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February 11, 2015

No ‘Stretchers’ Please

Harry M. Covert

My friend and colleague Roy Meachum is experiencing some physical ailments these days. While we have more often than not disagreed on political matters, we remain on top of the news.


One of my favorite stories of Roy, whom everybody in the newspaper business in Frederick knows quite well, involves his relationships with the incumbent sheriff and the former president of the Board of Commissioners.


We always enjoy talking about news gathering, characters in an out of world affairs, and various characteristics.


It is truly fun to be friends with someone who is a nice guy and who shares opposing views. It doesn’t bother him a whit to be considered a curmudgeon. I like it, too, if my mood is in proper working order. And, at present, I can always laugh and know I’m having fun.


A few months back, before the great Election Day, I ragged him for not choosing the incumbent sheriff, who I like to describe as Sheriff-for-life. Finally he admitted being ticketed by a deputy years ago for a little speeding. Roy lost his driver’s license for a short while. He grinned a bit about this. I admitted that I once was riding back to Frederick on Interstate 270. To my utter sinful driving, a kindly State Trooper slipped up behind me. Immediately I pulled to the side of the road put the window down, hands on the wheel. I presented my license, registration card and thanked the most courteous officer.


I couldn’t believe it. The trooper thought he nailed me for about 80 MPH. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” Knowing that most people would never tell a stretcher, especially to the law, I smiled as broad as I could, “I’m late for a meeting with the sheriff.”


In this case, I knew I was doomed. Mr. Trooper walked back to his sedan, lights still blinking and then sidled up to my car. Well, since you have told the truth, please slow down and watch what you’re doing. I’ll let you go this time. Tell the sheriff hello.”


Roy laughed. Of course, he figured I wasn’t telling a complete truth. I panicked a bit and drove properly, fearing the trooper had called in to check my tale. Thankfully, the sheriff didn’t know a thing about my speeding. I’ve never admitted to such a thing. It happened – and this isn’t a “Brian Williams” moment.


Roy has always enjoyed good writing and storytelling.


Now our other colleague, the Honorable Blaine Young, often received some harsh commentary from Roy. Actually, Roy holds him in high regard even though Roy’s political persuasion varies a great deal. The big deal is the former Frederick president isn’t an old-time Democrat.


I’ve enjoyed fun times talking about today’s reporters, columnists and authors. One of the best, I told him, is Maureen Dowd. She started her career as a Washington Star sports writer. Today she’s a stalwart on The New York Times opinion page and is probably the best there. Come to find out, he has known Ms. Dowd and has been a regular correspondent for years.


When The Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee was near death, Roy knew him professionally and as friends. I urged him to write anecdotal stuff before Editor Bradlee succumbed. They were good tales and true.


Obviously Roy enjoys Louisiana history and stories. We have shared them. I’m jealous. He knew the late Lyndon B. Johnson. He was instrumental in CBS Broadcast House in Washington where Roy was part of Channel 9, then WTOP and now WUSA.


I have always enjoyed listening to Roy’s stories. One day we were talking politics of day’s long gone. I said I never cared a thing about that Wisconsin gas bag Joe McCarthy. At this time I had not been privy to Roy’s autobiography. Let me say here and now, Roy’s autobiography is worth taking time to read.


His residences have changed recently. He has written a novel about Joe McCarthy. It is a fun read and I think worthy of publication. Senator McCarthy maligned a great man, General George Marshall.


There are lots more good ones about Roy Meachum. These are a lot better than some of the goofy personages we read.


Oh, yes, Roy is a reader and of the smart people. I used to “borrow” a few quotes from Baltimore’s H. L. Mencken in our emails. I discovered quickly he knew them from memory.


“A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”


One day soon Roy and I are going to compile our own.



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