Monday, September 15, 2014

Still More Found on Floor

This week's batch of photos left lying on the layout room floor at The Morgan County Press of Stover, Mo.:

Marinda Iman, left, Garrett Goetze, Lane Avey, and Jessica Schroeder study in the library Thursday, Sept. 11, at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Mary Michael’s preschool class sits down for a teddy-bear picnic Friday, Sept. 12, at Morgan County R-I school in Stover. Each student brought a stuffed bear from home and shared Teddy Bear crackers served by Michael and aide Kathy Nolting.

High School Art I teacher Anthony Mitchell II, left, and students Weston Dake, Trenton Webb, and Chance Ahrens, display their drawings Tuesday, Sept. 9, in the hallway at Morgan County R-I high school in Stover.

And now one taken by my Dad, the editor of The Versailles Leader-Statesman:
Ernie Westby, left, and R.D. Fish watch the karaoke contest at the Hillbilly Fair Saturday, Sept. 13 from the picnic pavillion by the main stage at the Laurie Fairgrounds. Westby, former editor of the Morgan County Press, reports his health is still a major issue, but he was able to get to the fair, and he met the new editor. They swapped stories while they listened to the singing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shooting Cars in Stover, Mo.

I got a kick out of these bits of scenery on my newspaper beat...

Friday, September 12, 2014

More Left on the Floor

More leftovers from my weekly stock of candids in and around Stover, Mo.:

Gail Walton, left, Danny Cox, Jan McCurry, Mary Cox, Anne Kirchhofer, and Sylvia Taylor finish eating lunch Friday, Aug. 29, at the grand opening of Turtle Cove Coffee in Stover.

Morgan County R-I school board members Scott Bauer, left, Joel Clark, Joe Menning, superintendent Steve Weinhold, board president Tom Chandler, vice president Mark Stevens, Jay Smith, and Steve Eckhoff meet to draft a mission statement and goals Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the school in Stover.

Music teachers John White, left, and Clint Kincaid arrange the choir-band room at the Morgan County R-I school Monday, Aug. 18. White, semi-retired, teaches high school choir and band. Kincaid teaches music classes to kindergarten through grade six.

My cutlines for these two photos went astray. Short of going back through my notes from Aug. 19, all I can say is that they featured students and parents at the Morgan County R-I school open house.

Here is the press room crew at the Vernon Publishing office in Eldon, Mo., taking delivery of a new fork lift on Aug. 19.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory Maguire
Recommended Ages: 14+

I've had plenty of opportunity to read this book since it came out in 1995. For one thing, I have owned a copy of it for some years. It isn't that I wasn't interested. It's simply that I didn't think the book needed any boosting from me. It's a popular bestseller. Dozens of readers have recommended it to me. A long-running and award-winning Broadway musical was inspired by it. There are rumors of the book being adapted for a TV miniseries, and of the musical being made into a film. It has become the first book in a quartet known as "The Wicked Years," all of which have already been reviewed by enough critics. Chances are, a lot of people reading this review have already formed their own opinion of the book. So what do I have to add except, "Ding, dong, I read it too"?

I didn't end up reading it, strictly speaking. I listened to John McDonough's audiobook performance, one of several Maguire titles my local public library holds in its CD Book collection. McDonough did a great job voicing all the characters from young to old, male and female, good and bad. The recording made a week or two of commuting and business travel pass very enjoyably. By driving amid quivers of intrigue, wriggles of suspense, shakes of laughter, and blurs of tears, I added risk and adventure to pedestrians and other drivers. It livened up the whole community.

Note well, this story carries an adult content advisory. This is not a cute little children's book, like the Oz books of L. Frank Baum and those who carried on after his death. It is not an innocent fantasy in a magic world full of whimsy and nonsense. Dorothy only briefly appears in it. It's the life story of the Wicked Witch of the West, and you already know how that ends: with a scream of agony and a wail of despair as a bucketful of water melts her. What you don't know is how she became wicked.

Elphaba Thropp was always mean and green. It was tough on her family from the day she was born. It gave her trouble later when she was in college with Glinda, who would one day be called the good witch, and her beautiful but disabled sister Nessarose, a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the East. They didn't come into these nicknames until much later. Some of that had to do with religion, politics, and personality. Some of it really had to do with a mysterious, magic-tinged fate.

It's an adult book, as I was saying just now. Partly this means it has coarse language and graphic scenes of sex and violence. And partly it means that it explores grown-up issues, like the tension between religious belief and unbelief, whether or not people have a soul, the rights of animals (not to mention Animals), the dangers of a society ruled by pragmatists, nihilists, and totalitarian strongmen. It touches on adultery, substance abuse, the ethics of education, and economic and cultural inequality. Above all, it is about a woman's quest for forgiveness.

The sequels to this book are Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Maguire's other work includes the Hamlet Chronicles series of seven children's books, counting down from Seven Spiders Spinning; Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Mirror Mirror; and What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy.

Found on the Layout Room Floor

Here are some photos I took for the Sept. 10 edition of the Morgan County Press that proved surplus to requirements.

Adam Blanchard, left, Robert Blanchard, and Nicolas Newman play together Tuesday, Sept. 2, along Walnut Street in Stover, Mo.

Diana Smithey relaxes Thursday, Sept. 4, among the decorative features in her front yard on Third Street in Stover.

Dawson Propst, 11, practices tunes by Billy Joel and Scott Joplin Thursday, Sept. 4, at the back of Goetze Bros. Furniture in Stover.

Bob Kendall, left, gives John Hamm a trim Friday, Sept. 5, at the Stover Barber Shop.

Ron Randall, left, Donna Randall, Norman Worthley, and Walt Worthley participate in the city-wide garage sale Friday, Sept. 5, in Stover. The Randalls make several purchases at Norman Worthley’s sale.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Notes of Interest 1

Here is my first month of editorials for the Morgan County Press of Stover, Mo. My column is titled "Notes of Interest." Don't look at me. My Dad came up with it. I was completely at a loss what to christen it. The titles didn't make the paper; I add them here for the enjoyment of my friends outside the central Missouri coverage area. Do, however, consider subscribing online.

8/13/14: It feels good to do good work

Having a lifelong dream come true is always good.

I don’t know exactly when the writing bug bit me. It must have been early in life. I was already editing and writing for a class newspaper in fifth grade.

Turning my experiences into stories is part of how I make sense of life. I never had to be tied to a chair to write a story. My problem was finding time to do anything else.

My teachers always knew me for a writer. Many of them encouraged me to seek a career in it. But I had other plans.

I added a year to my college career by deciding at the last moment to major in music.

It’s common sense not to expect much of a career from music. The only surprise is that my music degree has done me more good than harm.

Whatever else I had to do for a living, I have always been able to scrape a few extra dollars out of singing in a professional choir, serving as a church organist, or giving piano lessons.

It was actually studying for a real profession - the pastoral ministry - that put a crimp in my musical career. If I hadn’t set my heart on being a pastor, I might have gone farther as a professional musician.

I didn’t last long in the ministry. Pressures of office wore me down. But I still had writing.

Getting a job at a magazine seemed like a dream come true, but I ended up doing everything but writing. I got a lot of experience out of it, experience that will serve me well as an editor.

But after eight years in the magazine business, suddenly becoming editor of a weekly newspaper feels amazingly like coming home.

The community is new to me. I have a lot to learn about Stover. I have even more to learn about the newspaper business.

But I have already made a most delightful discovery. For the first time in years, I find myself waking up in the morning looking forward to my day.

Then, after a long day at the newspaper office, I go home with a light heart.

I think it’s my conscience telling me I am finally doing the right job for me.

I’m still learning how to do it. But I know that I can.

Or maybe it’s a sense of pride in being able to do good, quality work. I hope many of you know that feeling, whatever you do.

8/20/14: It's nice to see people sticking around

I haven’t been long on the Stover beat. But it’s long enough to notice that the Morgan County R-I school is the biggest story in town.

One of the first times I spoke with him, school superintendent Steve Weinhold explained that the school’s population, any given school day, is almost as big as the city itself.

Any day of the week, something will be going on at R-I. It could be an athletic event, or a musical evening, or a FACS feast. It could be a meeting, a big exam, a building project, or the arrival of a new teacher. Name a room and some time of year, a story will happen there.

Mr. Weinhold seemed pleasantly surprised to see me drop by almost every weekday. But even during the lull before the storm, when the students haven’t arrived for the year, there’s something about the school that draws me back. It’s like an electric potential. Lightning could strike at any time.

On Friday, Aug. 15, high school principal Mike Marriott welcomed the school district’s new teachers at a morning meeting in the R-I board room. He opened his remarks with the fact that he started at R-I in 1980, as a kindergartner.

Marriott went all the way through high school here, went away, and came back as a teacher. After 16 years as a teacher and seven as the principal, he is only one of many lifelong members of the R-I family.

“Family” is the right word for it. Mr. Weinhold told me when he read the list of R-I staff, he was struck by how many people on it shared the same last names.

I think it is an encouraging fact. It means I am coming to a place people love to grow up in. Even after they go away to college, Stover’s sons and daughters willingly come back to make a career and raise a family here.

It says something to Stover’s credit. And it should not be taken for granted. I have lived in plenty of small towns before. The typical pattern is where the average age of the local population is rising, as young adults flee and settle elsewhere.

High school counselor Jeff Backe told me he came to small-town Missouri from the big city, Chicago. I am used to seeing the migration currents flow in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, Backe is concerned that Stover kids may not be dreaming big enough. It may not even occur to them to plan for a life beyond Stover and the limited opportunities available here.

That could be a problem. A lot of today’s young Bulldogs may have bigger things in store than what the local economy can offer them. Maybe they should be open to making bigger plans.

But it’s also nice to know that folks feel blessed right here.

8/27/14: It's your newspaper—you can help make it better

My first week as editor of The Morgan County Press, a Stover citizen told me he had a bone to pick with me.

His complaint turned into a story tip about the town’s new postmaster. The tip led my first feature article. Thanks!

That encounter was a good reminder that this isn’t my paper. It’s Stover’s paper. It’s your paper. I can only do my best with the news that you give me.

I am excited by many of the ideas you have already given me. My vision is limited. My experience of how Stover works is limited.

You are teaching me daily how to do a better job. You are, in effect, making the Press a better newspaper.

I only know about a fraction of the events going on in Stover every week, every month. I am probably even more ignorant of the activities in Florence and Ivy Bend. I could use your help.

If you know of something coming up in our area, and you’re not sure the Press knows about it, please let me know.

If it happened and nobody from the newspaper was there, let me know.

If you have an idea for a story you would like to read in the paper, let me know.

If your organization has something to put on the community calendar, especially if it’s a change from the regular day and time, let me know.

You can reach the Press at 573-378-5441. Ask for R. D. Or email me at Or mail your submission to the newspaper office at P.O. Box 348, Versailles, MO, 65084. Or drop in at 104 W. Jasper St. in Versailles.

If you can’t reach me directly, you will find everyone at the newspaper office is just as eager to hear what you have to say. We covet your advice on how to make the Press serve the Stover area better.

The ladies at Bristol Manor gave me an idea when I dropped in on their card game Wednesday, Aug. 20. There used to be a regular item in the Press called Kitchen Corner, featuring recipes submitted by local people.

Would you like to see the Kitchen Corner come back? Tell us. Or better yet, send us your recipes. If we can collect enough recipes to keep the column going for a while, and if we can find a local sponsor to underwrite it, it could happen.

Another question came up this past week. This one is for those who read the sports pages. What do you think of box scores? Like them, hate them, or don’t care? Would you like to see more of them or less? Tell us why.

What else is keeping the Press from being all that it could be? What is it missing that could make it a better paper? I invite you to share your vision. Let’s make it happen together.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cats 1 - Dog 0

I've been staying with my parents since earlier this month. They have a dog, a frisky but sweet-tempered miniature schnauzer named Rudy. I, as you know very well, have two cats. So far, we haven't let them mix very much.

Rudy is inquisitive and susceptible to boredom. He tends to get into places, and then into things, where his moist nose doesn't belong. One has to be careful to keep the bathroom doors firmly shut against him, or else he will shred the toilet paper.

My cats, it turns out, do not. As surprising to me as to anyone else, they can be trusted with a full roll of TP on the roller, right in paw's reach. I learned this by accident when we decided to keep the cats closed up in the downstairs guest bedroom, which has its own bathroom. Their litter box, food and water dishes are in the bathroom. And I only realized after several days of kitteh access to the TP that all my years of keeping the rolled paper closed up in a cupboard, or on top of a lighting fixture, were wasted. Maybe the culprit I was protecting it from was the late Lionel, who hasn't been with us these past seven years. Oh, how well my cats have trained me!

Rudy also menaces other innocent pieces of paper that he may find within reach when no one is minding him. Because he tends to act out when bored, it never pays not to be minding him. My parents keep a childproof gate across the entrance to the "nice" living room, which they keep set up as a chapel in case church services fall through at their regular location. When allowed in there unsupervised, Rudy has been known to tear up pages of Dad's sermon and even (gasp! horror!) chew on the Altar Book.

So, we try not to let Rudy out of our sight for long. The saying applies equally well to Rudy the schnauzer as to many toddlers: When everything goes quiet, be very afraid.

The dog and the cats had barely seen each other until yesterday. Once or twice Rudy had darted into their bedroom when he happened to be by when the door was opened. All that had happened then was a bit of hissing and some tense and tentative sniffing, mostly between Rudy and my junior cat Sinead. I didn't think it was unpromising. My cats Sinead and Tyrone had started out that way, and look what a lovely friendship they have now. (Discounting the hissing, spitting, boxing, and chasing all over the room that sometimes breaks out.) So yesterday, when I got home from work, I decided to give Rudy and the cats a chance to get to know each other better.

I was the first one to get home after work. My Dad had something to keep him from home for another hour or two. My stepmom was out of town for the week. I needed to change out of my work clothes. And I needed to watch the dog. So I did the sensible thing: I combined the two tasks into one. Rudy came with me into my bedroom.

And there was hissing. And there was tense and tentative sniffing between Rudy and Sinead. All as expected, up to the point where previous visits had been terminated.

And then Sinead puffed herself up like a blowfish—an effect of which a longhair calico may become the world's premiere master. And then she backed Rudy into the bathroom, spitting and growling as only a cat on the edge of dogicide can. And then I heard the sound that made me drop the clothing I was trying to put on and run to the rescue.

Rudy, backed against the hallway door, had begun to cry.

I guess I had underestimated how scared of cats the poor pup is. Dad tells me he has been tormented by the neighbor's cats.

Now I know Sinead is a bully. I know Rudy is a coward. And I also know that Tyrone enjoyed the whole show, watching from curled-up on top of the bed with a look on his face that said, "Well, this might be interesting."