By Ray Sullivan
Growing up in Pueblo, Colo., I’d come home from school in the 1950s and ’60s, I’d do my chores and homework, then read an escapism western or sports story in a library book I’d checked out the Saturday before.
I’d sprawl on the floor in front of the small black-and-white television and plug my ears with tucked up fingers to block out the sounds of my seven siblings. Then I would drown in the world of the images the words created in my mind’s eye.
Oh, I’d watch a bit of the hometown TV station’s kid show, but mostly I’d escape into the story at hand.
A book is where I first experienced the power of words strung together the right way. The comic strips of the Pueblo Star-Journal reinforced that belief. By seventh grade I knew I would be a storyteller.
I’ve had the good fortune and privilege to follow that meandering path through five states — Colorado and California, Idaho and Ohio, and now New Mexico. I quit twice, once for a brief Peace Corps stint and once from burnout — no balance between work and play and prayer. But the draw of ink rubbing off on my fingers was too powerful to ignore.
When I became an editor for the first time in Idaho in the late 1970s, my goal was the same as it is today: Produce a strong community news report. Be prepared to do it unflinchingly because newspapers that do things right are attacked when they don’t buckle under pressure to print only the truth as interpreted by one faction.
Some days we do that pretty well. Other days, well, not so much. Most importantly, we never give up. We strive always to produce the daily miracle of newspapers. Now we do so in print and online.
We’ve always been guided and supported by our readers. Recently, our latest report of the tumbleweed barrage was far better because of the public’s stories and photos, and they did so again last week with dozens of dust-storm photos we posted online.
Now that I’m 66 and a retiree of two days, I can say my career has been as rewarding here in what I call “The Flat Windy” as it was when words captured me back in junior high.
My wife of nearly 31 years, Bev, our cats and I drove here in late 2000 from Ohio, for my opportunity to become a publisher. Fulfilling that challenge has enriched and educated us far more than we expected.
This region grew on us quickly. Walking in the early mornings, my soul was filled with the breathtaking beauty of a full moon setting in the west as the bright sun peeked over the eastern horizon.
A trip to the Billy the Kid graveyard in Fort Sumner and its more somber partner, the Bosque Redondo Memorial, spoke volumes about our rich, sometimes shameful history in America’s hardscrabble west.
Tucumcari’s Route 66 remains remind us all that we had best find ways to strengthen our roots while seeking new opportunities. Portales’ vibrant town square and nearby university campus mirrors the success of that message.
In Clovis, our sounds started more than a century ago when the first shrill train whistle scared a plow horse. The notes soon were enriched by the roar of propeller-driven engines on those new-fangled aeroplanes landing and taking off at Portair Field. Today, of course, that’s Cannon Air Force Base, which keeps the sound of freedom alive with its fiercely dedicated special operations airmen and civilians.
Our love of music arose in our first schools and churches and that morphed into the Clovis Sound out on West Seventh in the 1950s. We celebrate that sound today at the annual Clovis Music Festival.
And don’t forget the musical sound of water. This life-giving, scarce commodity offers a healing sound as it nurtures our farm fields and parks. We can’t lose that sound, people. We are in the west so of course we fight over water. But we best not fight each other so hard our neighbors take our liquid gold.
My final sound, though, is heard throughout our Clovis Media buildings each day as our good people take care of your needs. They do it well and our business is as vibrant today as ever. We were blessed with new owners 25 months ago when Gary and Sue Stevenson and Garry Ellis bought the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun from Freedom Communications. They restored balance out of what had eroded into a corporate labyrinth that made good newspapering difficult. They let us do our jobs. It is a gift I will take to my grave.
In Clovis the music culminates six nights a week when we turn on our presses. I love the expanding reach of the Internet, but when the motors on the only newspaper presses within 90 miles rev up, I feel the goose bumps of freedom arising.
It is that sound I will miss as much as the tunes played by our eastern New Mexico winds.