Think about it. Comments or statements made to you in the past, some seemingly insignificant at the time, some encouraging, some hurtful, but all sticking in your mind refusing to go away and becoming part of your life.

I have had my share:

"OSCAR (that is my middle name and what they used to call me) HAVE YOU GOT YOUR WORKBOOK? I'M GOING TO PUT YOU IN THE "B" CLASS IF YOU DON'T GET IT.

Yes, in the 1940s, there were "A" and "B" classes. Frankly, "B" classes were primarily for poor kids. My brother and I were "janitor's kids" Daddy was janitor at what then was Campbellsvile College. His salary was $60 a month and there were six of us. Rent was $20 a month and that left $40 a month to feed and clothe our family. There was no extra money and we didn't have 35 cents for the workbook. We wore bib overalls and worn-out shoes to school.

I was in the 5th Grade. I often put my head down on my desk because I knew the question was coming; every morning, out loud, in front of the class.

I never ended up in "B" class because I got my lessons; I may good grades. But I was threatened daily, and to this day I remember the dreaded question about the workbook I did not have.


Her name was Sally Deemer. She was fire and toe, but the best English teacher I ever had. She taught me how to diagram a sentence -- subject, predicate, direct object, subjective complement, modifying phrases and clauses. She taught me the beauty of the English language, and how to use it.

Mrs. Deemer loved William Shakespeare, the English playwrite. Often, we would read his works aloud in class. Some of Shakespeare's writings were risque, at least for that day and time. My best buddy, seated next to me, came across a risque paragraph during his turn at reading aloud. He looked at me and grinned and I laughed.

Mrs. Deemer, in front of the class, blasted me with the unforgettable,"You've not got the sense of a bumblebee in a lard can!"


The question was uttered by the late George "Jop" Joplin III, my friend, my publisher, my boss, my mentor here at the Commonwealth Journal. No college, no university, no journalism professor could teach community journalism like Jop.

I'll never forget the time I used a $5 word in a story. Jop came back to my little office then in a part of the building now torn down.

He held up the newspaper with his finger pointed at the highfalutin word.

"What does that mean?" he asked.

Fortunately, I had looked it up. I proudly proclaimed its meaning.

"Why didn't you say that?" he wondered, turning and walking away.


Another Jop reminder. As a young reporter, I was apt to lose my temper.

In all the years Jop was my boss, he never gave me a harsh word. But he would counsel, especially when I would get impatient with a news source.

He never lost his temper. I watched two women tear up a newspaper and throw pieces in his face. He stood there, smiling.


I've told this one before. The most powerful words ever spoken to me in my life. I can still see that little boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, looking at me in stark misbelief.

I was disc jockeying at WTCO in Campbellsville. The radio studio was on the second floor of a building downtown. A flight of stairs led from street level to the studio. It was before air-conditioning and we often left the studio door open.

An early morning program I was broadcasting featured gospel music and a Bible Verse of the Day. The program was very popular in those days before television and drew lots of mail.

I was having a bad day; nothing seeming to be going right. I started a record at the wrong speed. An unintelligible squall went out on the air.

I shut off the microphone, uttered a curse word and flung the record across the studio.

I turned around and there he was; the little boy looking at me with almost fear in his eyes.

"My momma said you was a good man," he stuttered.

I don't know how he got there. I don't know where he went. I never saw him again. But to this day, when I close my eyes, I can see that little boy and hear him say, "My momma said you was a good man."

And finally, even as an old man, there are still lessons in words and actions.

For example, Rusty, my precious little dachshund. I had him for 10 years. He slept on my head.

He was a show stopper. When traveling and stopping at a rest area, people would gather around, looking at Rusty. He loved everybody and everybody loved him. Especially he loved me. He was my dog.

Rusty lost his appetite. He ate little or nothing for a month. He lost control of his bowels and kidneys.

My wife Linda and I kept him too long. We couldn't bear doing what had to be done.

Then, the time came. We took him to the veterinarian in basket because he was took weak to walk. Cancer had wreaked his body.

While we waited, Rusty kept looking at me, trying to get up. "He wants you," Linda said.

I leaned over and he kissed me on the cheek. Moments later, they came and took him away.

The veterinarian staff offered to take care of the body. But Linda and I said we wanted to take Rusty home.

It has been two and a half years now. Rusty rests in a little grave beside our house. A tombstone marks his birth and death dates. We have planted flowers.

There are some things you never forget; like a dog with standards no other dog can meet. That was Rusty.

That last kiss is still wet on my cheek. I've cried a thousand tears, Oh yeah, that's me. I'm crying again.

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