Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rheta's (re)tired, and I don't feel so good myself

I got the news last Wednesday morning, and I didn't know what to do.

Then it hit me: herd some words, you wannabe scribbler.

So I did.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson, scribe of the super sort, has retired. Kinda.

She's giving up the grind of a weekly column. Thirty-plus years of it, 40-plus years in newspapers, Rheta has earned some rest.

But, oh, I'm so glad we had this time together. (ear tug)

She was a teacher before she was told.

She's a storyteller, paints word pictures like a poet. She can craft a sentence that would make Raymond Chandler as envious as a carpenter bee in a coppice.

And she has good taste in music.

I wrote her a letter when her second husband, Don Grierson, died. A couple of book signings and what seems like a lifetime later, she has become a friend with whom I correspond when I can.

What intrigued me was not the features on the famous and infamous, but, as she put it in her goodbye piece, profiles of "unmined jewels in plain sight." I filed that away.

It reminded me of a Charles Kuralt quote.

"It does no harm to acknowledge that the whole world isn't in flames, that there are people in this country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals."

Indeed.

I'll never forget my foray to Fishtrap Hollow. On that porch, that perfect porch, sat Hines Hall -- retired history professor and a darn good raconteur himself -- and Hank Williams albums, dogs that didn't bark, and, in time, some of the characters from her columns.

Steve Haffly will forever be a favorite, because of this tale about two women and -- well, go buy the book. Give me a day or so, and I'll remember which one. Rheta's (re)tired, and I don't feel so good myself. 

I was asked to visit when I was seeking solace, and you don't forget such things. Marvelous memories survive among my souvenirs.

This isn't a goodbye. Rheta says she will still be writing. I would've expected no less. She never missed a deadline. God knows I can't say that, but I admire the hell out of it. Work ethic, it's called -- a dying breed, along with kindness, critical thinking, and common sense.

So, I'll not say so long, have no maudlin moment, croon no Cole Porter classics. Instead, I'll use a phrase I think she'd appreciate.

Au revoir, mon ami.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chuck said...

Nice tribute, Jake. Rheta sounds like someone we'd all like to know.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Thanks much, Chuck. You'd like her a lot.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Jim Childs said...

Nicely said. I'll miss her column. -Jim

7:41 AM  

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