BOWEN COLUMN: Twenty-five years and never made it to ‘Australia’

Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022

As your favorite columnist sits and pens yet another column for our favorite newspaper, I realized that it has been twenty-five years since we first penned words for this hometown script – at least, it will officially be 25 years this coming August, should you and I live that long. I feel a great deal like Mr. Twain about all of that. I was young then, younger than I am now, younger than I’ll ever be again.

I wonder how many of you remember when it all started back in August of 1997.

I’ve been thinking: Where do you go after a quarter of a century, after examining life from every angle, telling every story that can be told – omitting some accounts for the protection of the guilty – and sharing about every thought from earth to heaven. I would have thought the pen would run dry by now.

Sometimes people ask me about that, about running out of things to write, at least things that are worthy to be written and read. But I’ve never felt the well would go dry at all. The bigger problem is getting to the well, slowing life down enough to get there and let your mind stop and rest and remember and contemplate and consider, slowing down all that traffic up and down the cluttered road, looking up instead of looking out, looking inward instead of toward all those mundane issues make the biggest splashes in the paper.

Maybe what we’ve done is more significant for what we haven’t written than what we have. There is a void in our writing, and I hope you’ve noticed it. There is a profound emptiness when it comes to many of the world’s issues and its politics. Perhaps that omission is like the stolen portrait of the Mona Lisa many years ago. More visitors came to see where she once hung than came to see the actual portrait, they say. I hope that’s true here, that you’ve come to read what is missing, perhaps to get away from what is all around us for a minute or two in order to let your mind rest.

That may be the biggest point. We are all better off — Aren’t we? — whenever I find my way clear to slow down and make it to the well and draw from a funny story or a nostalgic event that I remember — whether it be about those ol’ boys down at the Y or about the amazin’ blonde or Mr. Coca-Cola Mike, whom we’ve made a legend in these parts with little appreciation from him. Oh no, Coca-Cola Mike is more worried that my version of a true story is going to put him in a bad light, such as the time we lost our way in Atlanta on the way to Tennessee — him driving, of course — and we ended up going to Tennessee an entirely different route and ended up at the Dilliard House in Dilliard, Georgia and had the best meal we would end up having on the entire trip. He was proud of that latter fact, but I focused on his little spat with his lovely wife, Glory, through the whole scenario. I liked that part better, and that’s the privilege of journalism — at least column-writing kind, because it is supposed to be slanted to make the writer look good. At least, that’s how I see it.

Now, look at what just happened. Just for a moment we traveled together all the down to the Dilliard House and you forgot all about seventeen of the problems you have or the things you really need to get to doing today. I still think there’s virtue in that.

I’ve been thinking about the voice I’d choose to narrate this twenty-five-year-and-still-going journey. The easy choice, of course, would be Morgan Freeman.

But I’m going with an old voice from the past, Mr. Jack Elam, from those westerns from way back. I’ve been watching some of those old westerns lately. Jack Elam, the actor with the lazy eye, remember, is the sidekick for James Garner in ‘Support Your Local Sheriff.’ Sheriff McCullough, who is Garner, makes it clear in the movie that he isn’t going to be able to be sheriff in town long, that he’s only on his way to Australia. At the end, Elam does a monologue, and he points out that Garner never made it Australia, but he did become governor of that state and one of the most famous men around.

You know, I think that fits. Ah, when I started with this pen, I didn’t plan to stay around for twenty-years.

Why, I might have ‘got discovered’ long ago and ended up one of the leading syndicated columnists in these United States. But, alas, it never came to be. As Mr. Elam would say in his backwoods style, “The ol’ writer never made it to get syndicated and famous all over the world, but he did write for his hometown paper for twenty-five years and counting. And that’s something.”

And, so you’ll know. I’m good with that. Who wants to go to Australia anyway? I think I’ll stay home a little longer.