by Bob Bowman
of my recreational pursuits is reading weekly newspapers in East Texas.
And one of my favorites is the San Augustine Tribune, which has been
in business some 95 years.
Actually, the paper is much older. It was founded in 1890 when a young
lady we know only as Miss Loggins bought a small newspaper, The Vidette,
with money earned from growing cotton on a two-acre firm.
Miss Loggins sold the paper to a new owner in 1909 and its name was
changed to the Tribune.
But the Hays family has been associated with the Tribune for longer
than anyone else. Printer Webster Hays bought the paper from Bernice
Harrison in 1916 after her editor-husband passed away.
The first time I met Webster was sometime in the l960s when I went
there on business with the Houston Chronicle -- and found what I always
felt a weekly newspaper should be: a gloriously cluttered, disorganized,
high-roofed, ancient brick building, its walls blackened with years
of printer's ink, and scraps of torn newspaper scattered on the floor
like oversized snowflakes. In the middle of it all was Webster and
his son, Arlan.
Arlan was feeding sheets of newsprint through an old flatbed press.
Webster was sitting in the front office behind a roll-top desk, surrounded
by piles of newspapers reaching to the ceiling, unopened mail, photographs,
towsacks of vegetables people had left in payment of their subscriptions,
cans of snuff and tobacco, nails, shoes and piles of newspaper type.
Covering at least a fifth of the room was a large glass case containing
a stuffed buck. Not just the head, but the whole darn thing, including
a set of horns that must have been five feet wide.
Webster had piled papers on every piece of furniture and square foot
of the office floor. The front widows were grimy. But the glass case
with the buck looked like someone had just polished it.
I learned later that Webster was an avid deer hunter in his younger
days. In 1934, while hunting near Comfort,
he killed the buck and, as luck would have it, one of his fellow hunters
was a taxidermist from Dallas -- the same practitioner who mounted
many of the native Texas animals for the Texas Centennial in 1936.
Webster persuaded the taxidermist to stuff the deer, so he skinned
the buck and sent the hide, head and horns back to Dallas with the
man. The venison came home with Webster, but in those days there wasnąt
any refrigeration in San Augustine, so the local ice house kept the
meat frozen in a block of ice until Webster and his friends could
make a big pot of stew.
Webster, who in 1963 was honored by the Texas Press Association for
fifty years of service as a newspaperman, has since passed into newspaperdom's
history. But his son Arlan kept the Tribune and its traditions alive.
The Tribune left its old offices on the San Augustine square years
ago and moved into more modern quarters. Webster's beloved deer made
the move, too.
In July, with a third-generation Hays -- Arlan's son, Stephen -- at
its helm, the Tribune made another physical move, this time to coincide
with Arlan's 90th birthday and a fifty-year service award from the
Texas Press Association to match his father's citation forty-one years
ago. Webster's buck?
Yep, it made the move, too.
August 29 , 2004
Published with permission
(Provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association.
Bob Bowman is a member of the Texas Historical Commission and the
author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)