Well, it’s been a few weeks since I stepped into the role of editor here at the West Side Index and the Gustine Standard and it’s probably high time that I tell you a little about myself.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found my calling. I have known friends who over the years have tried one career path and then another, looking for something that fit them. From a really young age I knew I wanted to be a writer. In fact, I’ll admit something embarrassing here and dating myself; the very first story I ever wrote was around the age of seven or eight and it was a piece of fan fiction (I don’t think that term existed then) that saw the characters of “The Love Boat” (yes, “The Love Boat”) visiting an old West town. I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

My first foray into newspaper writing was with the Panther Press at Modesto High School. It was there that I learned some of the fundamentals and principles of journalism that I still use on a daily basis. It also was then that I realized journalism was the avenue I needed to take to become a writer. Good thing too, because I don’t think writing “The Love Boat” fan fiction would have kept the lights on.

All through my educational path I would join the newspaper staff and continue to hone my craft. I graduated Stanislaus State and began my professional career with the Turlock Journal.

Over the years I have written about the triumphs and tragedies, the heels and heroes of the Central Valley and I have never lost the passion for telling stories.

Through my education there was one particular lesson that has really resonated with me over the years and is one I try to put into practice. The gist of the lesson was a reporter was sent out to interview a farmer who had called the newspaper to say there had been an unusual livestock birth on the farm. When the reporter went out there, he found the farmer cradling the newborn in his hands and he asked all the obligatory questions, like who what, when, where, why and how. He went back to the newspaper and wrote up the little piece. It wasn’t until after publication that the reporter realized the real story was the farmer’s hands and why was this so special to him and not merely what was in it.

Over the years I have tried to keep that lesson in mind when I am entrusted to tell the stories of others. What do they have in their hands and why is it important to them?

In that vein, I want to take a moment to talk about the West Side Theatre, which is in the very capable hands of Farris and Dave Larson. I got to meet this couple last week for a story about the re-opening of the theatre. It is so evident that they are devoted to keeping this gem thriving in Newman and have put in so much time and labor to keep it operational, even weathering the pandemic. Farris took me on a tour of the theatre, pointing out how many layers of paint she applied to create that marble-like looking floor, or the work Dave did make sure the sound coming off the stage didn’t echo off the walls. It’s invigorating to hear someone speak about something that is so beloved.

I got to see the result of that devotion when they invited me to the Johnny Cash tribute show by James Garner. It was a fantastic time and I am not just saying that because I am starved for live entertainment. Garner has the sounds, the mannerisms and the looks of the iconic country singer down pat and his amiable presence on stage easily draws the audience in. It felt so good to see people tapping their toes, clapping their hands and when the urge was too great to resist, getting up to dance. I interviewed Garner ages ago, but it wasn’t until seeing his show on Saturday that I fully realized what a great performer he is and how he has carefully handled the life and music of Cash in his show.

I am enjoying the times I get to explore the Newman and Gustine communities and I look forward to telling the stories of the people who call this home and learning what they hold in their hands.