The Kansas City Star has been my writing home for more than 60 years. I have had the luck and challenge to write for this newspaper during what I consider to have been the golden age of journalism, and I have been privileged to work for a paper whose editors valued expanding our readers’ understanding of the world.
When the paper took a chance on me at age 21, fresh out of Westminster College with a brand new English degree, I could never have imagined the fullness of what lay ahead.
In the 1960s, the progressive editor Richard Fowler decided that The Star was not covering the civil rights movement with the intensity it deserved, not only in the South, but also in Kansas City. He said, “This won’t do,” and sent me south.
I shared my experience witnessing the standoff between Gov. George Wallace and the National Guard that led to the integration of the University of Alabama. On that same trip, I met Martin Luther King Jr. and King’s brother, who hid me in the back of his grocery store in Montgomery, Ala., when thugs from the White Citizens Council came looking for “Northern reporters” to intimidate.
In the years that followed, I traveled to Haile Selassie’s palace in Ethiopia, where he sat flanked by cheetahs and shared with me his thoughts on the breakdown of Arab governance in the Middle East. I visited the upper Nile to report on the building of the Aswan Dam and then rode the overnight train to Cairo — arriving in the Egyptian capital the morning of the day Gamal Abdel Nasser died. Men and women were running through the streets yelling and tearing off their garments in despair.
When I lived with my wife, Katie, and daughters, Anne and Jennie, in Paris in 1984, I wrote about discovering that city in all of its lights and moods and seeing a beautiful young woman in a museum and falling hopelessly in love. Fiercely devoted to my Katie, you readers were outraged until it was discovered that the young woman was Rodin’s sculpture of his niece — Young Girl With Roses on Her Hat.
Rufus, my friend and loyal hunting dog for 14 years, was a regular in this column with his irreverent puppy antics and brilliance in the field. When I lost him, I was astounded with the outpouring of letters and support from you readers, which came with the realization that you in some ways loved him just as much as I did, and he had become your dog, too.
You traveled with me down Siberia’s wildest and most magnificent river — the Lena — fulfilling a 20-year dream.
This friendship with you, my readers — born out of decades of sharing my loves, losses and adventures — has been an immeasurable gift. This type of friendship is rare.
In these past months, I have been dealing with chronic health conditions. Time spares none of us. Because of this — and because I have a play I want to write, some trips I hope to take with my family and, of course, fishing at the cabin — the column as a weekly ritual will end. But I will continue to contribute to The Star as time permits.
To begin this chapter in my life, I ask for your support to help fund the publication of my new book, “Outbound: A Lifetime’s Adventures in Journalism.” The book features in-depth articles and short works of fiction that were written for Star Magazine, Harper’s, The Paris Review and other publications over the years. I believe this is some of my best writing.
Our relationship is not over. This is the beginning of a new adventure.
To help fund the publication of C.W. Gusewelle’s new book, OUTBOUND: A Lifetime’s Adventures in Journalism, click here.