Riff Raff: Life, Luck and –30–

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,042 views 

Editor’s note: What follows is an updated version of a commentary about Jack Moseley first published Oct. 16, 2005. Moseley passed away Nov. 15.

It was August 1992 when, against his better judgment, he agreed to hire a naive, smart-alecky and cocky kid straight out of college.

During the interview, he spent about an hour relaying his thoughts on the business I was seeking to enter – how it had changed and how the drive for greater financial returns combined with the push to be first instead of accurate was diminishing the luster of his once-noble profession.

He reviewed the awards on his office walls, proudly discussing and possibly embellishing on the work and experience required to be awarded so profusely. Talked on and on he did about being one of the last people in his line of work to have a conversation with JFK on that tragic fall Texas day.

Although tragic, he said the event pushed his career ahead many years. And it wasn’t luck that put him in that position, he stressed with that by-God-matter-of-fact voice and furrowed brow that I would come to know only too well, it was hustle and not being intimidated by a place or a personality.

The pay isn’t much, he told me at the end of the interview, the complex issues and events can be frustrating at times, your superiors will always be picking at your work, and you will be criticized frequently by people who question the way you do your job. Other than that, he assured me, it was a wonderful profession. He did say I would meet a lot of interesting, unique and odd people.

And he was right.

Not only was he right, he was the first interesting, unique and odd person I met. At first, I thought he was a half-crazed, double-jointed and opinionated loudmouth who didn’t own a comb. But then I learned he was from east Texas and spent some time in Louisiana.

He was quick to tell about something goofy he had done, said, or both. Crazy stories about being in the military and getting run over by a tank. Or maybe it was a personnel carrier. And crazy stories about wine-induced hijinks at a wedding reception. Or maybe it was a birthday party.

In a business where the meek, modest and thin-skinned exit quicker than an acrophobic wing walker, he loved to tell self-deprecating stories that were insane and insightful – sometimes TOO insightful. He would always shrug his shoulders, in the weird way his shoulders would shrug, and laugh at himself.

And now it seems, looking back with less of that naive, cocksure and smarty-pants attitude of more than two decades ago, I learned a few things from the east Texan who turned out to be a lot of good things under that wiry, tough and sometimes patient exterior.

During a six-year hiatus from being co-workers, we developed somewhat of a big brother-little brother relationship. He would give me a hard time for being young and quick to jump, and I would give him a hard time for being old and quick to jump. In between, I watched and learned a few things from an old-school newspaper man who watched and wrote about the cycles of prejudice, personalities and politics that were and continue to be Fort Smith.

Next thing I knew, we were good friends. Still are.

He is certainly a polarizing character. People either love or hate what he writes. Some love to hate him and others probably hate it that they love him. Heck, we disagreed more often than not, but I never could stay mad. He would always have some corny joke to tell and then follow up with a wonderful story about an historical figure he once covered. Being a geeky history buff, I’d find myself enthralled like a 4-year old watching a circus act.

Regardless, he was crazy enough to give me a chance in this business and he was the Times Record’s connection to the regional community. I’m extremely grateful to him for the career start and for reminding me – on many occasions – to not be intimidated by the rich and powerful, nor cower to the boisterous, or be vengeful to the mean and self-serving.

Jack would always end his opinion pieces with “Life, Luck and –30–.” Life and luck were similar endings to love letters he once penned. The number 30 is used in the newspaper business to mark the end of a story.

And here we are at the end of his story. What luck it was to be a small part of Jack’s life.