I was driving Mom's car in Neosho and I accidentally turned down a road that I had never driven before. As I reached an intersection and drove it through it, I saw a car barreling in on me and there was nothing I could do. It slammed into the passenger side door.
We both got out of our cars to assess the damage.
The other driver appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s and shouted at me, "You ran the stop sign."
"What stop sign?" I asked. I looked over and I could barely see a stop sign because it was almost thoroughly obscured by tree branches.
A number of people had been outside and a few had seen the crash. When the Neosho Police arrived, no tickets were written. The police officer acknowledged that someone who was unfamiliar with the street would not have known there was a stop sign there. He did give me a well-deserved lecture on being cautious as I approached intersections.
That was the first time I had ever been in any kind of traffic accident- and it was also the first day of my journalism career.
When I had my accident, I was driving home from an interview at the Neosho Daily News, where I was hired to be the editor of the weekly Newton County News.
Why I had the nerve to apply for a job as editor of a newspaper when I had no experience, other than writing a column for the East Newton Fife and Drum (and publishing an underground newspaper when I was a freshman in high school and getting suspended for it, but I didn't mention that during the interview).
Now at 21, I was the editor of the Newton County News. Actually, I was the co-editor of the newspaper along with recent East Newton High School graduate Karen Sapp, who had been the editor of the Fife and Drum.
Karen was the one who knew what she was doing. I didn't have the slightest idea.
We were hired because we were the only ones who applied for the job.
When school started that fall, Karen left, and for the next six months, readers in the Granby and Diamond area were forced to endure the person who was not only the youngest editor of a Missouri newspaper at that time, but also the worst.
The publisher, Richard Bush, finally fired me by mail in February. In addition to being editor, I was also the advertising sales person. Bush might have been able to tolerate a thoroughly incompetent editor, but not an ad sales person who couldn't sell any ads.
Still, my nine months at the Newton County News made me determined to somehow get another newspaper job and learn how to do the job right, so despite my complete failure there, I still celebrate the day I was hired, despite the accident.
A couple of months after my time at the Newton County News ended, I saw an advertisement for a reporter at the Lamar Democrat, which at that time was the smallest daily newspaper in Missouri.
I was still attending Missouri Southern, so I could not take a job, but I called the Democrat editor, Lou Nell Clark, and told her I could not apply for the job, but that I was interested in learning about newspapers and hoped to be able to land a newspaper job when the semester ended at Southern.
For some reason, she asked me to come to Lamar and talk with her. I did and in May, the sports editor position opened up at the Democrat and I was back in the newspaper business.
During my eight months at the Democrat, I made it a point to learn as much as I could from the people who worked there, primarily Lou Nell, who taught me about reporting, the production manager Russell Pierson, and the proofreader/typesetter Dorothy Parks, who drilled home the importance of accuracy.
Budget cuts ended my time there in December 1978, but a month later, the company hired me as editor of the weekly Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald. This time, I knew how to write and edit for a weekly newspaper.
I loved that job and hated it when Boone Newspapers decided to shut the newspaper down in October 1979.
I returned to Missouri Southern after that and earned my teaching degree, doing my student teaching at Diamond Junior High, while working for Editor Emery Styron at the Newton County News. When he left, I once again became editor of that publication. After that, I returned to the Democrat as managing editor from 1982 through the early part of 1990, when I left to become a general assignment reporter for the Carthage Press. Three years later, I became managing editor, a position I held until May 1999.
Even though I spent the next 14 years as a classroom teacher, first at Diamond and then Joplin, I continued journalism, at first through a Turner Report website, which may have had 20 readers at most, and later with the Turner Report and Inside Joplin blogs. During that time, I also wrote columns and occasionally provided school and sports coverage for the Newton County News, briefly wrote a column for KY3's website, and provided blogs and columns for the Huffington Post and Daily Kos.
It all started 40 years ago and I have never grown tired of reporting.
(The photo was taken shortly after I began working as editor of the Lockwood Luminary-Golden City Herald in January 1979.)