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 road trips I took in a semi with my brother, Tom, in November and December 1997. He was driving for Mayflower Moving Van Lines and it was my job to help to load and unload the truck.
I had just finished my bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia and was moving back 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 November 5-28. We’ve covered 23 states and over 8,000 miles, traveling from Oklahoma to Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and northeast Maine. We even made a few stops in New York and moved a family from southern Minnesota to the West Virginia panhandle before heading back to Oklahoma.
The second trip was in early December and took us from Tulsa to North Detroit to pick up a load and drive the family back to Tulsa.
It was during this trip that I received a call from Alan Sieve of Marengo Publishing Corp (MPC) for a job interview at North English Record. We happened to be in Princeton, Illinois, staying with a friend I met in Tulsa.
Ironically, as I was heading north on Interstate 44, I mentioned to Tom about returning to Tulsa via Iowa. I happened to have my portfolio on the trip.
When I was asked for an interview, I checked with my brother, then told Alan that I could be in Iowa in a few hours. We stopped at the Landmark Restaurant in Williamsburg where I was picked up and interviewed in a company car by Alan, then Dan Adix, editor of the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune.
Tom and I then drove all night back to Tulsa where we spent the next day unloading the moving van at a south Tulsa residence.
They were great trips filled with memories of showers and meals in greasy spoon truck stops and sleeping in a tractor-trailer.
I was hired as editor a week later, on Christmas Eve 1997.
As editor of The Record, I began reposting columns written by former North English Record editor and longtime owner Carl L. Hogendorn. I walked across the street to the North English Library where I went down to the basement to rummage through Record’s archives for its columns.
Carl had been away for almost a dozen years when I arrived in the North of England in December 1997. I heard that Carl would send his team of children into town once a week to collect what I was calling news about chicken dinner (local events). It’s who’s eating what and where and all the other print-worthy gossip.
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 about the Texas or smoked barbecue.
During the 4th of July vacation in July 1998, I traveled from North English to Van Buren, Mo., deep in the Ozarks of Missouri near the Current River, to attend a Jackson family reunion on my side. mother. My mother graduated from Van Buren High School in 1955, before following an uncle and aunt to Tulsa where she met my father, who was born and raised east of Tulsa.
In front of the Mom and Pop motel where we stayed in Van Buren for a few days was a Texas barbecue truck. I had to try a sandwich. I got to talk to the owner about Texas BBQ and what makes it different.
He said the key was to smoke the meat, not cook 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 pellet grills these days use this concept where the heat is in a box and moves through the cooking chamber. I’m not a big meat smoker, but I like to grill occasionally.
I also like to share many trips and events of my life in this column. I appreciate the many friends and supporters in my columns, the reports and photos and the many kind notes I have received over the years. What makes it even more special is that I barely passed English in high school, but then attended and graduated from one of the best journalism schools in the world. Everything is possible, you know?
As a journalist my goal has been and always will be to share positive local news, stories and photos.
Have a great week and always remember that “good things happen”, every day and always.