In 1976, Welch Daily News publisher Rollo Taylor was convinced that a newspaper in an adjacent county was routinely lifting stories from his paper and reprinting them without attribution or permission. To trap the offender, he concocted a colorful yarn about a McDowell County woman who shot at a whitetail buck she had seen attempting to mate with a plywood reindeer Christmas decoration in her yard, accidentally wounding a neighbor woman in a nearby outhouse, where she was stuck to the seat due to the recent application of fast-drying paint.
Sure, in Southern West Virginia, nearly anything's possible, but it seemed a bit farfetched, even to a relative rookie like me, who knew that while the rest of the story may have been true, deer were very rare in McDowell County in that era.
I called up the deputy allegedly quoted in his story, who led me to believe the story was fiction. Then I called up Taylor, who filled me in on the hoax and the reason behind it.
While the Gazette chose not to pursue the story, others did, including a reporter with the state Associated Press bureau in Charleston, who rewrote and boiled down the tale and distributed it statewide. Among the many newspapers picking up the story was the rival paper Taylor sought to trap.
The AP scribe who ran with the phantasmagoric story after failing to check its veracity with anyone went on to a long and storied career at a series of large metropolitan bureaus. My career is stuck, like the fast-drying paint in the McDowell County outhouse, in pretty much the same place it's been since 1976.
And it looks like a retirement community awaits me on Sandy Island.
In a return to the shameless self-promotion department, allow me to extend this invitation to join me in taking in the triple-harmony folk-rock sounds of The BrotherSisters (whose members include Gazette colleague Doug Imbrogno) in a $5 per person benefit concert for the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, whose board of directors includes the likes of me. The show starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, in Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1600 Kanawha Blvd. E.