Columns

Fondly Remembering Jim Chionsini

I met Jim Chionsini in late June 1982 when I drove from Austin to San Augustine to interview for the job of managing editor of the weekly San Augustine Rambler. He had bought the paper from Sam Malone the year before. Sam still ran a print shop in the same building. I was working for the Texas Air Control Board as a photographer and hating it. We met at Fairway Farm, a legendary golf course a few miles out of town. In the 1950s, Fairway Farm was ranked one of the top courses in the country. It closed in the early 1990s and has reverted back to pine trees and hay meadows. Jim was playing in the annual...

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Peppers, Birdsong, Plucking and Birthdays

It’s only a paper moon Sailing over a cardboard sea Ella Fitzgerald There is a sense of unreality in this new world of masks, curbside pickup, staying home and safe, learning the tools needed to teach online, FaceTiming friends and family, doing CrossFit workouts in our den instead of the gym. And so on. Further notes from the pandemic: |———| Our vegetable crop still flourishes, save for the sole tomato plant in a container. It yielded at most 20 tomatoes. That came to about a buck a tomato, indicating my future does not lie in vegetable farming. But the serrano, cayenne and various...

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Searching For A Fitting Epitaph

Richard Gelles, author of more than two dozen academic books and hundreds of articles and a longtime professor of social policy, died of brain cancer in late June. The widely esteemed academic reportedly told his son that he wanted the epitaph on his tombstone to read, “Published. Still Perished.” I could find no mention of this in the numerous obituaries I looked up, but I choose to believe it is true. I admire someone who finds humor in the face of death. That got me to pondering what epitaph I might choose for my tombstone, if I were going to have one. I’m not, preferring cremation...

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May The Wind Take Your Troubles

May the wind take your troubles away May the wind take your troubles away Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel, May the wind take your troubles away “Windfall,” by Son Volt “Windfall” was written 25 years ago by Jay Farrar of Son Volt, a fine Americana band whose music I haven’t listened to in years. It popped up in one of the mixes that Spotify creates based on what else I have been listening to. The song is partly about taking a road trip and trying to catch a radio station’s signal while driving in the boonies. Most mornings, I switch from Red River Radio to Spotify...

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Reading Newspapers From the 1840s — From Home

The days are flying off the calendar, much as in those 1940s movies. Remember how directors used that technique to denote passage of time? Good grief. The year is halfway over. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I remain in voluntary lockdown for the most part. I make necessary trips to Home Depot to pick up swimming pool salt. Whenever possible, we use curbside pickup. Trips inside stores are rare, hurried and I always wear a mask. We get take-out food every once in a while. I stay away from people in stores not wearing masks, and don’t patronize establishments whose employees aren’t wearing...

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Let’s Name County For The ‘Peanut Man’

In last week’s column, I proposed either moving the “Our Confederate Heroes” obelisk on the Gregg County Courthouse grounds, or adding an explanatory plaque to put it into context. If you missed it, here’s the link: https://tinyurl.com/yawa9une. Several dozen folks provided thoughtful — and civil — comments and suggestions. Several asked about the bust of the county’s namesake, Confederate Gen. John Gregg, which greets visitors at the top of the stairs of the courthouse’s main entrance. John Gregg never lived in his namesake county, which was part of Upshur and Rusk counties...

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Confederate Monuments Attempt To Rewrite History

Last Sunday morning, I walked the grounds of the Gregg County courthouse, alone except for the squirrels and songbirds, taking a closer look at the various markers and monuments placed among the stately trees. The largest monument is an obelisk with a statue of a Confederate soldier at top. It is inscribed with the words, “Our Confederate Heroes” on one side of the base. The courthouse grounds also contain a granite marker for the county’s namesake, John Gregg. He was a Georgia native who eventually moved to Freestone County, a few hours southwest of here, where he practiced law and started...

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The Laughter I Could Not Hear

I delivered my first online lecture this week, using Google Hangouts to talk to about 35 members of Senior University, which is affiliated with Southwestern University in Georgetown. My topic: “The Wit and Wisdom of H.B. Fox, the Circleville Philosopher.” He was the subject of a biography I researched and wrote, which was published in 2018. (Signed copies still available through garyborders.com. Click on “Books.”) Circleville is about 16 miles from Georgetown, so one of the lecture organizers hit me up to participate. Senior U, as it’s commonly called, provides non-credit classes,...

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Newspapers Face Existential Crisis: Support Yours

When you go to the website of many community newspapers, including my hometown newspaper, a pop-up box appears. It says, “Support local journalism. Donate now.” A nonprofit organization has been set up to allow one to make tax-deductible donations to help newspapers continue covering the COVID-19 crisis. It might seem odd to donate to keep a newspaper’s coverage continuing, especially if one already pays for a subscription, as I do. As long as the presses keep rolling, and carriers continue to deliver a print product, I will happily pay to walk out in the morning, pick up the paper that...

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A Songbird App & Notes While Largely Sheltering

Further notes while largely sheltering in place: I ventured out of town last week to interview someone for an upcoming magazine article. Except for a brief visit to my brother-in-law’s yard outside Gilmer, it was the first time I have left the city limits since March 8. That’s when I made a quick trip to Austin just as things were starting to feel a bit shaky. This time I headed to San Augustine, about 90 miles away. The subject of my interview graciously agreed to host me in her beautiful backyard, at a safe distance. I showed up and went straight to the backyard — laptop, recorder...

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