My apologies for not writing as much the past few days. I have spent most of my time driving back and forth between Carthage and Joplin as I complete the move to my new apartment. Unfortunately, I still have a day or two of moving left.
I have been ready to move for quite some time. After being a big part of the Carthage community for over nine years as first a reporter then editor at The Carthage Press, it wasn't easy adjusting to "civilian life" after May 17, 1999. I've felt a little like a ghost in Carthage these past five years so this marks a new start.
I was already prepared to stay in Carthage for a few more months while I waited for an apartment that met my specifications. I needed to have a furnished place since I really haven't had furniture since I lived in Lamar from 1982 to 1990.
I received a call Thursday night that such an apartment was available. I looked it over Friday morning, then signed a lease Friday afternoon and began the moving process. My rent goes up from $350 a month to $495 a month, but I will actually be saving money.
My Carthage landlord had paid for cable the first five years I had the apartment. One day, I was unable to get anything on my television so I checked with the people at Cox Cable and discovered that my landlord had shut me off. If he had called and told me he was going to do that, I could have had the account transferred without a problem, I was told. Since the cutoff had already taken place, I had to pay a $40 hookup fee. That's also about what I am paying per month to Cox. I wasn't surprised that my cable is paid for at my new apartment, what surprised me is that the apartment already has two almost-new TVs, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, both of which are hooked up to cable. The bedroom TV is also a combination TV/VCR.
So stay with me now for the math. Add up the $350 and the $40 I have been paying for cable and you have $390. Plus my electric bill is paid at the new apartment, which it wasn't at Carthage. I was averaging $100 a month in Carthage because of the high ceilings. Add the $100 and I am up to $490 or almost my new rent. Then add about $40 per month in gas I will be saving by living close to South Middle School and I am actually making money with this deal.
A number of other factors combine to make the new apartment much more preferable. Instead of having to park in a municipal parking lot nearly two blocks from my apartment (since you're only allowed to park on the square or in parking spaces around the square for two hours), I can park in a parking lot, which is about 10 feet from the apartment.
For the past six and a half years I have made do with a mini-refrigerator. Now for the first time since 1993 I have a full-sized one and, for the first time, I won't have to defrost it (which I did annually whether it needed it or not). My old microwave oven was about to give out after serving me well for two decades. This place has a brand-new microwave oven.
I finally get Turner Classic Movies and the only station Joplin doesn't have on its basic service that I had in Carthage is the Hallmark Channel. I believe I will do just fine without Matlock reruns, though I will miss The Virginian.
The toughest part is I don't have the storage space in Joplin that I have had for the past six years. So the last two days I have been going through boxes of old newspaper clippings, old writings, letters I received from everyone from students to former girlfriends. I tossed my old journalism magazines, any duplicate copies of news clippings I had and many original news clippings. It's hard to part with something you played a role in creating, but since I estimate that I have written more than 20,000 newspaper articles, there is no way I can keep all of them.
The task of moving my music collection has also been daunting. My 400 albums are still in my bedroom at Carthage. After years of believing that I had a collection of about 800 or 900 45s, I discovered last night that I have nearly 2,100. I can trim the newspaper collection, but I will not mess with my music.
I took a pile of old clothes to the Salvation Army store in Carthage yesterday, along with some books and videotapes. I had left some other books and videotapes at the Carthage Library Annex Friday night for the monthly used book sale, which was held Saturday.
Despite that, I still have plenty of books and plenty of videos. It is amazing how many things a person collects even during the span of six years. So far, I have filled 10 trash bags and I would guess I will fill two or three more. The sanitation pickup crew is going to have quite a surprise when it comes by Thursday morning.
I am hoping I can get this completed by the end of the day Wednesday since teachers report back to work Thursday in the Joplin R-8 School District. It sure would have been easier if the apartment had become available a few days earlier, but I am not going to complain.
While going painstakingly through every document I own, I came across a few surprises.
I found my final issue as editor of The Newton County News from February 1982. The picture on page one featured a young student at Granby Elementary, Neidra Robbins, as she is working. These days she is Neidra DePuy, and unfortunately, is one of those charged in connection with the drug scandal at Freeman Neosho.
I saw plenty of final issues, including my last one at The Carthage Press, the last issues of three weekly newspapers where I worked, the Jasper County News (not the earlier newspaper, but one put out by The Lamar Democrat), the Lamar Press, and the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald.
I had a chance to relive a few of the stories., the investigative pieces, the features, all of the high school scholars and athletes I covered over the years. It was an enjoyable experience, until it came time to decide which memories were going to be relegated to the landfill. I'm ready to be in my new apartment, but I hate moving.
I continue to follow with interest the situation with Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge and the questions he prepared for KBTN Radio host John McCormack's sheriff candidates' forum. Doerge refuses to explain what action he took in connection with the alleged theft of questions from his computer, using the umbrella "personnel matter" excuse.
He continues to dodge the questions of whether it was proper for an incumbent sheriff, who has already anointed a candidate to be his successor, to supply a list of questions for this forum without coming right out and saying he was the one who did it. He also has failed to show how this is the kind of item that should be on a county computer. I don't have a major problem with it, everyone has an item or two of personal business on a work computer and as long as it does not interfere with the job, it's not a big deal.
But in this case, we have the spectacle of the Newton County sheriff conducting a full-scale in-house investigation to determine who swiped a personal item from his computer. This is a waste of taxpayer money. This situation did not play a major role in the sheriff's race. All it did was totally destroy any credibility John McCormack had and served to shine a light on Doerge's character or lack thereof.
As usual, I am disappointed in the area media for not leaping on this story and asking the questions that need to be asked. This is not the time for the media to base their stories entirely on what Doerge spoonfeeds them. As a matter of fact, they should never base their stories entirely on what one person says, no matter who the person is.
Another item I came across during the packing. I found a letter to the editor written shortly after I was fired at The Carthage Press in the summer of 1999. The writer of the letter ripped me, at first talking about how much better the Press was with Rick Rogers as managing editor then describing me as the chicken "playing the same tune on a toy piano over and over." And that was one of the kinder things that was said about me. At the time, I was surprised by the letter because I was not familiar with the writer and could not find his name in the phone book. I figured he probably had an unlisted number, but I called the Press and asked about the letter writer. I was assured that they had checked out the man who wrote the letter. I was told that Rick Rogers checked it out personally, though I have no way of knowing if that is true. What I do know is that it was not checked out. A few months ago, a big stir was created in Carthage by a man writing under a fictitious name who criticized something about the school tax levy proposal, taking a few below-the-belt shots at school officials. As you have probably already guessed, the name used by the man who wrote the letter was the same as the one used by the man who ripped me apart.
Those things are going to happen every once in a while at any newspaper. I don't blame anyone for that. I do have a problem with being told that the letter writer's identity had been checked out and that it was legitimate. The truth is the only thing that newspapers have going for them. Once it is compromised, they have nothing.