Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Turning Over Stones And Finding Memories

I was confronted by an old memory this morning. It was triggered by a newspaper story about Stonehenge.

Oh, not that Stonehenge...a different one...sort of a sequel I'd guess you'd call it...Stonehenge II, a pseudo replica almost hidden in the depths of the Texas Hill Country.

The newspaper story was about how Stonehenge II was gradually degrading and how the nephew of the man who originally had it built was working to preserve it.

The man initially who "commissioned" Stonehenge II was named Al Sheppard. He died more than a decade ago, but several years before he finished being amused on earth I had the pleasure of meeting him and his close friend Doug Hill, who actually did most of the physical work constructing Stonehenge II - for the record there really wasn't much stone involved, mostly plaster and rebar.

That was a different time in many ways. We did things on the radio which I'd never allow today...things like 4 or 5 minute feature stories. Today we don't have that luxury of time. We work very hard at presenting a sense of urgency in hopes of convincing our audience that if they turn their attention away for only a few seconds they'll risk missing something important. Today if a radio story runs longer than 30 seconds I'm usually chopping it away in chunks. I try not to believe this trend is due to the public's ever decreasing attention span...luckily if my thoughts do drift in that direction they don't linger there long.

Anyway, back then we also encouraged reporters, of which I was one, to spend less time digging for dirt at city hall, the courthouse or Washington and more time scratching the surfaces closer to our doorsteps. We often found fertile soil yielding wonderful tales which perhaps today might go overlooked due to a shortage of patience.

It was during one of those free wheeling "go find someone interesting...something fun to report" excursions that I happened upon Al Sheppard and Stonehenge II.

I don't think I've ever laughed more during any news interview I've done...even when I worked at the State Capitol surrounded by politicians.

It was nice to remember that today.

I had to search around a bit, but with Amy's help, I found the radio feature I produced way back then.

I also sent a note to Al's nephew mentioning my fond memories of glomming onto his Uncle's enjoyment of life and his obvious amusement at befuddling passersby - not to mention his neighbors - with something so completely out of place and unexpected.

It's a lengthy audio clip...so if you don't have broadband don't even attempt it, but if you want to listen to the original story I did all those years ago you can click here.

The irony of this situation isn't lost on me. For centuries people have been trying to preserve the original Stonehenge and also come to some understanding of how and why it came to be...and today, nestled in a little valley in the Texas Hill Country, work is underway to restore a knock off version, the origins of which might only be truly understood if you perhaps had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Al Sheppard and listening to him laugh and even then you might still be left wondering.