Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Smooth and comfortable on the right side of gate

In the mountainous or hill region Ireland, many small lakes or springs are known as the Pooka’s Pool or Pollaphuca, named in respect for the changeling of Irish folklore. Some of these are the source of Irish rivers like the Liffey or River Bann. In County Down, Pollaphuca on the Mountain Mourne, is the home of a pooka of great notoriety. In rural County Down it still a custom to make the right side of your front door and gate comfortable, with the top of the gatepost smooth, and a with a bench. The left side gatepost is built with jagged rocks. The good friendly pooka will sit for a chat outside a house on the right of the door. The left side, with its rough and uncomfortable furnishings is reserved for malicious fairies, which are generally not as welcome.

From the start, that was one the reasons I was drawn to the newspaper business. The “Daily Miracle” was periodically new every time you picked it up. And the business marinated in the latest thing — in change. Maybe it is my short little span of attention, but the constant change appealed to me.
I liked elements of the past but the big draw was how much, and how fast, the world moved.
“A reporter is always concerned with tomorrow, “ wrote Edward R. Murrow. “There is nothing tangible of yesterday. All I can say I’ve done is agitate the air 10 or 15 minutes and then boom — it’s gone.”
It is true, you don’t change much yourself, but at least you are right there when it does.
Early exposure in the hot-type backshop of the Dolores Star, and then again, while hauling daily copies of the Durango Herald around in the front and back of the pouch that my head poked through the center of, seemed to rub off on me like the black from the paper itself.
I liked the way people waited for the news everyday. It was nice to be needed.
Patty Hearst, the Nixon resignation, the Watergate hearings, even sightings of the Florida Skunk Ape… they were all things that they cared about.
I liked the clang and ka-chunk of the linotype… the smell of lead burning into the oak floors along with the distinctive waft of ink and solvent, and good-natured razzing of the pressmen.
“Robber who Carries a gun,” is how printer Filbert “Shorty” Lobato used to mangle my name at every appearance in the Star building.
Later, when I dropped bundles of other papers I had worked on, I would still marvel at the usefulness of the product. And of particular usefulness, the small-town weekly paper.
Dean Alfred Vivian of College of Agriculture of Ohio State University wrote of the importance in the early part of the last century.
“Unless personal convenience is placed first, I think it could be shown that a country community needs a home newspaper even more than it needs telephones. Telephones are convenient means of communicating between individuals mainly for their personal concerns. The home-town paper speaks not with an individual voice, but for the community, not to individuals but to everyone, from the rich man on the hill to the poor man in the roadside cottage. Nothing goes further toward unifying a neighborhood than a good weekly or semi-weekly paper.”
It was the unifying effect of the paper (but in this case a daily) that I recognized back in 1974 as folks like Don Wallace, Emmy Froede and Bill McCabe waited each afternoon for the latest installment in the continuing saga of Patty Hearst, the seven-headed cobra and Symbionese Liberation Army, or President Nixon and White House tapes, possible impeachment and Haldeman and Ehrlichman.
I was an agent of change, or at least the messenger, and the right side of their gatepost was smooth and comfortable for me when I would arrive. They would always offer up space on the bench to go over what appeared in the papers that day, or the day before. And together we would speculate on what would appear tomorrow.
Please click below to see related posts:

• Tales of the future, straight from the horse's mouth.

• Pooka, Patty, Photos, Papers and let's ride.

• Humor, sadness and the angry bear in a trap.

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