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Ready or not, here I am

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By David Davis

Hello.

My name is David Davis, your new editor. “New” is not the correct word, because I’m getting up in years. Maybe current is a better adjective, but that’s not right either, because there are many, many topics on which I am not current. How about if I say, “ready or not, here I am.”

I am transitioning from my post as editor of the Chiefland Citizen and Cedar Key Beacon. I expect the move will be complete by the end of May. In the meantime, I hope to get as many mistakes out of the way as possible. And, as much as possible, I hope you all will grant me peace. Also, I hope all correspondents stay.

The Citizen and Messenger will not be the same under my editorship, if for no other reason because I am different. But for right now, I’m just trying to hang on for dear life. So, for the time being, let’s get to know each other.

I grew up in a small town in Southeastern Oklahoma that, compared to the Walmart parking lot, is very small. At one time, Achille was the first entry in map indexes. Now, it’s in the top 10 returns from an internet search. It’s the first return that is not about Greece or Greek Mythology.

Per highway signage, my hometown is 12 miles South of the county seat State Highway 78, but many a stranger usually found themselves making a U-turn at a farmhouse about 1 1/2 miles beyond main street, [State Highway 75A], which dead ends at Highway 78.

Achille was a farm town in a part of the state once known as “Little Dixie” when cotton was still king. Like many other rural towns, it began dying after World War II. I’m 66, and it has been on life support my whole life.

In the 1960s, when I was a teenager, old men sat in benches and chairs in front of the pool hall. Red Man or Beechnut chewing tobacco juice stained their gray whiskers and rivulets of brown spittle discolored the sidewalk.

When he wasn’t busy, Harvey Rochelle sometimes stood behind the large plate glass window of his barbershop to look at the spit and whittlers, swap pocketknives or play dominoes. Sometimes he waved at the old men, and occasionally they waved back and often, one of them gazed admiringly across the street at Harvey and declared that Harvey was the “best thumbless barber in the State of Oklahoma.” Harvey lost the thumb on his right hand when his car was hit by a train.

I enrolled in college after high school. I wanted to write, but about what, I didn’t know because it was a big world beyond my parking lot-size hometown. I joined the Navy two years later with the idea of making it a career if I liked it at all. I did like it and retired 20 years later. At some point in those 20 years, I discovered community newspapers.

My newspaper career began in 1994 in Balch Springs, Texas; then Tallulah, Louisiana; Ponca City, Oklahoma; Cleveland, Tennessee; Chiefland, and now I am here.