Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 13, 2003


Response of readers is stimulating and encouraging


          The privilege of writing a newspaper column is one I do not take for granted. In one fashion or another, I have been writing for newspapers for more than 50 years. I continue to be humbled by the opportunity to share my ideas, in print, with others.

            One of the great rewards for such writing is the response of readers.  Critical responses are as welcome as complimentary ones. None of us is so wise that we cannot learn from our critics.

            Seldom do I receive a letter from a reader by way of the postal service. Nearly all of my reader response comes as e-mail on the Internet. Most of the time I am able to reply on the same day I receive a message.

            What surprises me is that I can never predict what subject will generate the most response. I would not have fared well as a prophet. Invariably, the columns I imagine will inspire some mail spark little interest.

            Take, for example, the piece I wrote recently about my old Ford pick-up truck. I had more response to that column than any I have written the past six months.

            Frankly, I was amazed. Weeks ago, I had made a mental note that, whenever no suitable topic came to mind, I would simply scratch off something about fixing up the old truck. I was stunned by the quick response -- of women as well as men.

            Bettye Martin said my article reminded her of her late husband’s old yellow Datsun pick-up. Bettye confessed that she never rode in it, but her daughter, Jaime, did.

            Jaime even persuaded her daddy to let her borrow the truck a few times while she was a student at Huntingdon College. On one occasion, Davis spotted his truck at a drive-in, and watched as 15 students climbed out of the back of the truck. Bettye said her husband drove back home to check on his truck insurance.

            Suzanne Dilthey wrote that her husband Al treasured his red Toyota truck almost as much as he did her. “I think I would be in trouble if he were forced to choose,” she said.

            She did “suggest” to Al that if he put a gun rack in his truck, to be ready for her to put a pretty umbrella in it. So far, she said, no gun rack has appeared. Women do have influence and some of them are not afraid to use it.

            Grady Rowell, my friend since high school days, opined that my thoughts about that old truck convinced him that I will never grow up. I think he meant, “Once a Bubba, always a Bubba,” or something close to that.

            Pete Pepinsky wrote that reading about my old truck caused him to yearn for the  old ’67 Dodge that he owned with a friend in South Carolina several years ago.

            “We haggled with a fellow in Rock Hill for hours, and finally gave him $450 for that ugly truck,” Pete said. “I even did a vacuum check on each cylinder right there in the street.”

            “That truck became such a cherished vehicle-of-choice that I drove it in the annual Fourth of July Parade,” Pete shared. “My partner loaned it to his older daughter and her husband in lieu of a limo after their wedding reception.”

            Not surprisingly, Pete said they sold the old truck after using it for five or six years for $550. I suspect Pete wishes he still owned that tough old pick-up.

            I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite correspondents, Holt Warren, had never owned a pick-up, though he has always wanted one. He could have used one in his work as County Agent in Henry County.

            Instead, he has endured the inconvenience of hauling in his car trunk stuff like fertilizer, pine straw, and insecticides. I like Hoyt so much that, if I ever get tired of my old red truck, I may give it to him.

            My Texas buddy, Dwayne Lynch, told me he liked reading about my truck so much that he might have to come see it. That would be something – to see this old friend again – and give him the thrill of riding around Elmore County in my old Ford truck.

            My friend Joyce O’Brien wondered if perhaps my wife, Dean, had consented to ride in my ugly truck now that it has a pretty new coat of paint. Wonder of wonders, Dean did ride to church with me in my old truck last week. And she did not duck down out of sight a single time.

            I have shared all this to make a single point. Most people never respond, in writing, to what they read in the newspaper. However, the responses of even a few readers are most helpful, stimulating, and encouraging to those of us who are privileged to write about anything.

            Simply put, it makes a difference to know that someone cares enough to respond. After all, one of the primary goals of writing is to kindle creative thinking in the minds of the readers. + + +