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STOUGH AND NONSENSE

Texan newspaperman Charley Stough tells us he pronounces his name to rhyme with dough, while another branch of his family tree thinks it rhymes with bough. We wish we had known that two years ago, when we wrote about the plight of people named Hitchmough, Whatmough, Ough and Rough.

We would have been tempted to remark that a newshound named Stough (if the name rhymed with tough) might be an ideal editor for the New Zealand news website STUFF, or the award-winning US website in Atlanta, Georgia, HOW STUFF WORKS.

After Charley read last month's story about the Texan town named Uncertain, he sent us an interesting email, commenting: "Fascinating find! Uncertain is well in keeping with the style of the US Southwest 1850-1950 - before air conditioning brought in hordes of ordinary people.

"My family were Arizona desert folk, probably like those who named and inhabited Uncertain. They tell of a neighbor who lived too far from a road to get a telephone, so he hooked his shack to the back of his Jeep and dragged it closer."

Charley edits Newsgorilla, "a periodical about the news business -- working in it, reading it, defending it, criticizing it, getting dumped on by it, living it," and a blog called BONG (Burned Out Newspapercreatures Guild). Both publications are guaranteed to entertain people like us who have printers' ink in their veins. But he isn't interested only in the written word. He's a man of many and varied talents.

An art dealer's website says: "He has lived in eight states and four foreign countries, and has worked as a steelcutter, brickmason, reporter, artist, editor, photographer and courtroom interpreter. He is known worldwide as a journalist and humorist, and much of his watercolor and acrylic art reflects a subtle humor, a graphic rendering of the writing style of his first career.

"The cartoons on this page are by Charles Stough, a PCV [Peace Corps Volunteer] in Panama 1964-66, who worked with a co-op building Cinva-Ram homes near Juan Diaz.

"After Peace Corps he became a newspaperman and is now in semi-retirement in San Antonio, Texas, where he paints and writes while his wife Alicia, a Panamanian, participates in every festival she can join.

"He did a cartoon every week or so for the PC office in Panama starting in 1965. He says 'I think my technique has improved since then, but these are the authentic drawings.'"

These days, Charley combines art with gardening. His backyard is full of gourd vines. "I'm growing gourds so that they can be dried, carved and painted to form birdhouses and other artsy things," he told us.

"Many gourders' birdhouses are quite attractive, decorated with dainty florals and landscape scenes. I, on the other hand, do a lot with snarling sharks' and bats' faces, especially mouths. They scare off some birds, but are attractive to lawyers."

Finally, we found another website, which said: "If you haven't seen Charley Stough's newsletter, you must. The BONG Bull ... is full of irreverent humor, honed to satisfy a journalist's cynical sensibilities; lots of newsroom yesteryear nuggets; and lately, plugs for Charley's mystery novel, Warm Spit, 'a novel of Texas crime and culture.' He'll tell you to buy it at www.booksamillion.com because of the bookseller's speedy delivery and, of course, because it's a great book."

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Story first posted September 2004

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

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