Readers of the Daily Mountain Eagle will remember Rick Watson as a talented wordsmith who could take you back to years gone by with his columns and books, write some great stories on the people of …
Readers of the Daily Mountain Eagle will remember Rick Watson as a talented wordsmith who could take you back to years gone by with his columns and books, write some great stories on the people of Walker County or update you on the current happenings in the east Walker area. I remember Watson for all those things as well, but I remember him more as uncle, friend and mentor, and I miss him more than anyone with the exception of his wife, my Aunt Jilda.
Rick was one-of-a-kind. I figured that out at a young age. Plain and simple, he was a weirdo. When I was young, Rick had long, wild hair and a dark mustache and beard. He typically wore some type of Hawaiian shirt in those days, and he played the guitar in a way that would settle your soul. Rick was a hippie. Thanks to him and his influence, I am now the weirdo hippie in our family.
A lot of DME readers had no idea that Rick was my uncle. He was more than an uncle. He was like a second father. He was a best friend. He was also the person who helped me to fall in love with writing. Rick and Jilda have been songwriters since before I was even born. It was a passion for them, and I found it so interesting. My brother and I would often travel with them to folk festivals.
Rick believed in newspapers. He had worked for the Community News back before his 30-year career at the phone company (BellSouth, AT&T and whatever other companies were associated). He loved to write, but he also loved photography. A lot had changed in the years between his paid writing gigs, but he wanted to learn, even as a 60-something. Rick had several little catchphrases that he liked to use, and one of them was “every day is a school day.” That was his attitude for as far back as I can remember. I’ve tried to use that thought process in my life as well. No matter what, we can always learn more and improve on ourselves and what we do. A few weeks ago, Rick one his first Alabama Press Association award, oddly enough for another newspaper. He won first-place for Best Humorous Column, which was his last column and it ran in our paper as well as 280 Living. His win was for 280 Living. When I saw he won, it meant more to me than the 17 awards the DME won this year.
Watson passed away one year ago yesterday. I have no idea how I’ve made it through the year. I talked to Rick every day. Most days, we talked about the Daily Mountain Eagle and things we would be doing in the future. Other days, when he could tell I was stressed, we would just talk about life, urging me to slow down and enjoy each moment.
An Eskimo legend says, “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.”
I sure do miss Rick Watson. He meant so much to me, and I wish I could tell him that today. I know he is shining down on me today and every day. I know he’s happy and he is proud of me. I’m really trying to be “living the dream.”
James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He is not ashamed to admit that he cried his eyes out while writing this column. Phillips may be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.