How the heck did he do that?!

I was in total awe by what I’d experienced, but what could I say? It’s a story I can tell only if I leave out names and exact locations. Technically, what he did was illegal, and I don’t think the statute of limitations have expired yet. Nobody was injured, so I doubt the police would care.

I was living in the northern Mid-West and after working at a gas station, needed a ride home that night. The night was black dark gray where the clouds were. It had snowed most of the day, and the roads were nasty. My wife at the time made what I felt was a perfectly reasonable request, one that did not lead to our eventual divorce: try to get a ride home and spare her from having to be on the roads.

As I clocked out, I remembered that one co-worker, Kurt, lived in the same nearby town I did. “Kurt,” I said. “Could I get a ride home with you?” He nodded and a weight fell from my stomach. I was relieved as I hated driving in this weather and didn’t like the idea of my wife having to come get me, either. Unlike me, Kurt was from that area.

There were two ways to get home. One was a straight shot that intersected a thoroughfare that would intersect the road that took us home. It was usually well-plowed. The second road, a less traveled thoroughfare, curled and writhed like a giant python fighting an alligator over who would be dinner.

Kurt took that road.

As we drove, I tried to relax and looked out the window, seeing all the snow in the embankments and collected on the road, making for a white journey. As I’d driven to work on the same road a few days earlier, I remembered seeing a few cars and even a 4X4 truck slid into the ditch.

I looked over at Kurt and noticed that when he wasn’t glancing at the road and steering, he was looking down at his cell phone. Throughout the seven-mile drive, which took about 20 minutes, he constantly received, read, and sent text messages.

If we slide off the road and skid into a ditch, take comfort in knowing this isn’t your car, I thought, expecting that we’d skid.

And yet, despite all the curves we rode on, despite the snow accumulation, we never skidded, not even once. No slides on black ice. No loss of control because the tires failed to grip the snow. No screams of a four-letter word because we lost control and are headed into oncoming traffic. The drive was completely uneventful, as if Kurt had been closely paying attention while driving in the summer when tires grip the road like a major league baseball player’s batting gloves grip a bat.

After I got out of the car, I thanked him, and then wondered, How on EARTH did he do that?

Richard Zowie lives in Fredericksburg, Texas, where he works as a broadcaster, blogger and fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Richard says, ‘Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen’ to journalism

Waving goodbye

Richard says to journalism: “Goodbye, farewell, and amen.”

If Don Meredith were still alive and working on television, he’d probably have this to say about my career in journalism: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

All good things must end, and that includes what I like to jokingly call “my so-called career in journalism.” My final day with the Highlander was Friday, Dec. 28. I am “retiring” from newsrooms to work in broadcasting and to pursue freelance writing, blogging, and my dream job: fiction writing.

I began working as a journalist, a mix of full-time, part-time and freelancing, in 2000, after I left the U.S. Army. It was a huge risk as it meant taking a major pay cut from my military job.

My career has taken me to San Antonio, South Dallas County, Canyon Lake, up to Michigan in Lapeer County and then north Genesee County and south Saginaw County, then back down to Texas at the Fredericksburg Standard and then here at the Highlander.

It’s been an interesting ride filled with many crazy stories:

…I emailed Kinky Friedman through his website, back when he was considering running for governor of Texas. I was so surprised by his phone call a few days later that my initial reply was an astonished, “THE Kinky Friedman?!”

…A friend whose father posthumously received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam by throwing himself onto a live grenade. The friend described the Army’s highest honor as “just a piece of medal and ribbon” and said he’d rather have his father alive.

…A Vietnamese friend who made it out of Saigon as it fell in 1975 and was rescued on a boat near the Philippines. (To this day, he still refuses to call it Ho Chi Minh City).

…Doing sports gathering part-time for the San Antonio Express-News and grimacing when we’d get calls from Kenedy, Karnes City, or Poth. All Polish towns. Try correctly spelling Dworaczyk, Włodarski, or Pieprzyca.

…David Newell, who played Postman Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, told me that Fred Rogers off camera was exactly the same as the loving, compassionate Mr. Rogers on camera. Newell also told me this tidbit: Rogers was color blind and could only see things in black, white and gray. His favorite sweater was the red cardigan: not because of the color, but because it was most comfortable.

…Then there was that township meeting outside Clio, Michigan, where a man hooked up to oxygen became angry about something said by the township supervisor and challenged the supervisor to a fight.

…A few union guys complained I was too conservative. Never mind that liberal columnists in Michigan—which barely went to Pres. Donald Trump in 2016—are a dime a dozen.

…While covering a wrestling tournament in a certain rural Michigan town, a parent took me aside and whispered, “You should write about our school sometime. If the state knew how awful the academics were here, they’d take away our accreditation.”

I’ve long suspected she wasn’t joking.

…Then there was the time I took pictures at one football game and a player was injured. His previous injury in his other knee hadn’t completely healed. One mother angrily told me the coach had a reputation for “encouraging” kids to play when they shouldn’t.

Back here in Texas, there were plenty of memorable assignments:

…Ray Martinez, the retired Texas Ranger who helped take down Charles Whitman in 1966. Martinez, who spoke to me on the 50th anniversary of the event. Before going in, he said a prayer of absolution. When he returned, he came out without a scratch.

…One of the most ominous stories I’ve covered was a feature on a movie regarding a famous grave in Fredericksburg. The young girl, found dead and then buried in September 1927, remains unknown. To this day, nobody knows who killed her or why. Her name is known only to God.

…Shortly after I started at the Highlander, I interviewed Chase Parker, grandson of three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker and nephew of actor Paul Clemens, as he was in Burnet shooting parts of a Civil War era film titled American Fishtrap.

That’s all, folks!

Despite all the excitement in sports coverage and the people I’ve met as a news and features writer, in the past two years I’ve thought a lot about what I really want to do in life.

At the top of that list is fiction writing.

I have two published short stories and have many unpublished short stories in various phases of development. Then there are two novels I’m working on. I also have four blogs and write about writing, current events, Christian issues, and, sometimes, satire.

Someone once said, “You don’t want to spend the rest of your life thinking of chances you never took.”

Starting at the first of the year, I’ll work full-time in broadcasting and then work a second job to make ends meet. When not working, I plan to focus on fiction and blogging in hopes that perhaps someday, I can be successful at it. It’s my dream. I’ll turn 46 in February and even if I don’t achieve it, I don’t want to look back 30 years from now and lament not trying.

Goodbye, my fellow journalists and to those who have enjoyed what I’ve written for the Highlander and Burnet Bulletin. The journalism train has stopped, and this is where I get off.

Post comments here or email them to: richardzowie@gmail.com. 

To blog or not to blog: knowing when to hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘post’

This past week I wrote two blog postings, one for this blog and the other for my From A to Zowie blog. After much deliberation, I have decided post neither.

The first one was a movie review of an indie film my wife and I saw a few weeks ago. Writing about this film took me back to my teen years when I saw a movie that, frankly, I regret watching. If I named the movie I recently saw, you might know the older film I’m referencing. Suffice it to say, overall I did not like the film and have decided not to post about it even though the posting was decently written.

As for the second one, it was a listing of writing projects I have going on with brief descriptions of each one. It’s funny–I find poker to be a waste of valuable television air time, but sometimes you have to approach your writing career like a game of poker. Be very careful not to tip your card. Know when to hold, fold, walk away, run, blah blah. After some consideration, I felt that blog posting revealed too much information about my projects, so I decided to axe it also.

Even today, after having been a blogger now since 2007 or so, I am astonished by how much personal information is out there.

One former work colleague (I won’t say where) blogs under a pseudonym and used to air lots and lots of details–some of it pretty personal–about her job. It’s the kind of thing that could get you into trouble someday.

Richard Zowie is a writer whose first love is fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.