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Posts tagged: personal journal

The day my relative made history

I'm related to the fellow described in the first link below.

A case could be made that he drilled the first workable oil well on this date in 1859. He was not much of a businessman, though, so his descendants had to work for a living.

But even if he was a bit of a screw-up, I have always been proud to be related to the guy who stuck a dagger in the heart of the New England whaling industry.

And no, I don't blame him for climate change. That one's not on him.

My Thanksgiving in jail

When city editor Jon Kamman asked if I had any Thanksgiving plans, I tried to act like I didn't see what was coming.

But I knew. He realized I had no family in Arizona. And he was about to invite me to his house for the holiday, which was just a couple of days away. What a guy. Wasn't that thoughtful?

No, I said. No plans.

Good, he said. “We need someone to work Thanksgiving.”


This was about 30 years ago. But the memory still makes me shake my head.

When you are in your 20's, there's a tendency to think you know everything. There is also a tendency to be wrong.

I was a newsside general-assignment reporter at the morning paper in Tucson. I hadn't been there long, and working a holiday was not really unusual — especially for someone with zero seniority. But the extent to which I misread the city editor in that moment amuses me still.

And Kamman — a fine editor and decent, honest man — had an assignment for me. He thought I should join the prisoners for Thanksgiving dinner at the Pima County Jail. So that's what I did.

I don't remember much about it. Except that virtually all of the prisoners I spoke to confided that they were innocent of the charges against him. Totally innnocent. What are the odds?

Maybe some of them knew the city editor and had heard that I was easily duped.

The great 7th grade basketball draft

The only time I experienced moving to a new town in the middle of the school year was in seventh grade.

I had not been at my new junior high long before it was time for the intramural basketball season.

For reasons known only to Mr. Kangas, the shop teacher in charge of that Saturday morning extracurricular activity, I was chosen to be one of four team captains. A nice honor and all. But I had no real idea who was good and who wasn't.

So when the boys who had signed up for intramurals gathered in the school cafeteria one afternoon for the selection of teams, I was at a serious disadvantage.

Knowing next to nothing about the basketball skills of the assembled lads, I had to rely on an alternative drafting strategy.

I chose boys who had been friendly to me, the new kid.

There was a boy named Rich. One named Peter. The Ketola twins. And three or four others.

And you know what happened?

No. This was real, not a movie. We stunk.

Whoever said “Nice guys finish last” apparently knew what he was talking about.

My family moved again before 10th grade. I lost touch with the boys who were on that hapless team.

But I hope they went on to lead happy, fulfilling lives. My guess is that most of them did.

Those guys weren't really losers.

They just couldn't make a lay-up.

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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