Posts Tagged ‘From A to Zowie’

Missing people and unsolved mysteries

March 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently wrote a story about a filmmaker who made a documentary about a 90-year-old cold case. In 1927, a young girl’s body was found in Fredericksburg, Texas. Ten days later, after nobody claimed the body, she was buried in a local cemetery. Boy Scouts went door to door to collect funds.

In 15-plus years I’ve been a journalist, it was one of the toughest stories to write. The young girl was murdered, and her assailant has never been found, nor does anyone know why she was murdered. Her name remains a mystery. She never grew up, never got to live a life, get married, have kids, grow old. She remains a young girl, frozen in time.

Her story reminded me of some creepy stories I’ve heard over the years from friends and acquaintances…

…The lady whose aunt, in 1982 in Los Angeles, walked to a grocery store. She never returned home. I first heard the story in 2002, and after 20 years, police still had absolutely no clues…

…An actor friend who acted in a horror movie based an abandoned car on a California highway. The car was registered to a woman, who had disappeared. She was never found.

The case gets especially heartbreaking when you go to the FBI website and look up missing persons reports. You will drown in the results.

Lord willing, that little girl’s mystery will be solved.

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What to do with Tony Romo?

November 24, 2016 Leave a comment

2016 might go down as one of the Dallas Cowboys’ best drafts. How often do you draft a running back and quarterback and have both tearing up the league? Most rookie quarterbacks spend their first season on the sideline with a clipboard. In five years, many of them are out of football. As for running backs, many spend their first year enduring the brutal reality that the NFL defensive linemen and linebackers are far bigger, meaner, faster and stronger than their college counterparts.

Let’s face it: Dak Prescott isn’t just the future of the Cowboys, he’s also the now. Originally intended to back up Tony Romo for a few seasons and then step in and start as quarterback, Prescott was forced into the starter role when Romo went down in preseason with a shoulder injury. Prescott’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is mind boggling (currently 17 TD passes, two interceptions), and he set the record for most passes to start an NFL career without an interception. He’s poised and is a rookie who acts like a veteran who craves pressure.

Prescott is doing so well that Romo is currently serving as a backup.

What to do with Tony Romo?

Word is, he wants a trade to the Denver Broncos. Other teams are said to be interested. Romo is 36, and if he is traded, he’ll want to go to a team with a shot at the Super Bowl.

I’d love to see Dallas keep Romo for this reason: the team needs two solid, reliable quarterbacks. Romo knows the system and has shown that if given decent protection, he’s almost unstoppable. If he’s traded and Prescott goes down with an injury, then Dallas would probably be stuck with another Brandon Weeden Problem–having a terrible quarterback who’s not cut out to lead a team and move the ball, much less win football games.

A co-worker said Romo will probably have to be traded or cut at sometime. He signed a huge contract a year or so ago, and it probably doesn’t make sense to the Cowboys to have a high-priced backup quarterback.

Regardless, I’ll say this: Tony Romo belongs not only in Dallas’ Ring of Honor, but also someday in the NFL Hall of Fame. He’s had an awfully good career for an undrafted free agent who’s had no help for most of his tenure. Yes, he’s a gunslinger who can throw frustrating interceptions, but that often happens when you have no help on defense and know you have to do it all yourself. Yes, he’s had a lot of injuries. That often happens when you absorb a lot of heavy hits.

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Remembering my drill sergeants

November 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Veterans Day is gone, but I’d like to make a belated post about the topic. For our newspaper, we did a special section of various stories on veterans. One was where the vets reminisced about their drill sergeants.

So, I thought I’d reminisce about three I remember well. Alas, I have pics of only two…

Drill Sergeant Richard Kenner


I went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from February to April 1996. It began cool, became cold enough for snow, then ended with temperatures that almost hit 90. That’s probably typical for the Show Me State.

My company was Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment. We were the last to pass through, as 5-10 was reclassified as 2-47.

Sgt. Kenner (a few cycles after us, he would become Staff Sgt. Kenner), had this steel, blue-eyed gaze you could see from about 500 meters away. We were all afraid of him at first as he seemed very no-nonsense and sarcastic. One soldier complained about him to a female cashier at the commissary, not knowing the cashier was MRS. Kenner. Thankfully for them, Sgt. Kenner found it too funny to get angry.

He made us do pushups and other punishment and had no tolerance for mottos yelled wrong, cadences out of step, rifles not taken care of, barracks not kept neat. Whenever he’d have us do pushups as punishment, he’d always yell, “Just freakin’ DROP!”

I tried to avoid getting his attention, but once on the rifle range, he looked at me firing a rifle and said, “Private Zowie, are you a WRONG hander?!”

He’d seen I was a lefty, but before I could get too indignant, a left-handed drill sergeant interjected and made it clear there was nothing wrong with being a southpaw.

Towards the end, of course, we could see that Sgt. Kenner really cared for us, and I grew to where I actually looked forward to having him around.

Before graduation, he came up on his off-day as he somehow knew many of us wanted him to sign our yearbooks. He signed mine as well. “Be hard or be gone. No room for wimps.”

That phrase has helped me get through some rough patches in my life.

Drill Sergeant William Thompson

Sgt. First Class William Thompson was my drill sergeant when I was at AIT at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, from February to April 1998. Like Fort Lost-in-the-woods, it was bitterly cold and then became scorching hot. I’ve often thought if a person wanted to invest in wind energy, they should set up those towers in San Angelo. Each day, it seemed, it was windy enough to blow off Burt Reynolds’ toupee.

I expected to have a sadist for a drill sergeant, but Drill Sergeant Thompson was fair. He was tough, but he made it clear: don’t give me a reason to be hard on you, and I won’t. He had a family that he loved to spend time with, and he made it clear he’d rather spend weekends with them than having to babysit us due to some punishment.

The first time I met him, he saw my wedding ring and asked about my family. I told him my wife (now my ex-wife) was pregnant.

“Is she having a boy or girl?”

“A boy, drill sergeant,” I said, noting it was best to address them at least every third sentence.

“Outstanding, PFC Zowie,” Thompson said, smiling. “I told my wife she wouldn’t be able to quit child bearing until she gave me a son, and now I have three!”

When we did PT, Thompson encouraged us to use proper form on pushups. “If you do pushups incorrectly, you will become an expert at doing pushups the wrong way, and on the day of your APFT, you will be one very sorry soldier!” he said.

Thompson’s PT sessions often left me tired, but I easily passed my APFTs and I even lost more weight while at Goodfellow: I went there at 165 pounds and left at 158.

When the day came that I finished AIT and was able to exchange my generic U.S. Army brass pin for a military intelligence pin to officially become a careerist, I chose Thompson to pin me on.

Drill Sergeant Larry Gilman


How does Sgt. First Class Larry Gilman look in the picture? No smile, mean, you say?

He was 6’4″, around 220 pounds, deep, gravelly voice, used profanity in almost every sentence and seemed well-read about the world from a military perspective.

One day, he looked at us while we were in formation. He saw my nametag, which read ZOWIE.

His dark brown eyes had this look that seemed to say, “I’d thought I’d seen it all.”

“You’ve gotta be [EXPLETIVE] me!” he said, almost as if trying not to laugh. “Is that really your last name, private?!”

I assured him it was and offered to let him look at my driver’s license.

Shortly after that, Gilman was reassigned to be an interim first sergeant at another company. “They gave me a big pile of [EXPLETIVE] and told me to make it smell nice!” he told one soldier.

The last I heard of Gilman was from a copy of Army Times. He’d been promoted to master sergeant. I’d love to meet him again someday, as I’d often think he probably had a million stories to tell.

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Netflix: please continue ‘Longmire’

October 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Several weeks ago while bored and looking for an instant view show on Netflix to binge on, I joined the “posse” and became hooked on Longmire.

For those not familiar: This show centers around Walter Longmire, a sheriff in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. He doesn’t like technology, but he’s great at solving murders and other crimes. His best friend is Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne who owns the Red Pony bar. He has a tumultuous relationship with Mathias, the sheriff on the Cheyenne reservation (on the show, they call it “res” or “rez” for short). It seems that neither Mathias nor other prominent Native Americans Jacob Nighthorse or Malachi Strand seem too friendly with Longmire. We can attribute this to America’s often less-than-honorable dealings with Native Americans. He also seems to have a surrogate father relationship with his deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti.

Season five is done, and I finished watching it about a week ago. I am left to wonder, will there be a season six? Will this be yet another show, such as That 70s Show, where I didn’t get into it until after it was over? How is Vic handling her pregnancy? Who’s the father? Will Longmire survive the lawsuit? Will Nighthorse and the mayor enter an alliance? Will Standing Bear survive his ordeal?

Finally, why on earth didn’t Standing Bear and Nighthorse kill Malachi* when they had the chance?

As I watch the show and see the ongoing whites-versus-Native American interactions and conflicts (Standing Bear refuses to serve turkey at his bar, saying that turkey was served at “Thanks-taking”), I often wonder why A&E chose to drop this show. It’s now exclusive to Netflix. So far, Longmire has remained fascinating after five seasons, the kind of fascination where some may desperately turn to non-canon fan fiction to get an idea of what happens next. This is in contrast to show I’ve enjoyed, American Horror Story, that seems to have lost itself in a dreamy landscape of the same themes.

* I may not like Malachi Strand the character, although as a Caucasian of only trace Native American ancestry, I’d prefer to be slow to judge. But, Graham Greene does a brilliant job portraying him. If you’re reading this, Mr. Greene, good on ya, sir.

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Being humble

March 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I recently chatted with a dear friend from college about humility. Wonderful guy. We don’t agree on everything, but one thing I enjoy about him is his humility.

It made me think of some of the people I’ve known who were, um, not exactly humble. It also made me think of some celebrities who also aren’t humble. We can probably imagine.

There’s nothing wrong with being self-confident or having self-respect, but when those traits aren’t kept in check and are allowed to develop cultures that fester into ego and arrogance, that’s when it gets bad.

I tell my kids that being humble allows you to be able to relax and see things objectively instead of becoming overconfident, condescending and being unable–as the saying goes–to see the forest for the trees.

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Two pebbles, a handful of sand, and a piece of limestone

March 21, 2013 2 comments

From A to Zowie

Two pebbles, a handful of sand, and a piece of limestone

By Richard Zowie

My two youngest sons and I visited Texas in July 2011, our first visit home in over seven, very long years. It was an extremely emotional experience, to put it lightly. Never in my life was I so happy to experience 90-degree weather. While home, we stayed in Beeville with my parents but also spent time in Corpus Christi, Victoria and in Austin. In Austin, we spent the day with Chelsea Taylor, my high school classmate whom I’ve known since fifth grade. I also got to see my nephews, nieces and my sisters Sabrina and Misti, all whom I missed very much.

It was a week that went by far too quickly.

The last night before we flew back to Flint, Michigan, Chelsea asked me, “How has your vacation been, Richard?”

“Let me put it this way,” I said. “If I could, I’d tear up the return-flight tickets.”

Being back in Texas made me realize something I’ve known deep down for years: I’m a Texan. Michigan is a beautiful state, but it’s not home and never will be home. Someday soon, when the time is right, I want to return back to Texas and spend the rest of my life in the Lone Star State.

I wasn’t born in Texas, but I moved to Texas when I was eight, grew up in Texas and think of myself as an adopted Texan.

Why my fondness for Texas? It’s not just because it’s home, but…Texas is a state of mind that I’ve never experienced any other place I’ve been. I love the white-on-black farm to market road signs, I love the scenery, which ranges from the Gulf Coast to the Valley to the Hill Country and to the endless oil derricks you see out in West Texas. I also love the culture, how the independent spirit blends with the Hispanic culture. I’m not Catholic, but I smile when I see old Catholic churches; they make me think of early Texas settlements centuries ago. I love the smell of Tex-Mex food and the accordion-fueled guitar beat of Tejano music.

And, of course, I love the songs of the cicadas.

I know I’m home when I enter a store and for sale on the news stands are the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle, and in the magazine rack is Texas Monthly and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. And when you enter that store, half the conversations are in Spanish, spoken by family and friends who have spent generations in that town.

All this means I’m especially partial to South Texas.

I am a very sentimental person by nature, and during that visit I decided to collect a few items.

From the back of my parents’ property northeast of Beeville, I found a smooth black pebble.

During our trip to Corpus, we visited the U.S.S. Lexington. While there, I scooped up a handful of sand from the beach of Corpus Christi Bay.

While with my sisters, nephews and nieces for a trip to Victoria to a duck pond, I found another smooth black pebble.

Then, outside Chelsea’s home in Lakeway, I found a piece of limestone.

Someday, perhaps as soon as this summer, I plan to move back to Texas. For now, I live in Vassar, Michigan, a small community about 25 miles southeast of Saginaw. On my nightstand are two plastic containers; one contains the pebbles and limestone and the other contains the sand.

When I return, the sand will be returned to the beach at Corpus Christi Bay.

The small black pebble will be returned back to the duck pond in Victoria.

The larger black pebble will be returned to my parents’ property.

And the limestone will be returned to its home in Lakeway.

When I do those things, I will know one thing.

I am back home for good. And forever.

Richard Zowie grew up in Beeville and is a 1991 graduate of A.C. Jones High School. He currently lives with his sons in Vassar, Michigan. Post your comments here or e-mail Richard at His blog is at

The future of newspapers

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

A newspaper recently closed up shop in Texas. It was a weekly completely void of an internet presence. Not only was it not web-published, there was not even a registered domain name.

Hard to believe in 2013 there would be newspapers that seem to think it’s 1973.

As I look at newspapers now, I see how many of them have elaborate websites. It makes me think of the future. How long will it be before print newspapers are gone?

Newsweek, at the end of 2012, ceased print publication and is online only. I suspect that will continue. There are also fiction magazines and non-fiction magazines that are online only.

My parents are in their seventies and, last time I checked, prefer print newspapers. But when they pass on, and when those who are addicted to their cell phones and the endless applications are old, where will the demand be for print news?

Hard to say.

I’m 40, and I believe that when I’m 70 there will be very few newspapers that still have print versions.

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