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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014
It wasn't a game. It was war.
Posted Wednesday, April 4, at 4:39 PM
Last weekend (March 31), while you were looking at seed catalogs or watching the hunting channel or listening to Cardinals baseball, the most important basketball game ever was going on in New Orleans. No, I'm not talking about the NCAA basketball championship game. Because of my press deadline, that Monday night game hasn't even been played. And, anyway, who cares?...

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The Farmer's Market seed is planted -- will it grow in Fulton County?
Posted Tuesday, March 27, at 11:10 AM

While she was out of town when it ran, Areawide Media Editor Niki De Soto wrote an editorial page column for our Feb. 29 papers -- and I was a little worried. The County Extension Service had scheduled a Feb. 22 meeting to see if residents were interested in helping start a Fulton County Farmer's Market. Niki's column offered her support for the farmer's market idea and, being an optimist, she even promised to be one of the first customers when the market began operation...

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The USDA asked for comments - but did it really listen?
Posted Friday, February 24, at 8:30 AM

On Feb. 10, farmers and community leaders filled up courtrooms in Fulton and Izard Counties to argue that their Farm Service Agencies should remain open. They are among 10 Arkansas FSA offices listed for closure, as the USDA tries to cut its budget by $150 million...

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They're playing my song
Posted Thursday, February 2, at 8:35 AM

I have been a news reporter for 40 years, but am a lifelong music fan. My first memory of music was as a tiny kid, as I recognized something strange in my house. A weird, uneasy feeling that I came to realize was this black round thing that my mother kept picking up and turning over (a vinyl record for those born in the CD and MP3 ages)...

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Old attitudes could hurt efforts to save the Fulton County Hospital
Posted Tuesday, December 27, at 11:35 AM

The weeks before Christmas and New Years are usually slow news-wise, as people concentrate on Christmas parties and shopping and take vacation days. So, I had intended to write a column about the joys of the season. But the Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors was on the job last week, and there was new drama in the continuing struggle to stabilize the hospital...

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Bobby Petrino, all is forgiven
Posted Monday, November 28, at 3:36 PM

I am using my monthly editorial column space to make a public announcement: Bobby Petrino, all is forgiven. When I moved to Arkansas two years ago, it would have been easy for me to become an instant Razorback's fanatic. After all, I had always followed the Hogs, and usually rooted for them, since I had family here and visited often...

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A Veteran's story told...after 93 years
Posted Wednesday, November 9, at 8:56 AM

William Strauss, who lives south of Salem, is my favorite World War II veteran. I can hear him laughing at that, and say that is not much of a compliment, since there are not many World War II vets left to choose from. Strauss, who is 92, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last major offensive; a battle which raged for 40-days and took 19,000 American lives...

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Its Time to Lock Up A Decision on a New Jail
Posted Wednesday, October 26, at 12:20 PM

"Why can't we just give them baloney sandwiches?" said a Justice of the Peace to no one in particular, as he looked at the jail's food budget at a recent meeting. "The state can't shut down our jail, as long as we're trying to build a new one," said one citizen...

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Little People Paying for Big Postal Service Problems
Posted Wednesday, October 5, at 8:50 AM

"Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds." It just shows you how bad things are when the one thing we could always depend on, the mail service, is staggering and heading for a big fall. It is often easy for us to think, hidden up here in the Ozark hills, that we are insulated from a lot of the national economic turmoil, but we are feeling the U. S. Postal Service problems big time. Ten rural post offices in our area are on closure lists...

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To Tape or Not to Tape: Fulton County Quorum Court Got It Wrong
Posted Wednesday, August 31, at 8:45 AM

On Sunday, Aug. 14, Fulton County made news all over the state when the Arkansas Democrat Gazette featured an article about our Quorum Court's decision not to allow its meetings to be videotaped by the news media or individuals. I posted The News story about the vote on the Write for Arkansas web site, which attracts readers from all over the country...

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Grif Stockley: Arkansas Woody Allen
Posted Thursday, August 4, at 8:26 AM

I went to a convention recently, the Arkansas Press Association Superconvention, and actually went to most of the sessions, instead of goofing around in Hot Springs. Well, I admit I did take a couple of Hot Springs detours, but I didn't stiff the company too bad...

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"Good story" idea really was...
Posted Tuesday, July 5, at 10:59 AM

I'm working at my desk when the phone rings. "Do you want a good news story?" the voice on the other end asks. "That's what I'm here for," I replied. "Well, I live in Union, Arkansas, where that little tornado hit (in mid-May)," said the man, who identified himself as Robert Foster...

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Looking for a Sign at City Hall
Posted Thursday, May 26, at 8:44 AM

Once, years ago, when I was visiting my parents, I went inside to buy an "Arkansas, The Natural State" T-shirt. There has long been a small, green state highway sign outside the building that says "Tourist Information." Later, after my parents bought a house in town, I knew it housed the Water Company, since that is where I dropped payments off...

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LeRoy "Tuck" Tucker: Lifelong storyteller puts some tales on paper
Posted Wednesday, May 11, at 10:07 AM

"I was born, I'm a Fulton County, Sharp County person. I graduated from Ash Flat High School. Sort of. I was an awful student..." One question from me ('where were you born?') and LeRoy "Tuck" Tucker is off and running. Interviewing a man with a low, mesmerizing southern voice that rumbles up from deep within and erupts with a torrent of words, pouring out and mixing up and eventually making a point, is easy work, if you're a good listener...

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Lowell Ozbirn: Cows and pigs in the street and the wonders of ice and electricity.
Posted Tuesday, April 5, at 10:13 AM

I recently posted an interview with 97-year-old Lowell Ozbirn, a lifelong Fulton County resident, whose earliest memories go back to 1919. I've gotten a great response to Lowell's memories. People love to hear about how "the big city" of Salem developed and how people survived out in the country with no electricity, much less toilets, hot water, telephones or television. Here is part two of our interview:...

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Lowell Ozbirn has seen a lot in 97 years and remembers it all.
Posted Thursday, March 17, at 1:10 PM

While I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, a moderate sized city, I loved to come to Salem as a kid to spend summers in the country with my grandparents, Dick and Vera Trevathan. They lived out Highway 395 at the low water bridge on Walking Stick Road, except there was a swinging bridge over the water and, since the vehicle bridge had not been built yet, people had to across the river at what my grandfather called "the rocky ford." My brother, Rob, and I spent a lot of time fishing and swimming on the South Fork and tromping around my grandfather's land, messing with the cows and trying to repair his decrepit fences.. ...

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Huckabee's No Paul Harvey
Posted Tuesday, February 22, at 9:29 AM

"Hello, Americans...Stand by for News!" For more than 40 years, millions of listeners heard that greeting and listened intently as Paul Harvey began his daily "News and Comment" radio broadcasts. Harvey's distinctive voice and writing style, those dramatic pauses and his ability to mix news of the day and news of the weird made his broadcasts a constant hit, no matter how tastes changed and other media types went in and out of style over the decades...

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True Grit? Really????
Posted Friday, January 21, at 8:59 AM

For years, I have surprised people who have asked me what my favorite movie is. I always answer, "True Grit." Serious movie buffs always squint their eyes and stare at me to try to judge if I'm joking. With True Grit back on the radar with the new version by the quirky Cohen Brothers, maybe people will realize my choice isn't as weird as it sounded and, maybe, they'll check out the 1969 original with John Wayne, Kim Darby and Glen Campbell and realize the original is just as good, if not better, than the new one.. ...

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No More Treats. Please!!!!!
Posted Thursday, December 30, at 12:05 PM

I really enjoyed the holiday season but I can barely express how happy I am it is over! I have decided, as much fun as it offered, the days before Christmas and up to New Years are hazardous to our (or at least my) health. At work, treats started showing up in the kitchen early in the month and day. ...

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A Demolition Derby at Salem High
Posted Wednesday, November 3, at 3:29 PM

When my fellow reporter, Niki de Soto, asked if I could swing by Salem High School the other day to shoot some photos, I was glad to do it. But, I'll admit, the event I was covering didn't sound too exciting. Niki said the fire department was going to haul a wrecked car over to the school and do a presentation on the importance of safe driving. ...

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Stranger No More
Richard Irby
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I used to call this blog "Stranger In Town" but time goes by quickly. After a year in these parts, I realize people will still say, 'he's from off' but I now proudly claim I am a "Stranger No More"! After a lifetime in living in big cities, small town life has produced surprises, good and bad but, after more than a year, I love it (most of the time!). I promise to keep on writing about stuff that interests me and things I think of to complain about. I hope you will continue to check in occasionally to read and comment.