"Dem funeral bells is breakin' up that old gang of mine."

One begins to suspect something temporal is afoot when one realizes that they know far more dead people than living.

Back in the garden, if I remember correctly, besides the Tree of Knowledge, there was also the Tree of Life. This one's fruit would grant eternal life (one wonders if this might be where the Norse picked up the idea of the apples that kept their gods young). If the first juvenile delinquents, (look, they couldn't have been more than a few months old--the Bible says nothing about either acne or teen-age angst) had gotten to that one, man's three score and ten would have been a lot longer. Me, I don't think I could stand the boredom.

With mortality, comes the crap-shoot, lottery, number coming up on the wheel, or draw of the card (notice how all of these seem to have something to do with losing money?) which determines check-out time. For some reporting in comes sooner than one would hope for (being more or less a believer in Christian charity, I won't discuss the other group). One who's stay was cut shorter than some of us would wish was Charley McDowell.

Charles Rice McDowell, Jr. managed something of a miracle in his time, he managed to be both a journalist AND a gentleman. He wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch (known to all of us who love it as the "Times-Disreputable"). I'm told that his political column was avidly read. Looking at an example--the way he wrote about the effect on people's lives of the wait for Richard Nixon's resignation, I can well see why. Column of 9 August 1974. Rather than speaking to its meaning for history or the interests of the political class and other elites as did most of his colleagues , he wrote about the people.

This view of the commonplace is what I remember most about him. I first met him while watching "Washington Week in Review" on the PBS station in DC, WETA. My wife and I watched that show right after "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser." Neither of us had any money and we certainly weren't "movers and shakers" (rather, we tended to be the "moved and shaken"), but here was intelligent TV before the term "spin" had been invented.

Back in those days (1975-1990) PBS attempted to attract people of all stripes to their viewership by providing a forum for Left, Right, and the folks in the middle caught in the crossfire. "Washington Week in Review" was a round table discussion show in which the moderator, Paul Duke, (who displayed no bias) and four (I think) journalists talked about the week's happenings inside the beltway. Usually there was a hard Leftist, an equally hard Rightist, and a utility player who sided with one or the other. Sitting on the moderator's physical left was Charley McDowell. He tended to be the voice of Everyman, neither far Left nor far Right. In fact, he seemed to pretty much hug the center of the road. This, along with his Shenandoah accent (hey, you gotta like someone who sounds like you among all those TV voices that say, "Hi, I'm from nowhere."), made him a favorite with the wife and me.

Here's the paper's writeup about him: Charley McDowell.

Now, he's gone, at least from around these parts. But, maybe in a couple of years we'll get to see him again. I suspect (and fervently hope) the Lord don't mind the sweet tones of a Shenandoah accent.

7 November 2010: Feast of St. Ernest. Ensisheim Meteorite - first dated impact - hits wheat field in Alsace 1492, Royal Governor of Virginia offers emancipation to slaves who fight for British 1775, brigantine Mary Celeste sails from New York 1872, Jesus Garcia saves Nacozaride de Garcia in Sonora from burning dynamite train 1907, Suez Crisis 1956.


  1. Only the sort you invite into your living room each Friday night.