By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Yesterday was a big day for me. Twenty-four years ago, the late Daily Telegraph Executive Editor Tom Colley put me on a regular editorial page column rotation. By the time you read this, it will mean that for some 1,248 Saturdays in a row we have shared this space together. Emerson said “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and although I have tried to consistently write approximately 800 words weekly, I sincerely hope they have not all been foolish.
During that time, the Lord has been good enough — just why I have no idea — to help me avoid writer’s block. As a teacher, sometimes I have students who admit they do not know what to write next. I can sympathize with them but have been blessed to have not yet suffered that problem. A blank page has never been a challenge but rather an opportunity. It has also been a delight.
Column writing is not all, of course. Can you imagine what sports editor Brian Woodson would say if on a ball game night I was not able to come up with a story within about 20 minutes after a game? There is simply no idle time to sit there and just think of lofty ideas — the page is waiting and has to be filled. My editors have, I am certain, put up with me at times only because these little fat fingers can find inches of space in a relatively short time. Still, the rewards of seeing that effort in print the next morning, especially when the names of others such as the young people around our area are in print, are terrific.
For instance, a teacher often has to wait days or months or maybe years to see the fruits of a lesson bloom in someone’s life. A barber sees the results of his efforts immediately. A cook sees the cake come forth from the oven in the same hour it was put in. What a wonderful thing that is and the educator can often only stand and watch while the other craftsmen view their creations in an instant.
However, the column writer, the news reporter, the sports person who puts together a story can see his or her work come to life as it happens. It is the closest a “word person” can come to the joy a painter knows when the painted portrait is visible on the canvas. So, while the “teacher me” waits for results, the “writer me” has had the good old-time fun of getting to see the instant creation. If you think that sounds as if I have had the best of both worlds for the past quarter of a century, I agree.
I have gone from writing these pieces at the newspaper office to sending them via computer as I write from my own desk. Once in a while, I still compose here at 928 Bluefield Avenue just because it is still fun to sit down with my journalistic friends.
There have been days and nights, especially before flash drives became popular, that a lightning storm interrupted the power supply and caused a piece of writing to disappear. On occasion, the computer would “recover” a document so that everything would not have to be re-done. At other times, only pieces would survive when the lights finally came back on. All too often, everything has been lost. There was simply nothing to do but get busy and recreate it as best I could.
Now and then there have been other glitches. In recent years, I have composed columns everywhere from the den at home to an Oklahoma City library. Sometimes newsroom wizard Sue Richmond has called to say she didn’t get the column. Charles Owens might let me know part of the writing has been crunched up or deleted. I have to quickly re-do whatever is needed. On occasion, I have just raced up to the office and inserted it right into the system.
During the Blizzard of ’93, it was great to get finished at all under the mountain of snow. By far the hardest to write was the mid-July column of 2009 when I had just had heart surgery and had to type with one finger supported by pillows so that I did not fall out of the chair. But that, I hope, is the good consistency. It was, and is, and will be, important to do a good job for the Daily Telegraph. I hope Mr. Colley is looking down and still pleased with my work.
Above all, I thank all of you for your support, good wishes, and kind comments over the past quarter century. I look forward to sharing more words with you.
Thanks for your time this time and until next Saturday, thanks for reading.
Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.