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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


From age 12 until I graduated high school, I was involved in home newspaper delivery of the morning paper, The Augusta Chronicle. My waking hour was 4 am, 7 days a week and 365 days a year unless I was extremely ill, even near death - which incidentally happened only once - or was at camp, then Dad would fill in. A lot of the things I have learned about people and high finance were first observed in the day-to-day operations of that route.

The Newspapers were dropped for us at a group of stores on the corner of Milledge and Broad. Our particular spot was in front of a local 5 and 10-cent store that had a permanent awning that enabled us to keep the papers dry while preparing them for delivery. This preparation varied with the size of the newspaper and involved a certain amount of rudimentary origami - a word we had never heard back then - we just called it "blocking" or "folding" the papers. This was accomplished by folding the paper over and tucking it back into itself to enable it to be tossed into a yard without coming apart, although an occasional one would. The larger papers were simply folded and held that way by a rubber band.

The newspapers always came in bundles with old scrap papers on top and bottom, held together with loops of wire. This wire was attached by machine with the ends tightly wrapped, but with a little practice these could be undone by hand or if the papers were fairly small, they could be bent enough to remove the loop intact.

We always tried to hold down the complaints of the storeowners and keep our prep area on the sidewalk clean. The main things to be disposed of was the scrap paper and the wire. We did this in what we considered a proper manner, by tightly rolling the excess paper, wrapping the wire around this and tossing it on the roof of the five and dime, since we had not a waste bin. Other carriers used this same staging area for the afternoon paper and they were much more careless in their disposal methods, sometimes just tossing loops of wire out into the parking lot.

Sunday morning was always our largest paper and it was quite a task to get the entire bulk of them from the prep area to the first delivery point. This was made even more difficult by a three block long hill between those two locations.

One fateful Sunday morning I had loaded my oversized bicycle basket to capacity, a bag with about the same number of papers was placed on top of that, and another bag full was hung around my neck, and I slowly started to push my bike across the parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness.

Just before reaching the street, my leading foot stepped into an unseen loop of carelessly discarded wire with the trailing foot stepping forward into the same mechanical enclosure. The next step caused this loop to flip up, ensnaring both feet at the ankles, stopping their progress immediately. The continued forward momentum of the bike, without support and balance, caused the whole ensemble to come crashing down, scattering the carefully packed papers over a wide area.

You might say that I was not a happy person for at least a half-hour or so but toughed it out and went on with my deliveries. The Word speaks of gaining patience through tribulation and I believe I gained a small amount that day.


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