A newspaper reporter gets to write the first draft of a community's history.
For the past two years, that privilege has been mine in Mayfield and Graves County, and oh what stories you have shared with me.
I've been at the scene of a shooting where the suspect hadn't been caught yet, wondering if he was nearby. I've sat at the county clerk's office on election night, watching candidates' faces light up or fall as the night wore on, and then had to talk to both the winners and losers. I have talked to CEOs of major corporations, veterans, breast cancer survivors, ghost hunters, champion cheerleaders and -- still my favorite -- one man who built his own casket out of a grand piano.
I wasn't sure what to expect after five years outside of journalism when you welcomed me in July 2017. I stood out right away as that woman chugging down Diet Mountain Dew when the rest of you were popping the top on a Sun Drop. A few people asked me where I went to high school, where I went to church and if I had been to a football game yet. I quickly learned these were some of the community's biggest priorities.
Not one to be called a carpetbagger, I quickly vowed that even though my family and I weren't changing our home address to Graves County, we would go home only to sleep and do everything else here. I switched our pharmacy to CVS and started doing my grocery shopping at Save-a-Lot. I spent a lot of Friday afternoons walking around the courthouse, City Hall or, on a nice day, seeing what people were doing at one of the parks.
Some of the best story tips I got were while out with my family at one of Mayfield's many restaurants or taking in an event like Glory Days, Gourd Fest, the annual rodeo or the county fair.
I got back into journalism because I missed it terribly and because my son Drew, then 7, was finally old enough to understand when Mama was working late that it was because I was doing something I believed in, and that was important. Sometimes he even got to come along for the ride. He eventually learned to catch quickly when I said "Hold this," as I shoved my notebook in his direction so I could have my hands free to take a photo.
As he came along with me most Saturdays, you helped me teach him about the value of work as well as treating people the way he wants to be treated. My husband, Paul, always the quiet one, couldn't believe how quickly people opened up to us all.
Our lives are about to change again, though. I've been offered and have accepted a job writing for a trade publication in Paducah, and today is my last day. I hope to continue my recipe column once a month, and I'm sure I'll run into many of you here and there, but I won't be spending as much time in Graves County.
And so I find myself needing to say goodbye and not knowing how. (Some of you will no doubt be stunned at me having a loss for words.) You see, somehow you have not only become the people on "my beat" but also my friends in so many cases.
Inside this building, it's even more than that. The people who started out as coworkers became a second family along the way. I'm going to miss Mary Ellen's always upbeat energy, Amy knowing exactly who I need to talk to for a story, Mike guiding me down backroads I would never find on my own to get me where I need to go and Eric seeming to be everywhere at once, and doing it all well.
Thank you for letting me tell your stories. Thank you for accepting me and my family. Thank you for letting me write Mayfield and Graves County's first draft of history.
Old-time journalists, in the era of typewriters instead of computers, used to end their stories with a certain two digits, arranged between dashes, so those laying out the copy in hot metal type would know they have reached the end of the story. I, too, have reached the end of my story as a reporter for The Mayfield Messenger. So, I have decided I won't say goodbye. Only, …