Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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October 24, 2012

Leaving Athens, and swimmin’ back across the Red River

Athens — So I go shake up the Okies for a change, give you guys a rest from Art Lawler fatigue.

Seriously, I'm getting sick of the guy. He needs to transfer out of  state. Find somebody new to pick on.

Besides, they raised me in Oklahoma to be a handful. High time they took over the consequences.

It means I'll have to leave the Athens Daily Review, swim back across the Red River where I came from, and go to work for an old buddy, Gene Lehmann, in Ada, Indian Territory.

No, it's not you. We've been friends for nearly a dozen years. Don't you go blamin' yourself now.  OK, so a few times we disagreed. We got over it, right? Well I did, anyway. Stop holding grudges.

You're not seeing who I'm talking to, are you? Don't worry about it. He's just idle thought. Shows up every time I start ramblin'.

Anyway, I'm not leaving this paper because of any ill will. I love these folks. They put up with me. They understand me. I understand them.

I left them once before, and they welcomed me back. It's that kind of newspaper. Seriously. It doesn't hold grudges, even if you do.

There's magic in this newspaper that most of you civilians who don't live in ink barrels, wouldn't understand.

Jayson Larson, who should have been tarred and feathered for leaving and returning to the Review five times — count 'em, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — still works here.

If he leaves again,  I've given orders for APD Chief Buddy Hill to arrest him on abandonment charges.

Enough is enough, son.

With me, it's different. I'm leaving mostly for some very personal reasons. My friends will clue you in, but this isn't the place.

I also had a generous offer from a close friend that almost seemed divinely inspired in its timing.

Anyway, I'm tired of doing angst. Weary of nuance. Bored with blather. I'm going to offer less unsolicited opinions, and I'm going to refrain from popping off at other people's expense. 

I may just swing at them, instead. They can't swing back at an elderly man can they?

No, just kiddin'. It's like our publisher, Lange Svehlak, says, “Just because you think it, doesn't mean you have to go there. You have a choice not to say anything.” He wasn't talking about me, of course.

In the end, “I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be, so what do you do with good ol' boys like me.”

Yes, I just plagiarized a Don Williams'  country song. I just gave him credit, too. Most of  my “deep” philosophical thinking comes from country music, anyway.

Theory: the cornier the country song, the closer it is to the truth.

On the remote chance that some few of you might actually look me up on the Internet, just Google the Ada News.  That's it. A no-frills, three-letter, two vowel, town with a no-nonsense banner for its newspaper.

Actually, I grew up in part, just a few miles from Ada. My mother and my sister, Leta, both graduated from East Central University in Ada on the same day. 

Their current president, Dr. John Hargrave, says ECU has the prettiest college campus in Oklahoma.

You can go to the bank on that one.

It's not unfamiliar territory, but to be honest, I'm pretty much starting over again after an absence of a half hundred years.

I do remember some things:

I was raised by a Methodist preacher, so I learned how to move every three years growing up in Oklahoma. My sister's ex-husband, also a preacher man near Ada, is still around the area, retired I believe.  I'll look him up when I get settled.

As for a boss, Gene and I have the same sick sense of humor, and our ideas about journalism are very close. We'll just do it his way. He's taller.

The guy can pick a fiddle, and cook a fair-to-midland steak. As a 47-percenter in good standing, I feel an entitlement to a T-bone (medium), soon as I get there.

OK, to stop all this ramblin' and be honest with you, I leave much sadder than before. I've got no real hometown, if it's not Athens. And let's face it – I didn't see this place until I was in my mid-to-late 50s.

So, if I get up there, and die for some strange reason like an irate reader strangling me, just bury a third of my ashes in Texas, a third in Oklahoma, and a third with my late daughter, Shari, up in Boise.

No pressure. God bless you. Gotta run.

P.S. All my friends at the paper just gave me a $150 gift certificate, and a card with chicken scratches I can't read to get me to leave town. The money should put enough gas in the U-Haul to get me as far as Ardmore.

I can hitch a ride on the back of a live chicken truck the rest of the way.

Thanks guys. I knew you loved me.

Art Lawler has been a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.

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