It was purposeful that I took the last couple of weeks off from “What I Know.”

Even though it’s not a job, it rolls around once a week. I have found a temporary break from routine, no matter what the routine might be, to be good for the soul. This one was no exception.

I took time during the break to ponder ideas for future installments, some of which will be about interesting people I know or have come to know. Those are the types of pieces I enjoy writing the most, but because they take the longest and I still have a day job, they are the least frequent.

By doing a little advance work and pacing myself, I have several of these in the hopper and will hopefully be sharing them with you between now and the end of the year. I’m excited about introducing you to a Southeastern Conference referee who lives here in Williamson County and a remarkable young woman who had cancer and walked across the country this summer to celebrate her victory over it and tell others her story – as well as a couple of other folks whose stories will, I believe, inspire you.

When I started writing this column in 2011, after badgering former editor Susan Leathers into letting me do it, I knew it would be a challenge, but a labor of love.

Seven years later, it’s still both. The challenge is not so much in coming up with content, but in carving out the time to write and rewrite so the finished product conveys what I want to say as clearly as possible.

For the most part, I feel that has been accomplished. It has helped to have some productive back-and-forth with some readers who have pointed out flaws in my reasoning or taken issue with something I wrote.

Believe me, I welcome those exchanges. These thoughtful folks have helped me, I hope, to become better at communicating in a clear and succinct fashion.

Which brings me to my column from three weeks ago, the last one before my short sabbatical.

If I have learned anything from writing in this space, it’s that I never know what might hit a nerve. This particular piece, in which I attempted to explain the different elements of news gathering and reporting, and how news differs from editorial comment, garnered perhaps the most emails I have received in response to “What I Know.”

From your comments I learned that many of you are like me, in that you want news reported in an objective fashion. You want to read or listen to a news story and not have an idea of how the conveyor of that news– either the writer or speaker – feels about the facts being communicated.

You respect the lines between news and editorials, and you are fine to read or listen to opinions when they are presented as such.

And there are a handful of you who, also like me, remember the stuffy news reporters of old and you think some of today’s media personalities could learn a thing a two from them. You at times tire of the “all news, all the time” world we live in with cable and Internet.

Most importantly, you have deep respect, as I do, for freedom of the press guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

I always appreciate feedback, and the comments I received from this one were especially gratifying. Thanks to all who took the time to let me hear from you.

Happy 70 years

I have had the privilege of knowing Walter and Billie Marie Thayer, a delightful couple who live in Little Rock, for 36 years.

High school sweethearts, Walter and Billie married in Oklahoma City on September 10, 1948. If you need help with the math, that’s 70 years of marriage they are celebrating.

They moved to Arkansas in the 1960s where Walter enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the Small Business Administration and Billie worked part-time in the purchasing office of a local hospital while raising two daughters.

I married their older daughter in 1984.

Walter and Billie are faithful members of Immanuel Baptist Church, avid bridge players and voracious football fans. Don’t even think of calling or dropping by when the University of Oklahoma is playing on TV. And if Oklahoma happens to lose, give them a few hours to get over it.

As for the bridge playing, we still play for hours on end when we go visit them and they are better players than I’ll ever think of being. (Thankfully, they are very patient with me and still give me pointers, which I sorely need).

They have been stellar grandparents to our three children and their other three grandchildren. Although it saddened them when we moved here from Little Rock in 1997, they never missed a beat, continuing to be involved in our lives. We welcomed their many visits.

They made their last trip here when our daughter married three years ago, but we all continue to visit them, and that includes their two great-grandsons who were born last year.

I could fill this space with countless stories, but I’ll simply tell you it’s been my high honor to be their son-in-law. After all this time, I really feel more like their son.

Today, along with other family members and friends, I send them my very best wishes, with great love and admiration. Boomer Sooner! 

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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