“A hidden chapter in life’s book”
|My first article: Aug 1980|
It’s amazing how seeing what you’re looking for, can help you remember what you’re looking for. However, in this case, nothing registered.
What I did find were two boxes containing scrapbooks of my articles dating from August 6, 1980 to April 1, 2010. Apparently, when I started posting my column on my blog, I quit clipping the articles out of the newspaper.
Regardless, I was standing in the closet when the phase I mentioned in the first paragraph hit me. I describe it thusly: “Why do I keep stuff that I’m never going to use and that will be tossed three weeks after my funeral?” I believe I’ve mentioned before that, upon hearing about my demise, Kay’s first action will be to buy a dog that she will have in her purse at the funeral. I can now say that right after she plants the two potted plants that were displayed at my funeral, she’s going to toss everything that’s in my closet. And get this. – I won’t care.
|About 30 years of articles|
I attended a writers’ conference a couple or three decades back, where I got to have a one-on-one with a book agent. During my brief visit, I mentioned my humor column and asked the agent if she thought I should try to get a collection of my articles published. The lady had no expression. None when I walked in and none when I broached the question. It was as if she was sitting in a pew listening to a preacher explain the Parable of the Sower. She closed her eyes. I assumed she was thinking, “When I open my eyes, please be gone.” I do that all the time.
Anyway, when she opened her eyes I was still there, so she merely shook her head. Not completely put off by the discouragement, I then opened a folder and tried to hand her a sample of a few pages of the novel I had written. She wouldn’t touch it. She told me that a book of fiction was a hard sell for anyone unpublished. That I would have to get published before trying to get published. It was the encouragement from that lady that made me give up on any notion of a compilation of articles. I considered her a necessary evil.
So, as I stood in the closet looking at all scrapbooks, I could hear the book agent whisper, “Let it go, Scooter. Let it go.” (That was okay, because I didn’t really expect her to remember my name.) I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly to the whispered message. I accepted the notion that it was time to toss the scrapbooks. And, calming it was… Skywalker.
Since the scrapbooks were taller than the box was deep, it had no lid, allowing me to notice the earliest of the scrapbooks. I thought I’d take a moment to visit my first article. It was published on August 6, 1980. I remembered it like it was 38 years ago.
The Plilers and Hayters were returning from one of our tubing excursions somewhere in Central Texas. At one point Virginia suggested I write a story about our experience tubing and send it to Barbara Fredrickson at The Courier. I thought, “What an interesting, but dumb idea. I think I’ll do it.”
A couple of days after submitting the piece, Barbara called me and said she liked the story and wanted to put it in the magazine section of their Sunday paper; a section called “Sunday Plus.” She said the article would need some art, so she would have a photographer contact me. Art? Newspaper people say a lot of words that don’t mean what you think they mean.
The next day, I got a truck inner-tube, small ice chest, a can of Pepsi, and met a man with a camera on the San Jacinto River just under the I-45 Bridge. The photographer had me float out in the muddy river, so he could get some photos – I mean art. On the front page of the next Sunday Plus Magazine, there was a picture of me lying across a big truck-tube with an ice chest at my side and a can of Pepsi in my hand. The title of the article: “Tubing or not tubing.” It was cute.
After that, I submitted other articles and Barbara kept publishing them. Eventually she gave me a column that appeared on Mondays. “Monday with Mark.” When we lived in Georgetown, TX, the editor for the Williamson County Sun put me on the back page. “Back with Mark.” Such a joker man. I was most pleased when The Villager picked up my column. It’s given me a chance to meet so many people and speak to so many groups. Many of the events were included in my column.
But, with the discovery of this new chapter in my life, I realize it’s time to toss the first 30 years. And I’m good with that. At peace, even.