Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years before his journey ended in sight of the Promised Land.
That’s significant to me because it was 40 years ago tomorrow, July 1, that this column first appeared in the Brownwood Bulletin.
No one, not even my own mother, has mistaken me for Moses, but I have been guilty of wandering here each Friday.
Unresolved, however, is whether we’re in sight of the Promised Land. But I do know this: In 1941, former Bulletin editor James C. White published an important history of pioneer Brown County, titled “The Promised Land.”
When I retired as editor of the Bulletin in 2012, I foreshadowed Saturday’s milestone with a hope that management would allow me to continue our Friday visits at least until the column’s 40th anniversary. They did. What’s more, I was invited back to toil as a part-time reporter.
All that’s history now, so I find myself at a crossroads.
Part of me is ready to walk away. But another part is reluctant to call it quits, although the prospect holds less angst now than it before.
I found a copy of my first column printed July 1, 1977.
“Experiment: editor’s column,” it began. “Such babbling as this has over the years become something of a tradition, apparently, among energetic Brownwood Bulletin editors — traditions much like Rotary Club membership and the tragedy of myopia. Having fulfilled two out of three requirements, we feel the time has come.”
Now, I find myself debating whether the time has come to say this experiment, “tgif,” has run its course.
The title, short for “thank goodness it’s Friday,” was lifted from my column published several years earlier in the Howard Payne student newspaper. After choosing the column’s name and what day to print it, I then observed that “it may take the test of time to determine exactly what the tone of this column will be… There’s plenty of time for this to develop, and with this introduction out of the way, the column can hopefully rise to greater things.”
No one could have imagined in 1977 that “plenty of time” meant 40 years. Concerning “greater things,” others can be the judge of that. I do appreciate, though, the dozen or so awards my column garnered over the years.
This month, my wife and I joined my sister, her family and our 89-year-old mother at a South Carolina beach — a high school graduation trip for our youngest nephew. As twilight approached one day, the crowds left the shoreline in favor of other activities in town. I watched from our balcony as a handful of people lingered to enjoy the beach’s beauty in relative solitude.
In the damp sand left exposed after high tide receded, one youngster dug a hole so deep, he disappeared inside it. Nearby, his mother shaped an elaborate sand castle. When darkness fell and a full moon rose over the ocean, they left their projects and went inside.
The next morning, I saw that the tide had come in — reclaiming its territory and leveling all their hard work. Yesterday’s highs and lows had been washed away, but memories remained.
Words printed in a newspaper are no different — here briefly, then relentlessly supplanted by a clean slate. Nevertheless, memories endure. I hope your recollections of the past 40 years are half as pleasant as mine.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.