I had the pleasure Wednesday morning of a phone chat with the unforgettable Bill “Bullet” Ramsey, my old Fort Worth Star-Telegram friend and sports copy desk colleague who somehow managed to retire at 55 and avoid newspapers’ inescapable plight. Can’t believe he’s been retired for 28 years, since he hung up his pica pole, page dummies, grease pencils and editing shoes in 1994.
The main reason for my call, in addition to wanting to catch up a bit, was to wish Bill a happy 83rd birthday, which was Tuesday. He and his wife, Sandi, are still down in Covington in rural Hill County, where it seems like Bill’s lived forever (I remember he did live near the GM plant in Arlington for a while). Sandi has been dealing with some health issues in recent years but is hanging in there. Bill mentioned something about a bunion that’s been giving him trouble, but his health sounds good for the most part.
“We go to the doctor a lot, but we do pretty well,” he said.
I have fond, everlasting memories of Bill, his drawl (he’s still got it in spades), his sense of humor, his trademark suspenders and his sometimes-cantankerous ways. Walking around the newsroom with telltale signs of his affinity for chewing on cigars – a little piece stuck on his lip or the stain on his shirt pocket. One of the most colorful characters I’ve worked with in my newspaper career, which will hit 39 years in June.
I had the privilege of working with Bill and the amazing gang on the S-T sports desk from late 1987 – a few months after I arrived and worked first on the features desk – until I moved to the paper’s new Northeast Tarrant zoned news copy desk in the summer of ’93. (I returned to sports as co-copy chief in 1995, by which time Bill was gone, and then I moved out to the S-T‘s Northeast Tarrant edition office in Bedford as an assistant city editor in late ’97 before leaving for The Dallas Morning News in February 2000.)
Pretty sure the last time I saw Bill was in 2014, when I organized a springtime gathering at the ever-beloved Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth in honor of his 75th birthday. I can’t fathom how that was eight years ago.
I’ve worked over the years on getting together with Bill and Sandi again for breakfast or lunch – they live about 60 miles south of where we are in SW Arlington – but it just hasn’t happened. Hopefully sometime this year. Bullet Bill said he and Sandi were just talking about the need to consolidate or eliminate some of their drives up to Tarrant County because of the ever-rising price of gas.
Speaking of gas prices, we also visited the Ukraine-Russia mess for a couple of minutes. As always, my long-ago colleague takes a plainspoken, Bullet-like approach:
“Someone needs to take Putin down,” he told me. “It’s just brutal. Why somebody doesn’t have the guts – at some point he’s got to be challenged. I understand the threat of nuclear war, but at some point, you have to call their bluff.”
Couldn’t agree more, Bullet. Great chatting with you, sir.