Sometimes they called him sometimes the families

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Unformatted text preview: en to my novice eyes that the paper was operating at a loss. Obits are free—ads are not. Spot spent most of his time in his cluttered office, napping periodically and calling the funeral home. Sometimes they called him. Sometimes the families would stop just hours after Uncle Wilber's last breath and hand over a long, flowery, handwritten narrative that Spot would seize and carry delicately to his desk. Behind a locked door, he would write, edit, research, and rewrite until it was perfect. He told me the entire county was mine to cover. The paper had one other general reporter, Baggy Suggs, a pickled old goat who spent his hours hanging around the courthouse across the street sniffing for gossip and drinking bourbon with a small club of washed-up lawyers too old and too drunk to practice anymore. As I would soon learn, Baggy was too lazy to check sources and dig for anything interesting, and it was not unusual for his front page story to be some dull account of a boundary dispute or a wife beating. Margaret, the secretary, was a fine Christian lady who ran the place, though she was smart enough to allow Spot to think he was the boss. She was in her early fifties and had worked there for twenty years. She was the rock, the anchor, and everything at theTimes revolved around her. Margaret was soft-spoken, almost shy, and from day one was completely intimidated by me because I was from Memphis and had gone to school up North for five years. I was careful not to wear my Ivy Leagueness on my shoulder, but at the same time I wanted these rural Mississippians to know that I had been superbly educated. She and I became gossiping pals, and after a week she confirmed what I already suspected—that Mr. Caudle was indeed crazy, and that the newspaper was indeed in dire financial straits. But, she said, the Caudles have family money! It would be years before I understood this mystery. In Mississippi, family money was not to be confused with wealth. It had nothing to do with cash or other Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, assets. Family money was a status, obtained by someone who was white, somewhat educated beyond high school, born in a large home with a front porch—preferably one surrounded by cotton or soybean fields, although this was not mandatory—and partially reared by a beloved...
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