Writing, reading, proofing . . .


IF THAT LINE has you confused, hang around. It’s going to get worse.

What ticked that one off was reading a recent column after it was printed and delivered to your Anniston Star box.

If nothing else, since I first wrote a column on walking with Moses through the parting of the Red Sea, I’ve learned that you are your own worst proofreader.

In putting together one of my classic essays, I’ll read said classic essay at least five times, often more. After finally deciding it is perfect if not classic, I send it to The Star. It is there that at least two editors will also read the not-so-classic “thing.”

Now go to Wednesday morning a week or so back. I open The Star’s website, click on the e-edition, and move to the Region front where the none-classic resides on Wednesday and Sunday mornings.

I do so with a knot in my stomach ‘cause I know there will be two or three or four errors that got by my “proofing. The errors, even before I get past the first two graphs, double the knot in my stomach.

A last hope is the print edition in the Star box at the end of the driveway. The hope is the boo-boos that are absolutely my fault did not make it in the printed edition.

But I’m in no hurry to find out. Finally, the next day, I down a half bottle of Pepto-Bismol, walk to the end of the drive, head back to the house. My boo-boos are in print . . . forever . . . or until the newspaper finds it’s way to the bottom of a bird cage.

What I really need is a barf bag you need for air-sickness.

Now, just how confused are you?

I’m not going to help you, but I’d guess there’s several boo-boos in the deal you are reading this morning.

From there, an honest confession is English was not my strong point in high school. My strong point was flirting with the English teachers, especially the really older ones. That got me a C-plus most times. All A’s in history (which I loved and still do) got me to graduation night.

That story continued through a couple of years  at Jax State.

But the real hero in my journalistic life was a skinny little hump-shouldered teletype (we’re in the days of hot lead) operator by the name of Marvin Holloway. Marvin, God rest his soul, had a disposition that would make a pit bull look like Billy Graham.

Say “Good Morning” to Marvin and you’d get a snarling “What the bleep’s good about it?”

Anyway, to cut to the chase, on my third day as sports editor of The Star I’m sitting at my desk when my copy for the day drops in front of me. It had more red marks than you’ll find in bankruptcy court.

I look up . . . Marvin snarls:

“You dumb sum b__!”

My first inclination was to bust his chops, but fear of getting fired and then charged with murder held my hand. By the end of that first week, it finally got through my noggin that Marvin Holloway was helping me . . . a bunch.

We became good friends and after he retired to a basement apartment in his son’s home, I’d often visit. And walking in the door, I got the same

“You dumb sum b__!”

Marvin left this world a long time ago, but a couple of other things:

1. This little essay is not what was intended when I started. That’s not unusual. Ranks right there with lousy “ proofing.”

2. While I would probably still hang out in the C-plus class, I learned more English from Marvin Holloway than I did in school.

I often think of Marvin and am grateful to be the “dumb sum b__!” he first called me. Which, incidentally, were the first words he ever spoke to me.

Thank you, Marvin . . . rest in peace . . . and I wish you had been here this morning when . . .


George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: gsmith731@gmail.com