“Take another shot of courage.
Wonder why the right words never come.
You just get numb.”—Don Henley
A quarter of a century. A third of the average lifetime. That qualifies as a milestone, I think.
At very least, that’s a large enough sample to be representative. That’s enough time to accumulate an awful lot of data and that is enough time to adequately test it.
So I think it’s perhaps time for some evaluation.
It has been 25 years since I gathered up what then constituted my little family and moved to a place I’d never really been, where I knew not one soul to try to do something that I was not at all sure would even work.
I am convinced that the trip straight down U.S. 61 from Clarksdale to here (Rolling Fork) is the longest 100 miles in the world and it was never more so than that first time we traveled it, with everything we owned packed into a U-Haul and a Chevrolet Lumina, a vehicle that had more glass than some window companies.
I had bought a newspaper before I had located a place to live here and that was a little interesting for a day or two. “You know, honey, we do actually have to have a place to be,” my wife rather dryly observed at one point.
A much wiser woman than I often thought, she was, and I miss where she used to be—rather like that “phantom limb” effect some people experience after losing one, I suspect.
But we were going to put out a newspaper and by God, we did. Having both worked at a daily paper, I’d had what I thought was the revolutionary notion (it wasn’t) of applying daily principles to a weekly newspaper—to give folks here a “real” front page and a “real” editorial page every week rather than the “four pages of social news” that I was told they were accustomed to getting in the mail.
There is some evidence we produced a good product. How much that product has been appreciated, of course, is one of those “eye of the beholder” things. If you put out a newspaper without making people mad you are not putting out a good newspaper and on that basis, we have certainly succeeded over the years.
(It never ceases to amaze me how so many people can turn the title “editor” into nothing short of a cuss word purely pregnant with scorn, merely through its pronunciation.)
Filled with zeal and idealism-fueled enthusiasm we were in those initial days that now seem so long ago. Hence, it would be a little later before the reality of my having bought a newspaper located within the two smallest, poorest counties within the poorest state in the union with very few advertisers and lots of folks who don’t read, would give me cause to question the keenness of my business acumen.
But that said, I guess the bottom line is this: If I had it to do over again, I would. All of it. Moving to Rolling Fork, buying the Deer Creek Pilot, the 20-hour days, the mini-crises, the successes, the disappointments. All of it.
(Would I do some things differently? Oh, you bet. But like Old Blue Eyes crooned, “Regrets, I’ve got a few, but then again, too few to mention.”)
And while that is true for a number of reasons, I think more than anything else, 25 years in I would do it all again because when I now think of home, I think of here.
That is not an insignificant thing.
The concept of “home” is an archetypical one, as meaningful as it is varied among us humans and in my mind’s eye where it resides, what used to be a place 100 miles up Highway 61, is now here. Clarksdale isn’t home anymore, or before that, the hamlet of Coahoma. Now, home is Rolling Fork and home is the place you care most about.
I realize, of course, that in the best small town America tradition, I am still a newcomer (wasn’t born here; didn’t go to school, here, etc.), but after 25 years now, I have invested enough blood, sweat and tears here to feel like a part of the place and as the current helmsman of the actually quite journalistically storied Deer Creek Pilot, I feel the responsibility to help guide it in the right direction as the other ones have for the 116 years before me.
People measure success in a lot of different ways and I guess the way they do says a lot about them. All manner of awards adorn the walls of my office and I have been honored by my peers and am asked to speak at seminars and such, but none of that means as much as when somebody says they don’t believe something until they read it in the paper.
I’m not sure what that says about me, but I do know I’m OK with it.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.