Eric Walker

Everyone has a milestone, something to designate an important point in his or her life. The Mayfield Messenger is undoubtedly one for me.

But you don’t just mark a milestone and stop. You continue on with the knowledge that here is a fixed point along my journey that is forever marked as a special place to look back and say “I’ve been there. And now I’m here.”

Tuesday was my final day as editor at The Mayfield Messenger. Today, I start down a new path working with the Graves County and Mayfield school districts. It is an exciting time and an exciting opportunity. But I cannot move ahead without acknowledging where I have been.

It was 30 years ago this month I drove through Mayfield to check out my new home. I was coming to work as a staff writer here. Looking at potential apartments to rent, I remember my father drove by what’s now CFSB War Memorial Stadium and said “the coldest night of my life was spent there” when he covered a Madisonville-North Hopkins game against the Cardinals with snow piled up like dugouts along the sideline.

Months earlier, I had been asked by then-sports editor Kevin Patton if I, a senior journalism major at Murray State, could help cover a Graves County girls’ district basketball game in Ballard County. Little did I know it would be the first of numerous treks to “The Green Palace” in my career.

That opportunity opened the door to this newspaper and this community. My world growing up to that point consisted of Hopkins County, Christian County, Muhlenberg County and Calloway County. Graves County and Mayfield were uncharted territory to me. But I fell in love with the people in the newsroom at the former building on Eighth Street — Mike Turley, Jim Abernathy, Julie Agnew Thomas — with its old box TV set on CNN, police scanner crackling in the background, and smells of paper, ink and photo chemicals.

By November, I had accepted a job here and was covering whatever I was assigned: airport board meetings, photographing car wrecks, Chamber ribbon cuttings and odd-looking vegetables grown in people’s gardens, football and my first state championship in 1993. But more importantly I got to meet people like Lon Carter Barton, Dan Matthews, Charlie Johnson, John Davis, Vince Dawson, Josh McCoy, “Stat Man,” “Savage” and countless others.

The most important person I met here was my wife, Jennifer. We actually met at the front counter of the old Messenger building. I also became a dad while working as sports editor here and started more than a few early mornings taking basketball scores over the phone while Wyatt slept in his car seat on my desk before taking him to Ms. Sue’s.

My ambition drew me away a couple of times but I have been fortunate enough to come back. Thankfully I’m not leaving town, but the newspaper industry has changed a lot since my first day at the office and I’m now moving into something new.

Today, I am reading this column likely the same as you, as a subscriber to the local paper. Maybe these words bring back some memories of your own of how things were once. Still, I am more than grateful for those times and more than grateful I was able to be part of it.

My time at The Mayfield Messenger may be done, but I’m so glad I can look back on this personal milestone and say “I’ve been there.”