10/25/04 — OPINION -- News rack kidnapped

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OPINION -- News rack kidnapped

By Gene Price
Published in News on October 25, 2004 1:56 PM

We were watching the "evening news" on the tube recently. It was the usual left-wing version on everything from the economy to who's to blame for the flu vaccine shortage. (Who else!)

Then there was a piece that grabbed my attention. Some guy had been going around stealing newspaper racks. He had a garage full of them!

He wasn't looking for something to read. The motive was purely monetary. He'd take the racks home and break into the change boxes.

That didn't hit me as being cost-effective, considering the labor intensity of the operation. The guy could make more flipping burgers.

But the story reminded me of an incident many years ago.

My longtime friend Henry Morrison Smith of Indian Springs is well known for his contributions to the military. This spanned his service "flying the Hump," supplying forces fighting the Japanese in China during World War II, to initiating the campaign that resulted in acquisition of the Dare County Bombing Range -- a move that ensured the viability of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Morrison retired from the Air Force reserves as a full colonel. In light of his contributions, he should have been a brigadier general.

But this has nothing to do with his military contributions.

It's about the disappearance of a News&Observer rack from downtown Mount Olive.

Morrison regularly had been getting his Sunday N&O from the rack. But then it developed the habit of accepting his dollar but refusing to let him get his paper.

Colonel Smith is an honest man, but not one with endless patience.

Finally, one Sunday after being beaten out of his dollar, he loaded the rack into his pickup, drove by the Police Department and advised an officer that the N&O could get its rack back as soon as his money was refunded.

It memory serves me correctly, there ensued some jawing back and forth between Indian Springs and Raleigh with Mount Olive's finest serving as uncomfortable intermediaries.

In the end, the N&O paid the "ransom," Morrison returned the rack and there were no residual hard feelings. There were no charges, and I'm confident the statutes of limitation long since have expired.