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From the Field
What follows comes from NewScan which was founded in 1994 by John Gehl and Suzanne Douglas to offer customized electronic and print publications and services covering knowledge management, human resources, distance learning, corporate training, business and management strategies, information technology, and many other client-specified news topics; services are offered to corporations, consulting firms, nonprofit organizations and professional associations. They put out free daily newsletter with various items they've pulled together. One the other day caught our attention and thought we'd like to share. First a thanks to NewScan's John Gehl for letting us share this following from David Brinkley: A Memoir.
Memoirs of David Brinkley

Newsman David Brinkley's first reporting assignment (in the 1930s, while he was a teenage working part-time for the Wilmington Star-News) was to get the story of a woman who owned a certain kind of plant said to bloom only every 100 years. The woman called the newspaper and said the plant was about to bloom on Tuesday night -- and when Brinkley arrived on the scene that night he found the street filled with people.

"I asked the woman, 'When your century plant blooms, where will the bloom be? On top of that stalk?'

"'How would I know? I'm not a hundred years old.'

"'How do you know tonight's the night, the end of a hundred years?'

"'My grandfather bought this plant in Mexico. Before he died, he was told this plant was about sixty years old and that was forty years ago.'"

About sixty years old forty years ago? Somewhere around a hundred, or so it was said by an unknown Mexican long since dead? The plant could be almost any age. And of its true age the woman had no idea and neither did anyone else. [Not only that, but when Brinkley looked the plant up in the dictionary, he found it was ERRONEOUSLY believed to bloom every hundred years.]

"Here was all this mess and confusion on the first assignment of my life. I could not see how to get out of it. I was afraid it would get me fired. As it turned out, I didn't have to produce anything. Al Dickson [the managing editor] called and said there was mechanical trouble in the composing room, he had to put the paper to bed early and he couldn't wait for my plant to bloom. 'Knock it off and go home.'"

I stayed around anyway. This might be an even more amusing story than if the plant had bloomed on time, whatever the time was to be. What would the battalion chief say to his firemen who had worked overtime to set up the floodlights? Would he tell them city hall had screwed up again? Actually, when asked, he said, 'Buncha damned fools in city hall, all of them. What will I tell my men? Tell them to come back in another hundred years?' "

How about the people who kept their children up late to see a miracle of nature that never happened? They were all furious, the children screaming. The woman who owned the plant and started all this? What would she say? She said, 'I'll never trust a Mexican again.' "

It was Sociology 101 out there -- a small-town street full of people, including the kind who write angry letters to the editor signed 'Concerned Citizen' or 'Outraged Transit Rider.'

I found an older man wearing khaki pants, high-top tan shoes, gray mustache, a shirt with a Prince Albert pipe tobacco can in its pocket and a green felt hat. I quoted him: 'Look at this damn mess. Popsicle sticks and Eskimo Pie wrappers all over. Coca-Cola bottles. Broken glass. Because of that damn fool woman the taxpayers have to clean this up? What's all this going to cost us? Don't we pay enough already? And that damned century plant never even bloomed?' "

So, the next morning all this nonsense made an amusing little story for the paper, and to everyone's astonishment it was picked up and carried across the country by the Associated Press, even getting three column inches in the Los Angeles Times. Al Dickson could not believe it. Lamont Smith, the editor, called me in and said when I got out of school I could have a job at the paper if I wanted it."

Books by David Brinkley @