Cindy Webb, former paper carrier"/>
July 28, 2018 10:00:33 PM
"I asked the Lord to help me wake up earlier every morning and He gave me a paper route."
Cindy Webb, former paper carrier
At the end of the gravel road there's a stand of red newspaper boxes. Two are empty and two have newspapers every evening. I wonder about those boxes that stay empty. As long as I remember, a newspaper was a fixture in our home. Growing up it was the Delta Democrat Times. My momma, for whatever reason, came pretty near to despising Hodding Carter Jr., the publisher, but she never thought twice about not taking the paper. It's what we did. The morning started off with coffee and a newspaper. It was where you found out what was going on in town -- who got married, high school football, garden clubs, classifieds, garage sales, what was on at the movies, store sales, recipes, who's child won the spelling bee, political goings on, who died, and who was in the hospital. Even in times of war or depression paper boys stood on the street corners hawking newspapers. No one ever dreamed of going without the newspaper.
Occasionally someone says, "I really liked your column but I don't take the newspaper anymore." Oddly enough, I never think to ask why. This is what I do say:
"You know, once I asked Birney Imes, 'How do you feel when people say terrible things about you, your family, or the newspaper?'" I think his reply may surprise you; it did me.
"I don't think much about it," he said. "I've grown up with it my whole life. But what does bother me is when, say, Slim or someone writes an opinion they don't like and they cancel their subscription. I think about the 50 families the newspaper supports."
Sometime around the Christmas holidays I was in the newspaper's front office. An older lady, older than me, was talking to the circulation manager. I heard her say, "This paper route is putting food on our table."
Afterwards, I asked if that was true. The manager said, "She's been with us a long time. Yes, I think it's true."
Recently, thinking about those two empty red boxes and the possible demise of newspapers, I asked why people canceled their subscriptions. I was told 30 percent were due to delivery issues, many of which can be rectified. Some due to a grudge about a misspelling or misinformation. A grudge can go on for decades. And some take offense to another's opinion.
A reader once complained this column didn't belong on the opinion page because it wasn't an opinion. Sam said, "I beg to differ. My wife has an opinion about everything."
There's another thing, people work long, hard and fast on the newspaper, practically 24/7, and it sells for 50 cents. Just 10 years ago, it was 25 cents. I'd pay 50 cents to read the comics -- Mallard Filmore or Baby Blues. You can't do anything anymore for 50 cents.
And so, as Birney Imes III eased into retirement to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren, I asked him, "How much longer do you think I can write about the Prairie, the birds and the bees, and plastic bottles?"
He smiled and answered with a hopeful, "Forever."
Email reaches Shannon Bardwell of Columbus at [email protected]
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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