The Billings Outpost

Somebody wanted stacks of papers, but who?


Extra! Extra! Extra! Etcetera! Gazoo captured in hostile takeover.

Last week a casual morning donuts run evolved into a race to find a morning newspaper. I had popped into the neighborhood convenience store for my morning donut fix when I decided to buy a copy of the morning daily.

It was a considered decision. The Beans Gazoo seems to have a new slogan: Less content at a higher price.

The shop, which specializes in beef jerky (47 varieties), cigarettes (132 brands) and beer (mostly Bud Light), stocks its newspapers in a rack by the door. I dipped into the top compartment and came away with a handful of air.

The young woman behind the counter gave me a soulful look and explained, “Some guy came in and bought them all.”

I left wondering who would pay $1.50 each for a bundle of Gazoos. Two minutes later I arrived at the Holiday Conoco station at Sixth Avenue North and 27th Street North. The newspaper bin was empty. I shot the girl behind the counter an inquisitive look.

A guy came in and scooped up all the Gazoos, she said.

On a new tack, I drove east by northeast to Mr. Thrifty, a discount grocery store that sells Gazoos from a black street dispenser for 50 cents. Two quarters later I had my paper and time to wonder who and why someone would want to corner the market on overpriced daily newspapers.

My first thought was of the big spender racing to buy up copies of a paper in which something disturbing to the high roller was printed.

Prospects included bankers tagged with a DUI, legislators busted for manufacture of methamphetamine, priests charged with molesting young boys, or 87-year-old grandpas arrested for solicitation on Minnesota Avenue.

A pressman once offered me $50 to sit on a police report of his driving drunk on Last Chance Gulch. I passed. Not because I was a Boy Scout. The pressman was trying to save his job. I did not want to lose mine.

The apprentice solved his problem with a bit of sabotage, mangling a press plate with a wrench, kept his job and went on to become press foreman, publisher of a small daily, and an executive with the chain we both worked for when he was banging into cars down on the Gulch.

I really cannot blame newspaper hoarders from trying to hide their bad deeds from the light. I once contemplated the same sin.

Gary Svee and I once pooled our savings, bought a fourth-rate weekly in Carbon County and set out to commit capitalism. Two weeks later we worked all night to put the first issue to bed. When we drove to the printer in Billings to pick up 2,000 copies, we discovered the mother of all typos. A single letter was dropped from a perfectly innocent word. The result was an anatomical term that would rank among the top 10 foul words in that category.

I asked Svee: “Reckon we can dump these, go back to the city and order another 2,000?”

We decided we could pay for a mulligan but would never recover from the sudden expense.

Other solutions included: hiring a dozen high school kids to blot out the bad word with a Magic Marker and waiting a week to issue our first edition.

In the end, we set our jaws and mailed the ersatz papers. Then we held our breath. For two days.

No one said a word. Maybe the townies were too kind to mention our gaffe. Maybe they read too fast to catch it. Maybe no one read our paper at all.

In the intervening years, Gary and I wrote books, served a second term with Lee Enterprises, Gary’s hair turned gray, mine turned loose, and we made all our friends promise to shoot us in the brain if we ever threatened to commit capitalism again.

Today, anyone wanting to reproduce a newspaper story takes a clipping down to Quick and Dirty Printers and has them run off 100 copies for $10.

Back in the day, we had a cheaper process. We had friends and neighbors.

A birth, death, wedding or confirmation would trigger a flock of congratulatory notes, each stuffed with newspaper clipping. Old time family Bibles became the clan’s archives:


Back then, it didn’t really happen until you read it in 20-point Times Roman.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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