Monday, October 01, 2018

Farewell to my Kingsport Times News readers

We were visiting the kids and grandkids in Lincoln shortly after they had acquired one of those Echo gizmos that Amazon sells.
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on TV. Echo can turn your lights on and off, control your thermostat, order your groceries, all with a simple voice command: “Alexa, order me a new pair of boxers, and I don’t mean a couple of dogs.” Next thing you know new underwear arrives in your mailbox.
In the Lincoln household Alexa was used mostly by my grandson, the Holy Terror, who kept commanding “Alexa, play ‘The Poop Song.’” And Alexa did.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from that story is that there is a “Poop Song.”
One day while we were visiting and I was, as usual, up against a deadline for my column, I gave it a try.
“Alexa, write a column for me.”
“I’m not quite sure how to help you with that.”
That’s pretty much been my situation for the last 16 years, since I signed on here at the Times-News as the Metro Columnist: No one else can write my column for me. It’s my column, my picture next to it, my voice, my ideas, my thoughts, my responsibility.
It actually goes back further, much further, much, much further.
I wrote my first column on July 14, 1969 for my college newspaper, the UT Daily Beacon.
And here I am 5,131 columns later. Give or take a few.
I wrote a column for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, the Louisville (Kentucky) Times, the (Louisville) Courier-Journal, the New York Daily News and lately, the Kingsport Times News.
In 49 years at the typewriter and later the keyboard, I’ve written about pretty much everything in the known universe, or at least my known universe, beginning with my first grade teacher, the original Holy Terror.
When I began this column in 2003, I said I intended to tell the story of Kingsport, one person at a time. I’m going to come up about 47,595 columns short. I’ve written 2,405 columns for the Times News.

And I haven’t gotten to everyone.
I’ve written about little kids: Laurel Harris once wrote a grade school essay calling me her favorite old person.
And I’ve written about folks on the other end of the age scale: Bob Miller is the only person in town to pull one over on my late barber Claude Russell. Claude had a standing offer of a free haircut to anyone who came in on their 90th birthday…and brought their dad. Bob sat down in Claude’s chair, produced his driver’s license showing he was 90, and then pointed to a jar he had placed on the shop’s mantle. Claude looked at the jar full of ashes, looked at Bob, “You dad?” Bob nodded. And Claude let out, “You got me, you got me good!”
Bob turns 100 next month (Oct. 29) but Claude isn’t around for Bob to prank.
And I won’t be around to write about Bob’s party.
Column number 2,405 is my last column for the Times News.
Old newspaper columnists don’t retire. They just pull out that novel they’ve been puttering away on since they first joined a newspaper and see if there is anything there.
Usually there isn’t.
But I have other projects in mind, none of them involving hammers or saws, two implements I have never been mastered.
All good things must come to an end.
And this has been a good thing for me.
I’ve had a lot of writing gigs in my life but none has been as enjoyable as writing a column for my hometown friends in my hometown newspaper about my hometown.
Kingsport and newspapers have one thing in common: they are always changing.
The Jan-Mar is gone.
Wallace News is gone.
And now I’m yesterday's news.