, Muskogee, OK

April 11, 2010

Good news, bad news, and it’s still a bad song

I have some good news, and I have some bad news. Actually, they’re both the same news.

I have been with the Phoenix for 15 years, and I am with them no more. I’m moving on without really moving anywhere.

But I want to thank Phoenix readers for putting up with me for 15 years. It’s been a good relationship overall, at least from my point of view.

The only time anyone’s come close to punching me, that person was a Tulsa World correspondent, not a Muskogee resident, at a Muskogee County court hearing.

Everyone has treated me with respect and goodwill, and I don’t for a minute count that toward anything I’ve done, but the patience and good nature of the people of eastern Oklahoma.

I have many good memories of working at the Phoenix, but here are a few highlights:

• About six years ago I interviewed a Vietnam vet who had a pet cockatoo. When I entered his apartment, the cockatoo promptly flew to a perch on my shoulder, moved down my arm to my reporter’s notebook and tore the pages to shreds with his beak.

• In 1996, three young men were shot outside the mall. Two were on the ground bleeding. When I walked into the middle of the scene, police were hunkered down behind patrol cars with guns drawn. I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” An officer grabbed me, pulled me behind a squad car, and said, “David, what’s the matter with you? There still might be someone out there with a gun.”

• After a plane wreck about 10 years ago, I was interviewing a transportation official when Bill Mitchell of Channel 8 commandeered my interview to get his TV coverage. He did that a lot, butt in. It turned out good for me. What Bill didn’t know was that a friend of the dead pilot was there for a few minutes, and Bill drove me away where I discovered the friend and I got the better interview. Touché, Bill.

• In 1998, neighbors near Hilldale got into a fight over a Pomeranian dog one neighbor owned and the other shot. They went to court, and one of the attorneys subpoenaed me. Reporters usually aren’t subpoenaed, and I complained to Special District Judge Robin Adair that I didn’t know anything except what the parties involved told me, and they ought to be the ones to testify. The Phoenix’s attorney, Ron Wright, convinced the plaintiff’s attorney to relent, but I almost got involved in the murder trial of a Pomeranian named Precious. Darn it.

• After the Arkansas River bridge was knocked down by a barge in 2002 killing 14 people, I walked into a meeting of federal, state, and local transportation and emergency officials. The lead federal investigator asked me who I was and I said I was with the Phoenix. Then he made the announcement that the towboat captain passed out, which led to the accident. But he said, “I don’t want it released to the press yet.” I went to the investigator and told him again who I was, and he accused me of saying I was with the police, not the Phoenix. Some Muskogee County law officers stood up for me, and the Phoenix got that part of the story first.

• In 2001, when the Niña came to Three Forks Harbor, the owners of the replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship allowed one reporter to sail with the ship from Webbers Falls lock and dam to Muskogee. All of you only got to stand on deck where it was moored, but I sailed with the ship. Sorry about that, but there are a few perks with the job.

• Since I like to hike and pick up turtle shells and the old bones and skulls of animals, at one time, I had a little shrine to nature on my desk. I thought it was cool, but my nearest co-worker didn’t like it. She didn’t say anything, though, until I put a horse’s skull on my desk. Then she went to the boss and complained that I was bringing disease into the newsroom. I had to take the skull and most of the bones home, where they weren’t long. My wife made me take them outside.

Thanks for allowing me to have this space each week for several years. I never meant to offend anyone — well, OK sometimes I did.

I think the two things that offended people most were my wisecracks about John Wayne’s acting and my dim view of the song “Okie from Muskogee” — but let’s be honest, Wayne couldn’t act, and I can’t help it, I really do hate that song.

God bless. See you around.