Writing stories six years later


Pat Haley

Pat Haley


Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm — the Brothers Grimm — published the “Little Snow White” story in 1812, and began their story as many good stories do, with the words, “once upon a time.”

“Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, ‘If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame,’” the Brothers Grimm wrote.

“Soon afterward she had a little daughter who was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow White. And as soon as the child was born, the queen died,” the Brothers Grimm continued.

The words “once upon a time” are filled with promise, excitement and anticipation. The little ones listening intently can hardly wait to hear grandma or grandpa tell the tale.

Well, I am not the Brothers Grimm certainly, but Sept. 12, 2018 marks the sixth anniversary of the first article I wrote for the Wilmington News Journal.

Like most people, our family has handed down many stories over the years, and those stories, in addition to my life experiences, have provided me with an abundance of stories to tell. With that being said, I never dreamed six years and 250 articles later I would still be writing.

One of the biggest surprises has been my personal discovery of the power of the media, particularly our hometown newspapers.

Even Rick Nelson’s son, Gunnar, wrote me a nice email when my story about his dad was published. Google evidently found it for him.

Over the years, I have been honored to have countless people say very kind things about my articles, and how the stories struck a chord, reminding them of something in their lives.

We all have experiences in life and many of them share a common bond. I have written about growing up in our hometowns, school memories, unusual experiences and life events, both happy and sad. We may have grown up at different times, or in different towns, but stories unite us.

I have written about life-changing events in “Shootout on South Street” and the warm memories of the Murphy Theatre. The patriotic stories of “Gently Trade Flag For Son” and “Union Station: All We Do Is Remember” appeared to be well-received.

Our experience with the inept delivery drivers from the big box store in Staunton, Va. seemed to resound with readers. The dream about playing guitar with Johnny Cash when Luther Perkins became ill still makes me sweat in the middle of the night.

I couldn’t play a guitar if my life depended upon it.

Our time on the “Train in Pennsylvania” and our walks in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, revisiting Mayberry, hold a special place in our hearts, as do the time when our son, Greg, and I cheered on the “Boy Playing Softball At Rio Grande,” and my dad and I saw the Boston Celtics eating hot dogs at halftime at the Cincinnati Gardens.

Our trips to bluegrass festivals are special and we remember them in the story “The boy who liked bluegrass.”

Winterset, Iowa was John Wayne’s hometown, and Brenda and I traveled there for the museum dedication in his honor, and that morning I made a speech about John Wayne to the townsfolk who were eating pancakes in the firehouse.

My sister, Rita, and I remembered the night in the late 1950s we were sitting in Xenia at the basketball game when Donnie Fields, also from Port William, set the Clinton County scoring record — we sat 60 years later in the Wilmington High School gymnasium watching Jarron Cumberland break it.

Interestingly, the story that generated the most reader comments was “The man who lived under the bridge,” a story about former local resident Alan Ward.

Stories about cruising Frisch’s, Mel-O-Dee, and eating at Zimmie’s also triggered many reader responses with local stories of their own.

We said goodbye to my brother-in-law, Dick Butcher, fellow police officer Bill Hidy, popular barber Dale Inwood, gracious Kay McMillan and lifelong friend Ralph Doak in heartfelt remembrances.

I want to personally thank Wilmington News Journal editor Tom Barr for allowing me to continue writing for the News Journal, and giving me the opportunity to share my stories with the people in the community. It is very humbling for me.

I also want to extend a special thank you to the readers for the kind words you have graciously shared with me over the years, and for continuing to read my columns.

I am retiring in three months as county commissioner, but I hope to continue to sit in my favorite chair at home, with pen in hand, and scribble again, “Once upon a time…”

Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner and former Clinton County sheriff.

Pat Haley
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