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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 9:52 PM
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If I had taken that other fork in the road

A STORY WORTH TELLING

BY LEON ALDRIDGE

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

— Yogi Berra

There are no coincidences in life. Only the mystery of what might have been if I had taken a right instead of a left at that last fork in the road.

“Hello,” she offered from her car. We had a class together at Kilgore College. I don’t remember what subject now.

Likely an English, history, or math class. We were both first-semester freshman students at KJC in 1966.

I don’t remember her name. Time does that to me a lot these days. I do remember the yellow ’65 Mustang she parked next to us at the Dairy Queen.

She was attractive, and her long blonde hair and cool car fit the image of absolute perfection in my 18-year-old college male mind.

I was with my friend and roommate, Ronnie Lilly. We were cruising the DQ in his ’57 Chevy.

“Hello,” I responded.

“What are you up to this evening?”

“You won’t believe it,” the car-to-car conversation continued. “I just got back from seeing a fortune teller in Longview.

Unbelievable, the things she knew about me.”

“Really,” I asked?

Wondering how well I was hiding the skepticism in my voice. Never put any stock in so-called fortune tellers and mystics. Still don’t. Little more than carnival sideshows.

But while I successfully figured out how sideshow magicians sawed damsels in half, I had never been to a mystic.

Out of curiosity, a couple of days later, on my way home for the weekend, I paid the Longview lady a visit.

She got no more than “name, rank, and serial number” from me.

No facial expressions.

No responses to leading “visions.” Paid and done, little of what she “foretold” ever came to pass. She did, however, score two memorable moments. One, that I lost a gift from a girlfriend, and rather than tell her I lost it, I replaced it. True.

Two, that my stay-athome mother had gone to work.

Mom was glad to see me when I arrived later that evening. “Your timing is perfect,” she said.

“I just got home from work. I haven’t told you.

I started working at the Tribune this week.”

“You did what,” I gasped?

Thus, a 60-year series of fortunate incidents was set in motion that set me to thinking in recent weeks. The “wonder what my life might have been like had just one of those forks in the road been different” game. Or just one of those people, I had never met?

Things such as meeting Morris Craig while Mom was working at the Tribune. Craig was the owner and publisher of the Monitor in Naples. A weekly printing customer at The Tribune.

It was Craig who asked what I planned to do after one of my fork-in-the-road choices turned out to be less than fulfilling. “Dunno yet,” I responded.

“I know you’re a good photographer. Come work with me while you decide,” he offered. That unplanned intro into the world of communication led to a second newspaper job in Louisiana at a weekly owned by Lloyd Grissom. This is notable because Lloyd also owned the Tenaha East Texas Light with an office in Center. A community that, at that time, was still on my “never been there” list.

I was in the Tenaha office only one morning a week. Early. But it only took one morning for a Shelby County resident to come in for an ad. One who, by sheer chance, I had met at the Monitor in Naples. I moved to Shelby County a couple of years later through that connection. Right after Jim Chionsini purchased the East Texas Light from Lloyd.

Was meeting Jim at a Center Lions Club meeting a coincidence? That our life-long friendship and partnership connected me with an Incredible number of newspaper professionals from Texas to Alabama? I think not.

And here’s where the “what if” game gets complex. Meeting Fred Wulf and Rick Campbell. Who, after I taught journalism at Stephen F. Austin State University and published the newspaper in Boerne for Jim, offered me the opportunity to assist in shaping a marketing department for their growing new company, Portacool. Connecting me to marketing professionals and incredible people across the U.S. and abroad.

Bringing these socalled coincidences home, Jim bought the Center newspaper a second time in 2013, recruiting me to help in that effort and initiate talks with the Palmer family that resulted in the acquisition of The Mount Pleasant Tribune.

Where my mother had worked for 17 years.

Fast forwarding six more years, the current owners of the Light and Champion, individuals with whom I had worked or known professionally during tenures with Jim, called on me to publish the Center newspaper.

Again. Marking my third time at the helm of the Center publication in 41 years.

So, I again wondered last week where I would be today had I not met Morris Craig via Mom’s new job at the Tribune?

Through it all, I still believe there is no such thing as coincidence.

And I still believe fortune tellers will be around as long as people are entertained by carnival sideshows.

More than ever, I am convinced everything happens for a reason.

And that’s why I took the fork in the road … whichever one Yogi was alluding to.


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