The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Bill MEad
Columnist Emeritus 

Media relations, Dixie Style

The Overall Picture


Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission

I just read where a county employee in Mississippi got slapped with a $500 fine for shooting a woman newspaper editor with a .20-gauge shotgun.

By Mississippi standards that was a harsh punishment, particularly in view of the fact he almost missed his target, managing to put only two bird-shot pellets in the editor’s carcass where the sun doesn’t shine.

My wife and I think Mississippi is a great place. We have nothing but glowing memories of our visits to Vicksburg, Natchez, Gulfport and Biloxi, to mention only a few delightful spots in a locale that is the butt of endless redneck jokes. As an editor myself, you can’t imagine how comforting it is to know that anyone who tries to blow away an editor in Mississippi is going to pay the price, which turned out to be all of 500 bucks.

In this instance, the perpetrator had reasons to be aggravated. It seems the editor was trying to take pictures of a county road crew working on a private driveway, a bit of snoopery that no doubt would be resented in many quarters beyond Mississippi.

Before jumping to the conclusion that shotgunning a woman is unchivalrous, you might listen to the defendants side of the story. He was simply trying to get her attention, he told the judge, for the noble purpose of saving her life. He testified the editor was standing in the road taking photographs and he was afraid she was going to get run over.

Why didn’t he fire into the air? He patiently explained that there were power lines overhead. Apparently the court accepted his reasoning that shooting at the editor was less apt to create a public inconvenience than cutting off somebody’s electricity.

The victim had a different recollection. She was out there with her camera because, she alleged, some people were getting their driveways graveled in order to get votes. You can understand how a rural judge in Dixie might wonder when that became a crime.

In addition to seeing her attacker get knocked over for $500, the editor had one further consolation. She announced later that she has sold the episode’s film rights to a couple of movie producers.

I just hope they can make a two-hour movie out of a partial load of buckshot in the britches.

If you don’t know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill’s writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column “The Overall Picture” ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi’s Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was “older than the oldest Model A Ford” and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.

[Publisher’s note: I read Bill’s articles during the 80s and 90s and 20s and I am grateful to share them now with our current readers. I hope you enjoy this touch of nostalgia as much as I do.]


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