Small town newspapers were the keepers of secrets, and I wanted to know them all.


















I am beginning a new serial today, Deadline News. It’s all about the greed, the jealousies, the rumors, the gossip, and the backstabbing that takes place in small town America. There’s even a murder or two.

It could be set in any small town.

All small towns are alike.

I know.

I’ve lived in them.

I love them.

I was once sitting in a back corner of Hay’s Café, drinking an early morning cup of coffee, and one wizened old man sat back, blotted the coffee from his mustache with a handkerchief, pulled his gimme cap down over his eyes, and said: “God made all of mankind.”

The rest of us nodded in agreement.

“God made this beautiful land we’re living on,” he said, “and God made the animals running loose in the woods and the birds sitting in the trees.”

Nobody could argue with anything he was talking about.

“God did real good,” he said.

He shrugged.

“But there’s one thing God was never able to do.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Only the devil can make a little town,” he said.

“Amen,” the sheriff said.

And he knew best.

url-1During my growing up years, all I ever wanted to do was work on a small town newspaper. It was, I thought, the most glamorous job in the world.

Of course, I came from Pitner’s Junction.

Glamour had never been in style in Pitner’s Junction.

So I went to college. I studied journalism.

The smart kids in my class were majoring in advertising and public relations.

But, no, I had my eyes set on a small town newspaper.

Reporters investigated all sorts of things, I thought.

Reporters wrote stories every day.

Reporters had front page-bylines.

Reporters knew every secret in town: who did what to whom, how many times, and why.

I wanted to be the keeper of the secrets.

So I accepted my first newspaper job at a small town daily.

I did it all.

I covered the police beat, which mostly dealt with drunks, domestic disturbances, and traffic tickets, none of which ever made the newspaper.

I covered every civic club in town and mingled weekly with Lions and Optimists and Rotarians and Jaycees.

I wrote obituaries delivered by grieving widows on their way to the attorney’s office for their first glimpse at the will.

I would have covered a murder or two.

Sometimes the money went to the wrong woman.

Sometimes it went to the wrong widow.

Thank God the man was already dead. It saved him from a lot of grief, a load of pain, and probably a day in court.

I handled the interviews.

I wrote the stories.

I took the pictures on an 8 X 10 Speed Graphic.

I wrote the headlines.

I designed the pages.

I delivered the afternoon edition to the advertisers.

Everybody was glad to see me coming.

I did what I loved.

I was doing everything I loved.

And they paid me forty dollars a week.

I thought I was rich.

My wife told me we were poor.

“But I’m important,” I said.

“You’re poor,” she said.

She was afraid I had missed it the first time.

“But I know every secret in town,” I said.

She sighed.

I knew it was going to be a long, cold night.

“So does everybody else in town,” she said.

COVER2WICKEDLITTLELIES8-200x300Please click the book cover to learn more about Wicked Little Lies and other Caleb Pirtle novels on his Amazon Author’s Page. Wicked Little Lies is set in a small town, too. If the devil didn’t build it, he knew where all of his constituents lived.

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  • David L Atkinson

    Sounds great Caleb!

    • I’m sure small towns in Great Britain are no different.

  • I grew up in a small town and wouldn’t trade it for anything. In our small neighborhood was the town: marshall, postmaster, doctor, funeral director and a preacher from a major denomination. We, the kids of those people had to learn to keep our mouths shut. We did know everything because of our dads’ occupations. We were in and out of each other’s houses every day and heard almost everything. Some big drama. Wouldn’t trade it. The newspaper editor lived up the street and had three kids, himself.

    • In a small town, everybody was somebody important, even when they weren’t.

      • I will go down in history as stating this: When you are in a chair at a beauty shop, that is where you hear all the REALLY good stuff. Barber shops? Almost but not quite!

        • If I had enough hair, I would try the beauty shop.

  • I think that growing up in a small town is vastly different from moving to one. I know. I tried. You’re always an outsider.

    • Amen to that. We moved to a small Texas town and stayed there twenty years and were always introduced as the couple from Birmingham.

  • Gripping read a story about a small town opening up to all kinds of secrets a very optimistic read the author has done well.

    • Thanks for your comment. Big towns do have their secrets, but big towns have more places to hide them. Little towns are proud of their secrets and too often brag about them in public.

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