Walking with Moonshine: My Life in Stories

An excerpt from “The Price”

a story in Walking with Moonshine

Three days before the meeting I had a dream:

It was winter with ice storms. Frank and his wife Julia had come to my house. Because of the blizzard rapidly covering the streets, there was the possibility they might have to stay the night. After washing dishes with heaps of soapsuds, I brought out the Monopoly game so we could have fun if they stayed.

That hot June afternoon we met at the Velvet Cloak Inn. In a bridal suite.

For the fourth session of the group my cousin, Frank, Jr. (who was publisher of The News and Observer), had labeled the “Structure Committee.” Frank had scheduled this meeting at the Velvet Cloak instead of at the N&O’s office in order to prevent unease among reporters about the paper’s future. Today’s agenda was to focus on the probably upsetting report by Lee Dirks of Detroit, who had been hired to appraise the 1988 value of our closely-held Daniels family newspaper and its subsidiaries.

The individuals assembled in that room fell into two main categories—third-generation stockholders nominated the November before in the major and first outspokenly contentious stockholders’ meeting ever convened, and experts these stockholders had hired to assist them. Besides Frank, Jr. and me, the other family members present were:

Edgar, our adopted cousin, who had once been an actor and, briefly, an opera singer and who, because of having no siblings could own 1/4 rather than 1/8 or 1/16 of the paper.

Derick, an experienced newspaperman who had left Knight-Ridder to be publisher of Playboy and later left Playboy (after getting it out of the red) to make way for Christi Hefner.

Worth, Jr., Derick’s physician older brother, whose unyieldingly decent character and role as chairman of the board, brought him to our meeting as conscientious observer.

We ranged in age from early fifties to mid-sixties, with me the youngest and Worth the oldest. Edgar, Frank and I had all grown up in Raleigh, where our fathers had run the paper together after the death of its founder, their renowned journalist-statesman father, whom we knew as “Grandfather.” My father had been editor then, Frank’s father business manager and later publisher, Edgar’s father an employee with some other management title. Worth and Derick’s father had been the only one of the four brothers in the second generation to leave Raleigh and not work at the newspaper. A respected doctor of internal medicine who discovered Cat Scratch Fever, he had practiced and raised his sons in Washington, D.C.

As cousins in a family where kinship was everything, we had known each other all our lives—in the physical, specific, down-to-earth ways children know the sometimes unspoken truths about one another. For instance, I knew that they knew how my crossed eyes had always made them uneasy; I certainly had a clear memory from childhood of their wincing when they looked at me and of the corresponding draining-away sensation in my own gut. . .

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