Howdy, from one long-time Texan to a bunch of other Texans. After a year’s hiatus (writing for the local newspaper and considering a wide range of other journalistic endeavors), I have joined the ranks of Julie Elrod, distinguished editor/publisher/founder of The MicroplexNews, an on-line medium beautifully surviving the current national newspaper crisis, thriving with its enthusiastic coverage of Big Country news, and downright astonishing anyone who takes a good look at it and its path to success.
Unique in this part of the country, The MicroplexNews is totally electronic, or online, or digital – whatever description you feel comfortable using. There are no paper issues, or hard copies. So if you want to read this little gem, you’ll have to access a computer and set aside a good hour and a half to scroll through the news, features, sports, education news and classifieds.
Go to MicroplexNews.com. We’re determined to grow, continue live streaming of many of the area’s school sports and other activities, and put a face to the folks in the Microplex – that oil-rich, cattle-populated bite out of northwest Texas between Gordon and Cisco.
I’m going to love working with Julie Elrod. She’s a Texas girl but asserts she moved here for good to bring up the next generation as Eastland natives. I’m a Cisco/Eastland native, and that puts us in the same genre right away. She is undoubtedly the most laid-back publisher I’ve ever met, and a pretty calm editor to boot.
Julie doesn’t charge a subscription fee for her readers to go online, find her most recent edition, and even allows them to put their classified ads in for free. She invites anyone interested in supporting the medium to send in a donation, but it’s the most timid little request for money you’ll ever see.
When I first started talking to Julie about collaboration, I accused her of having a wealthy husband; otherwise how could she afford to casually offer ads (at an impossibly affordable price), free access to the news vehicle, and free classifieds and obituaries to anyone for anything. She laughed out loud, and said Husband Dan Elrod was indeed not rich.
She’s just having fun, if you can call racing around a multi-county area of hundreds of square miles covering every meeting, event, disaster and celebration you can imagine. In a car roughly the size of a Hot Wheels.
At this point in my life, ‘just having fun’ is a magical concept. To be able to write – anything I want, any time I want, on any subject on God’s green earth – is a luxury one can only appreciate after 40 years in the corporate rat race.
I’ve made many clients and their projects stunningly successful, and yet, like many Baby Boomers, find myself required to continue to earn my own livelihood. It’s okay, because that livelihood has always sprung from the written word – my written words. And it is work I truly love. I’ve known since I was about seven what I wanted to do, and believe me that is a profoundly wonderful gift from God.
As far as MicroplexNews is concerned, thank goodness for a demanding editor – she reminded me of her sidekick and inspiration – Warren Martin, the behind-the-scenes technical guru at MicroplexNews. Julie says, ‘”There would be no MicroplexNews.com at all had he not grabbed it up when it was offered and built the whole thing so I’d have some place to put things.”
“He, as I have, learned how to do all this (running WordPress, customizing the theme, doing all the updates, adding all the bells and whistles) through on-the-job training. If something goes wrong with the site, I’m just sunk if he weren’t there to figure out what happened and how to fix it. So…I just request that anytime you want to point a spot light on MicroplexNews, you could mention Warren Martin, the guy behind the scenes that I couldn’t do without.”
Aren’t graciousness and gratitude just the greatest attributes?
Joining work and words
However casual her attitude is toward making this publication a profitable enterprise, Julie Elrod is not casual about the quality of news, information, sports coverage, community activities and other content. She is demanding of herself and her goals, quality-oriented, spelling and grammar centric, and every other characteristic with whom one would hope to join efforts, work and words.
Here’s what you can look forward to reading in West Words and other news and feature chronicles from this writer: occasional news stories looking behind the prosaic facts. For example, we’ve been working on a behind-the-scenes accounting of why the Super Marine Aircraft company hasn’t produced a single airplane kit since its arrival in Cisco more than two years ago. The facts are shocking and will make you want to pick up the phone and call your governor and the Immigration people immediately.
A long and winding road
Another story we’d like to track is the future controversy you can expect when local citizens continue to push for better, smoother streets with their friends and neighbors – the historically-minded – continue to protest the travesty of harming the legendary, old, brick-paved Bankhead Highway.
The Bankhead was the first cross-country interstate highway, pushed through Congress by a visionary senator (Bankhead, of course). The changes it introduced to U.S. commerce, travel, marketing, and…fresh fruit and vegetables! I just happen to live on a section of the Bankhead in Cisco’s western quadrant, and I must agree it could use some serious work. But I would never ever recommend paving over it.
Also, interestingly, the development of the Bankhead ignited the invention of mobile coolers, allowing meat and other perishable products to be shipped.)
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit regarding Sen. Bankhead was his status as uncle to 1930s controversial actress Tallulah Bankhead.
Also look for exploratory research on the WPA, or other branches of the famed workers’ program introduced by President Franklin Roosevelt. “Of all of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) is the most famous, because it affected so many people’s lives,” says television series The American Experience. “Roosevelt’s vision of a work-relief program employed more than 8.5 million people. For an average salary of $41.57 a month, WPA employees built bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports to help the country recover from the Great Depression.” And the infamous devastating Dust Bowl.
Cisco, Eastland and other area communities show visible signs of projects performed by these workers, eager to support their families, regardless of how grinding it must have been to haul a billion tons of native rock. You may be familiar with the old zoo at the now-defunct Cisco Swimming Pool at the lake. Or the rock cabins on the hillsides at the pool. Or the rock benches scattered there. Or the Cisco Cemetery’s grand rock-arched entrance and matching fence. Or perhaps even, out of state, the winding old highway between Ardmore and Oklahoma City, curving around Turner Falls – another major undertaking by those government workers.
Wonder why we couldn’t take some of that supplement funding from the government and hire a huge percentage of the unemployed, put them to work on viable necessities in our nation’s infrastructure, and get rid of several problems with one stroke?
As a child traveling to my grandmother’s home from Cisco to Oklahoma City, I was fascinated by my parents’ comments on vertical strata of rock turned on its side in prehistoric days by enormous glaciers sliding southward, pushing up mountains, carving out valleys and leaving mountains of rocks standing on their sides. Signs along the old highway through the Arbuckle Mountains attribute the construction of the roadway to the Work Progress Administration.
Eastland County’s Germanic heritage
In other articles, look forward to a comprehensive history of the German settlers in this area, hopefully a series of columns written in partnership with members of the local hearty German population. And hopefully evolving into a book published by one of Cisco’s most recent commercial additions – Upper Canyon Road Publishing.
You may expect a series of columns by locals on famed Western artist Randy Steffen and his impact on our small town. So many stories and memories, this too probably will evolve into a book.
And of course, all those old battered subjects – the Santa Claus Robbery, the life-changing Ranger Oil Boom, the current natural gas Shale boom, frac tech and its friends and foes, and the Conrad Hilton connection, not to mention the amazing Wilks family’s contributions to quality of life in Cisco – and much, much more. You may look forward to regular columns from Dr. Duane Hale, Cisco’s resident historian. We plan to take those slightly worn subjects (not you, Dr. D), look a little more closely at the details, and expand your knowledge and mine in the process.
Also watch for the launch of a real estate section, picturing and detailing some of the most interesting properties for sale in the Southwest.
A series of profiles will look into the hearts and heads of locals, and a series of columns written by Microplex folks will provide another insight into your neighbors. Already on the schedule (though some may not have said yes yet!): County Judge Rex Fields, new Cisco Mayor James King, long-time residents and elegant doyennes Ruth Heidenheimer and Mary Austin, Cisco native John Hernandez, Hilton Museum curator John Waggoner, minister/poet/coffee restaurateur Sean Grose, local civic stalwart/retired educator/poet Judy Callarman, Ranger rancher turned Laguna Hotel-owner Russ Davis, Austin Pedicab entrepreneur-turned-Eastland coffee shop maven Randal Ellison, Game Warden Lee Dycus, moose-hunting writer Brian Callarman, former classmate-now-nationally-distributed outdoor furniture executive Jerry Jeffcoat, and many, many others. Perhaps you?
It’s going to be great fun – but I do need your help. Call, write, e-mail and tackle us on the street with your stories, ideas, history, suggestions, critiques, and legends. Stay in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org, 254.442.1533.
P.S. I promise to make future columns much shorter. I just had a lot to say in this inaugural piece.
God bless the Microplex.