Be careful what you write

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It’s funny how little word can get around, once they’re on a printed page.

I wrote my first newspaper column for the late and lamented Auburn Bulletin. Its editor was the fearless Neil  Davis, who had the odd opinion that people should be treated about the same, regardless of their skin color. Some people didn’t like him. Graham McTeer was the managing editor. He wrote very complete stories about local news events — the paper of record. I got to know him, and one day I got up nerve enough to ask if he’d like to run a little thing I wrote.

He asked if I could do that every week, and I said I could try. And from then on, most of the time, this column has been in an Auburn paper or an Opelika paper or an Opelika/Auburn paper. During that time, I have had the opportunity to be around some very fine local writers, like Judith Nunn, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Ann Pearson, Jerry Brown, Gillis Morgan and others.

For a while I was cranking out two a week when the Bulletin went to twice-a-week.

Also, Kay Lovvorn, editor of the Auburn Alumnews picked up my column to run in that paper. It was an honor to be on the same page as the late Jerry Roden. I was also in a nice little magazine he edited and did most of the writing for, Alabama Living. He’d concentrate on a certain county each edition. Unfortunately, his health and production problems doomed the magazine to a short life, but it was a keeper.

One time Kay picked up a column I did about my army life and ran it in Alumnews. It was (partly) tongue-in-cheek, but the general theme was that I did not enjoy army life. My goodness. Here came a letter from the commandant of West Point, inquiring about my fraternity and my (inferred) subversive activities and my patriotism, etc.

I wrote him back, telling him that, until I unhitched old Hat for the last time and came off to college, I didn’t know what a fraternity was, and that I was as patriotic as the next guy, that I would willingly go in again if called — but, to tell the dad-blame truth about the matter, I was not fond of army life.

He wrote back, saying that I had spoken like a true War Eagle, and if he was ever down this way, for a football game or something, he’d like to come and see me. He never did.

And there was this naval officer in the South Pacific who said I was what was wrong with this country, and how could the paper run such trash. Oh, and there was a picture with the story, of me and Bill Hicks, the saddest-looking sad sacks you ever saw.

A time or two, I (again, partly tongue-in-cheek) suggested that Auburn was big enough, that I didn’t want it to become another Atlanta, that I had been to Atlanta, and that everybody I knew would drive two extra hours just to keep from going through it. The Chamber of Commerce nearly had a stroke. I should apologize, blah, blah, blah.

I did a piece about an old apple tree and its small, striped, tart — but delicious — fruit. This was for Progressive Farmer, before it became a magazine for rich farmers. A lady in Ohio wanted a sprout. I had to explain to her how I had gotten a sprout before my tree died … but not before brother Jack in Huntsville got a sprout from it. I’m sure she was sorry she ever asked.

I did a long piece about Jimmy Rodgers in the Auburn Circle magazine. We were in the Jimmy Rodgers Museum in Meridian, Mississippi. I was thumbing through a definitive book about Rodgers. I mean, it listed every song he ever recorded, the time of day, who was on the record with him, what they had for breakfast that day … And, lo and behold, there was a little bit about that Auburn Circle story. The author was some professor at some college in Illinois.

Ted Trueblood was a great writer for Field and Stream. When he died, I did a column about him. Somehow, that copy of the Bulletin wound up on a plane in Washington, DC, that was headed for Mexico City. And a friend of Trueblood’s chanced upon it. He gave it to Mrs. Trueblood, and she wrote back a nice, warm letter.

Funny what can happen to a word, once it’s on the printed page.

And to think, I started out to just write about a couple of books I recommended in that first column.

Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.

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