Finley

If you don’t like this column, which I think is impossible, blame Wanda Orton, the sensational Baytown Sun columnist.

If you do like it, and I’m sure you will, you can thank me, another sensational Baytown Sun columnist.

This is about Jim Kyle, the late sensational Baytown Sun columnist.

Well, we are/was.

I’ve written about Kyle, as I called him, many times over the years. He was truly a great friend and I loved him.

I’m doing another Kyle Episode today for two reasons. 1) He died 20 years ago this month (hard to believe), and 2) Wanda and I exchanged emails the other day about this funny humanoid.

Wanda’s emails sparked this piece.

Briefly, for all you newcomers, Kyle was, without a doubt, the greatest-writer-who-ever-lived-who-could-not-type. Of course, he didn’t have to worry about that as long as I was around. He’d just hand me his handwritten work and order me to type it.

He did many of his stories on a Big Chief Tablet, the one with a Native American (formerly Indian) on its red cover. And he wrote with a No. 2 pencil. (I still have an autographed Big Chief he signed for me shortly before he died.)

That info will get us started.

I could write beau coups of stuff about Kyle. I could tell you about the time we were on a plane headed for Indianapolis to cover the Indy 500 and he used the flight attendant’s microphone to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” to the passengers. Or – and this one hurt – when a book with all his columns was published, he acknowledged numerous people (including Wanda) in the preface for helping him along the way, BUT NOT ME. He was sorrowful about that. I never let him forget it.

So I have a large treasure trove to pick from. But I’ll concentrate on just two today.

I was honored to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. He called it his “biology.”

We met several times over his last 18 months to work on that eulogy/biology.

“Here’s what I want you to say, Jimmy (same as Jimbo).” Then he’d rattle off a number of things for me to utter at his last rites.

Every now and then, I’d question if he really wanted me to say certain things. “You sure?”

“Yes!” he’d snap. “It’s my biology and that’s what I want. Just do it!”

One day, I snapped back and told him he’d never know what I said. “You’ll be dead.”

If you can believe it, we were laughing hysterically over his demise.

Even without him to challenge me, I said what he wanted at his funeral.

Another one we laughed about for years was the time I was with Kyle and John Black, a newsman himself and nephew of Fred Hartman, and we stopped at a Jack-In-The-Box drive-thru. Kyle was driving, and in those days you ordered through a giant clown’s head. Remember?

It went something like this:

ME: Just get me fries and a Coke.

KYLE (to the clown): We want fries and a Coke.

JOHN: I want a cheeseburger, cut the onions and lettuce, fries, and a chocolate milk shake.

KYLE: Also give us …

ME: Hey, a chocolate milk shake sounds good. Get me that instead of a Coke.

JOHN: Wait, make it a strawberry milk shake, and tell them to go ahead and put lettuce on my burger.

KYLE: (Mild naughty word.)

ME: I’ve changed my mind. Get me a cheeseburger, too. And make it a vanilla shake.

With every change of our orders, Kyle grew more and more frustrated, and he finally exploded.

This being a family newspaper, I can’t repeat what he said. But I can tell you that EVERY WORD he screamed was going through that clown head to the person taking the order, and most likely into the dining area.

John and I were laughing uncontrollably. Tears filled our eyes. I can’t remember eating much afterward.

Hey, Kyle, I still miss you man.

Jim Finley is a retired managing editor of The Sun. He can be reached at viewpoints@baytownsun.com, Attention: Jim Finley.

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