Mark Twain coined the original phrase, I named this blog after it, but the first time I heard the words, “Ink By the Barrel,” I had just finished a plate of warmed-over baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green peas at the Kiwanis Club of Augusta, Georgia.
Then-Richmond County Sheriff J.B. Dykes was addressing the civic club and I was in the audience, sipping very sweet iced tea, along with lots of other radio and newspaper reporters. As J.B. said to start his speech that day in 1980: “My daddy always told me, ‘Never pick a fight with lawyers, doctors or men who buy ink by the barrel.’ ” In case we didn’t catch his drift, J.B. went on to say, “I see there are a lot of reporters, so I better watch what I say here.”
The Kiwanians loved it and we in the media squirmed. J.B. seemed like a nice guy, but I certainly never wanted to pick a fight with him. Well, as it turns out, he had good reason to keep reporters at arms’ length. A few years later, he was charged with taking bribes to fix warrants for driving under the influence of alcohol. He eventually pleaded guilty to two federal charges of obstructing justiice for firing a secretary and threatening to kill a deputy – both of whom were cooperating with federal agents. The sheriff was sentenced to four years in prison.
I’ve spent more than 25 years in the newspaper business, from editing my high school and college papers, to working for six daily newspapers in the South, to starting my own neighborhood papers in Atlanta in 1994. I eventually sold the papers to Atlanta developer Tom Cousins in 2001 and moved on to the Public Relations business. I’ve run Schroder PR for five years now and a month hasn’t gone by when someone didn’t stop me and mention how much they miss my newspaper and my monthly column. I always say I miss it too and maybe I’ll write a book someday. Of course, I’m too busy with PR client work and not disciplined enough to write that book. The latest was a lawyer in Austin, Texas, named Hamp Skelton, a high school classmate, who wrote me last month: “I miss your column. You should do it as a blog.”
Here I am in PR, urging and selling my clients on writing a blog and I don’t have one. The cobbler’s son has no shoes …
So here it is, the start of my blog, named after what I would have named my book. I knew the minute J.B. Dykes said those words that “Ink By the Barrel” would be the name of my memoir. I’m not sure my life has been that interesting to write a memoir – at least not one people would pay to read. But it certainly rates the name of my blog – and it’s free to you and your friends.
All of my columns from my seven years of publishing neighborhood newspapers are housed here for your – and Hamp’s and all the other fine folks’ who have encouraged me through the years – enjoyment. Today, the phrase still applies … I don’t print a newspaper, buying ink by the barrel to print on newsprint, but my professional team tries each day to get my clients all the “ink” they can.
Today begins my new path of writing – not a book, not a newspaper, not a press release, but a blog. Enjoy, visit often and post your own comments.
And thanks to my lovely bride, Jan Butsch Schroder, a published author who got tired of me complaining about me not following my bliss and engaging my passion – writing. She started this blog, posted my old columns and said, “Here, now start writing.”
Thanks to J.B. Dykes (Sheriff, wherever you are, I hope you’re well) and Mark Twain, too, for the title. Thanks for reading. Stay in touch.