You see it’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m not out on my paper route delivering Rockdale Reporters.
It was time to let somebody else take my route. I’ve had some health concerns over the past three years and slinging stacks of newspapers—occasionally quite heavy ones—is not really something my cardiologists have on their “to do” lists for me.
(That’s about the only thing my cardiologists agree on.)
So here I am, quite literally, on the first non-vacation Wednesday afternoon in the last 40 years when I’m not out on my route.
And I miss it.
I (and the family I work for) have always taken a great deal of pride that The Reporter is not only in this community, it’s of it, part and parcel of Rockdale and Milam County.
We’re out there, accessible, and nothing quite emphasizes that like stuffing papers into racks every week.
That’s the more-or-less noble reason I miss my route. But the in-my-gut reason? It was a lot of fun.
Wednesdays always sort of broke up the week, provided an exclamation point to the previous issue and a physical day of work to break up four, often more, pretty intense mental ones.
And I knew when I went home on a Wednesday afternoon, the next dawn would not only bring a new day but a new issue.
It was good for my mind. (Insert your own joke here. And shame on you.)
Everybody, no matter what your job, ought to get out into your community one day a week, talk to people, no matter what the topic. See other people at work, living their lives.
Just makes you feel good.
They’ll talk to you. What did they say to me over the last four decades?
Oh, there’s no doubt what the No. 1 thing I’ve heard over the past 40 years was.
“IS THAT THE NEW ONE?”
Yep, someone will watch me bring in the new issues, sometimes even see me cut the straps on a bundle, take them up to a rack and arrange them there.
Sometimes my potential customer would actually look at the paper first, but usually they’d just look at me and say:
“Is that the new one.”
I always wanted to say—and I know I actually did say it at least twice—“No, last week’s was so good we printed it again.”
Pretty soon, you got to learn that at some places on a route, you’d see, and interact with, the same people every week.
Places like Midway Grocery and Thorndale Cefco. There have not been many problems, big or small, over the past several decades that couldn’t be solved by those who gather there.
Some even counted my old papers for me every week!
They’re still going. But some of the places I’ve delivered to over the years have been washed away by the tide of time.
Like the “philosopher’s bench” outside McVoy’s at the corner of Milam and Main. I called it that once in print.
“Why did you call us the philosopher’s bench?” one of its occupants asked me.
“Because you can’t say—and here I alluded to a bovine functin— in the paper,” was my reply.
He thought that was both accurate and fair.
I used to walk down the street to McVoy’s after delivering papers to another Rockdale institution that’s long gone, Jimbo at Horton’s Barber Shop.
In between I passed an insurance agency that in the 1970s was run by a lady who was on the city council. Reeeeeally on it.
Her office had large louvered blinds fronting the street. I learned quickly when I heard those blinds go rrrrrrip! she had seen me and was on the way out the door to, uh, discuss whatever I’d written about the city council meeting two days previously.
You know, I liked that too. I don’t think that happens to the editor of The Houston Chronicle. But maybe it should.
Twenty-three years ago the people at Walker’s Store in Milano would see me come in, look toward the car and ask if my “co-pilot” was with me.
I’d take my infant son, put him in his car seat and we’d drive all over this county delivering papers.
Why do I know precisely how many years ago it was? Because that young man will be 25 in a few months. He now lives in Austin and works for a financial firm.
That’s about a hundredth of what I can remember about paper route days. What happened when I tried to take my two lunatic Border Collies with me would be a column all by itself.
I’d also like to apologize to the residents of Buckholts for the corner-gnawed papers that week.
Sunday we were coming back to Rockdale and as I passed through Thorndale I let out a big sigh.
My wife, Sue, asked what was wrong.
“I was just looking at all these places and realizing I won’t be delivering papers there any more,” I said.
“Oh, you’ll be in them all again,” she said, and indeed I will.
But it won’t ever be the same again..