by CLINT YONTS
I have been asked a few times how I became a writer. I just tell these inquiring minds, “I didn’t know I was.” Ever since I was a teenager, I enjoyed writing. Not so much English essays and term papers in American History class, but humorous little stories or tall tales. High school teachers claimed I had a flair for writing, but I never really pursued it as a craft. In college, my freshman English teacher was not real appreciative of my unique writing style and graded me accordingly. Instead of taking writing courses as electives, I concentrated on more cerebral subjects like badminton and small engine repair.
Back in my college days, nestled in a dorm shadowed by the Great Smoky Mountains, I would write letters to my folks back home in Memphis. Back then, as some of you older folks might recall, we wrote letters on paper, stuck ’em in envelopes and mailed them to our loved ones. There were no personal computers to send emails or fancy cell phones to type short, impersonal text messages to your mom. In the days of vinyl records and leisure suits, college students had to write letters home with paper and pen.
I wasn’t aware at the time, but once my letters home were read by my folks and siblings, they were forwarded on down to Buda, Texas, for my grandparents to read. Most of my letters were about college life, minus certain events that occurred on Saturday nights in local taverns, or describing the breathtaking beauty of the Smokies in autumn. I might add some commentary on a recent gridiron victory of the Tennessee Volunteers or mention what I carved up in anatomy lab, but often I would write about things I observed from a perch upon a campus hilltop or a window seat in my favorite cafeteria.
After graduation and my eventual return to the Lone Star State, my writing was tucked away in a cluttered closet while I concentrated on making a living and raising a family. My stationery turned yellow, and my pens went to school in my daughters’ backpacks. I simply stopped writing. Then, back in the early ’90s, I was convinced it was time to buy some gadget called a Macintosh computer. Apparently, a home computer was essential for the girls’ education, so I agreed to buy one. Maybe it would come with Solitaire so I can use it when I get really bored.
Over time, our family took the on-ramp and drove onto the Internet Highway. We upgraded and downloaded, booted and burned, even suffered a crash or two. We had entered the 21st century, and I soon discovered the art of emailing. With my two callused index fingers, I found myself typing up letters and “mailing” them to friends and family. Sometimes, after a few cold beverages, I might write up a nonsensical tale and send it to family members just for fun. Then on one winter night, at a family dinner back in 2007, the literary world collided with a rogue asteroid from a galaxy called the Crow’s Nest.
Over a chimichanga and a few Mexican martinis, my uncle, Bob Barton, publisher and head honcho of the Hays Free Press at the time, informed me that he had read all those letters I wrote back in my college days, and he thought I had a real knack for writing. He had also read some of the recent emails that I had written and thought some were fit for publishing. After informing our waitress, “No more drinks for Bob,” I realized he was drinking tea and was dead serious. Bob wanted me to write a column for his newspaper.
I never thought of myself as a writer. Mark Twain was a writer. Hemingway and Steinbeck were writers. Woodward and Bernstein were writers. What I do is pure nonsense. I just get a warped idea and start pecking on a sticky keyboard. My motto has always been: “If you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” If you ask what writers had the most influence on my style of writing, I’d have to say Dave Barry and John Kelso, with some assistance from Jack Daniels and Jose’ Cuervo. I often wondered what Uncle Bob saw in my inscribed insanity that kept appearing in his weekly newspaper. Whatever it was, he would tell me that my stories made him laugh out loud. Every time I saw Bob, his eyes would sparkle and a huge grin would cover his face, and he would tell me how much he loves my writing.
Last week, I lost my biggest fan. Others would tell me how they like my column, but no one would say it with the sincerity and enthusiasm as Bob. Perhaps, he and I shared some mutated gene that allowed us to enjoy warped humor. I suspect other family members possess this gene but repress it to prevent public scandal or incarceration. “A View from the Crow’s Nest” was hatched one November night in 2007 by a man who believed I was a writer. Without his gentle arm-twisting, I doubt I would’ve ventured into writing a newspaper column. So, to all you out there who detest my inanity, or to all y’all who actually like this stuff I write, hey, don’t blame me. It’s Bob’s fault!
Bob Barton is laughing at Clint Younts right now. Now, whether it is with Clint – or at Clint – we don’t really know.