, gives me hope for the future of an industry that I have devoted a big chunk of my life to.

Bill Archer is the Daily Telegraph’s senior editor. Contact him at barcher@bdtonline.com

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