|By Tony Russell|
In saying goodbye to the Hur Herald, it feels as if I'm delivering a eulogy for an era that has ended and for a friend that has passed on. Bob, Dianne, and a few faithful friends created something unique with the Herald: an ongoing chronicle of daily living in an out-of-the-way portion of a neglected state at the turn of the 21st century.
What is still startling is that people from all over the country began to read it, amazed to discover that a place like Calhoun County still exists.
It isn't the hoked up, media-America's version of West Virginia-- the Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, L'il Abner stereotypes--but the real thing.
A county where many people still live on their "homeplace," and relatives who moved away to make a living still come back for holidays, family reunions, and deer season. Where most people know each other, and often know each other's families back several generations.
Where people will drive fifty or sixty miles a day to a job, rather than pull up roots. Where spring gobbler season still matters.
Where a neighbor will disc an elderly couple's garden in the spring, or will hitch a chain to your car and pull you out of a ditch.
The tone of the Herald has consistently kept its good-humor, but it hasn't wallowed in nostalgia.
It has been as clear-eyed about our troubles and foibles as about our triumphs and virtues.
This may be a place where the ultimate compliment one man will pay another is still to say that he works like a brute, but jobs are harder and harder to come by.
The school system struggles to stay afloat, and meth addiction has become a rural version of the plague.
The Herald has been faithful not just to the "big news" but also to the meaningful minutia of our surroundings--the strayed and abandoned pets, the history of overgrown cemeteries, the new books on the library's shelves.
A character in a novel I just finished reading says, "The way you spend your days adds up to your life."
Bob, Dianne, and company have showed us and the rest of the world how we spend our days, and in doing that, have unwittingly created a detailed historical record of ordinary people's lives, something in its own way as true and timeless as Walker Evans' photographs and James Agee's prose in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Bless them backwards and forwards. I will miss the Herald more than I can say.