81 years of local news

On my desk sits a copy of the Oct. 4, 1930,  edition of the Henderson Daily News, not a copy of the paper but a printed out version of the original.

I daresay an original paper would be far too delicate to handle being shuffled around my desk.

The Oct. 4, 1930, edition represents “Volume 1, Number 1” of our long run as the official paper of record for the city of Henderson and, by extension, the people of Rusk County.

Emblazoned across the top in large “second coming” type, the paper reads: “Joiner’s Wildcat a Gusher!”

“Located on Miller Farm, seven miles west of Henderson, announced as Rusk County’s first producing oil well — estimated at 5,000 barrels,” the story continues.

The reporter, who is not named in a byline, writes that overnight the “staid old town of Henderson” (his words, not mine!) had become a fast-growing seat of the state’s newest oil field. My own hometown of Overton went from 400 or so farmers and ranchers spread out around the railroad to nearly 4,000 roughnecks and merchants.

I keep a copy of this first edition on my desk, within arm’s reach at all times. For one, I just think it’s neat. I’m something of a historical buff, and I like artifacts of local lore and history. But the main reason I keep it handy is that it keeps me grounded in what I’m doing and just what my place is at this newspaper.

No matter how lofty my sense of accomplishment or invaluable I might delude myself into thinking I am, a quick glance at this printout reminds me that this newspaper was churning out local news on a daily basis for nearly 50 years before I was even born. Yea and amen, the Daily News somehow managed to cover the greater Rusk County area, well before I came here and, as such, should have no difficulty doing so well after I have shuffled off this mortal coil.

A little humility can go a long way.

I imagine few of us would be here were it not for what happened on that fateful October day on Ms. Daisy’s farm. For, a cursory study into the circumstances of those days reveals that “Dad” Joiner and “Doc” Lloyd were on the verge of going belly-up chasing their dream of finding an ocean of oil underneath the bucolic Rusk County pineywoods.

Despite repeated difficulties caused by financial and personal obstacles, these two men led a small but hardy group of believers who shared the vision. Overcoming the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune to reveal the mighty East Texas Oil Field that had remained hidden, literally, right under everybody’s noses.

There’s a lesson in this, a lesson of perseverance and of knowing from where we have come in order to better set a course for where we need to go.

For me, keeping a copy of the first edition of the Henderson Daily News reminds me that I’m part of something larger than just a 9-to-5 “punch the clock” job that helps pay my bills. That this newspaper was there at the most important thing to ever happen in Rusk County, and that part of our calling is to be there for anything and everything important to the people of this community in the days yet to come.

Eighty-one years is a long time to be putting out a daily newspaper, I know plenty of others have come and gone since a certain Saturday morning in October 1930, but we’re still here.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’re going to be here for 81 more years, and for whatever comes after.

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