A long time ago, at a newspaper far, far away, I wrote my first humor column. Back then, I didn’t make fun of myself, like I do now. Instead, I made fun of celebrities and movies and TV shows. Most famously, I once made fun of a big purple dinosaur.

IN THE 20 years I spent as a sports writer for this newspaper, one of my favorite places was Auburn, The Loveliest Village on The Plains. Knowing and visiting with Auburn’s football coach, the late Ralph “Shug” Jordan, is one of my forever soft memories.

North Carolina is a state that holds special meaning for me. I met and married my fabulous wife, Josephine, there 56 years ago. We have a house in the mountain-west third of the state, and my career and the civil rights movement began there simultaneously.

As I begin my 58th year in this fascinating and rewarding craft of journalism, I beg your indulgence on remarks that are personal as well as notes from the continuing story of America.

Taking the whole family to a University of Alabama football game has long been on my husband’s bucket list. And so, on a glorious Saturday in October, I found myself trailing behind my husband and two kids up the entrance ramp to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

We had stopped for gas at the small, north Georgia town of Greensboro. A headline on page 4 of the local weekly, The Herald-Journal, caught my eye, “Story About Horace The Mule.”

“Surreal” was the word of 2016, according to the fine folks at Mirriam-Webster. The Oxford dictionary was in the same ballpark, deciding “post-truth” was the 2016 winner, with “woke” and “alt-right” also in the running.