A lot of responsible soldiers saved money to help smooth the transition from military life, where you didn’t have to worry about buying groceries or paying the light bill, to civilian life, where Uncle Sam was no longer footing the bill. I wasn’t one of those responsible soldiers.
So when I got home from Panama, I moved back in with my parents and started looking for a job.
Fortunately my friend Dale Short, who was the editor of The Community News, which was owned by The Daily Mountain Eagle at the time, suggested I apply for a staff writer job. I applied and the company hired me the same day on Dale’s recommendation.
I sat down at my desk, which was by the window. A fern with leaves dry enough to smoke sat on the window sill. Horticulture was not one of Dale’s strong points.
On my desk was a manual Royal typewriter as big as a microwave. The beast had been used so much that the center of the Q and the C keys were packed as tight as a plug of chewing tobacco.
Years of black ink had been pounded into the keys by cub reporters writing about football, obits and family reunions. I took the small blade of my Old Timer pocket knife and gently picked the hardened ink out. I threaded in a piece of copy paper and started a journey that has lasted a lifetime.
I loved the feel of that typewriter. The clack, clack, clack, ding as I slapped the carriage return to advance to the next line made me feel more involved in my stories.
I wrote about sports, civic events and monster watermelons. But my favorite assignments were interviews. I found myself getting lost in the details. I learned then that everyone has a story, but often people don’t take the time to listen to them.
I think sometimes that I lost a little bit of my “MoJo” when I started writing on computers.
Tonight as I started writing this column, I chose to compose the story in a program called Pages. It’s Apple’s version of a word processor and it has a font called American Typewriter.
I clicked a few words and they looked just like the words I once typed on the old Royal. I chose the option that lets you work in full screen mode, which removed all distractions from my computer screen.
Just looking at the font brought back a rush of memories from those few years I spent writing for The Community News.
I know in the scheme of things, the work I did there didn’t further the cause of world peace or true happiness, but it felt right. I felt like I was doing something important.
No other job I’d had before or no job since provided me with the feeling of accomplishment I felt.
So it’s no mystery that I’m a freelance writer now. I knew when I left The Community News on Jan. 15, 1976, that one day I’d write again.
Maybe I can find an old Royal on Ebay.