Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine

The Wanderer
Whether across the world or
down the road, Charlie Meeks
shares her adventures in print

by Bob McEowen

Small-town newspaper editor Charlie Meeks shares her travels — whether down the road or around the world — whith her readers.

Charlie Meeks has a dream. She'll leave small town newspaper editing behind, sell everything she owns, load up the car and hit the highway to see what's around the next bend.

“There's so many people out there I haven't met, so many places I haven't seen and so much I haven't learned,” she says.

The dream should come as no surprise to readers of The Cedar County Republican. Charlie edits the Stockton weekly paper, covers local news and shares the events of her life in a column called “As I Wander.”

A recent column described a weekend getaway to Kansas City which she and her friends imagined stretching into a permanent road trip. “We planned this whole trip around the United States. We'd write a book about it and make a movie and we'll all be rich,” Charlie recalls.

The big adventure will have to wait. Until then, there's newspaper deadlines and columns to write.
Past columns have shared intensely personal experiences such as her own divorce, holding a 3-week-old grandson born with a life-threatening heart condition (he's fine now) or recalling the kindness of a friend now deceased.

Most of her musings are much lighter, though. In one column she confessed to her fellow Baptists the transgression of feeding a casino slot machine. Another described her reaction to unwillingly eating slugs — they were presented as escargot but she knew a slug when she saw it. “In slow motion, I saw that traitor hand slowly lift that slug, and my traitor mouth opened to let it in. It wasn't bad,” she wrote. “And I never did throw up.”

Week after week Charlie tells stories about the little things that happen to her. It doesn't take long before readers begin to think of Charlie as an old friend.

“I write about common things that they can identify with,” she says. “I write about my grandkids, my kids. When I do something really stupid and it's funny I write about that.”

More often than not, Charlie writes about some trip or adventure. Married for 28 years and the mother of three daughters, she never had the luxury of traveling far but wanderlust was in her bones since she was a little girl growing up in Fair Play.

“I used to disappear,” she says. “I used to take off on my own or I'd go places with friends. My mother never knew where I was.”

Not so her readers. During her career — which has also included stints at The Bolivar Herald-Free Press and The Lawrence County Record in Mount Vernon — Charlie has kept readers informed of her whereabouts.

Sometimes it's just a trip down the road. Other times it's a cross-country journey to see one of her children. Usually there's some anecdote to go along with the adventure — like the time she checked in to a supposedly haunted hotel in hopes of spotting a ghost but was too scared to leave her room.

When her marriage ended in divorce, travel became a way of escaping. Charlie decided to take a trip that more closely resembled her dream. In April of 1999 she left for a six-month tour of England, staying with a friend she met as a pen pal years before.

Each week Charlie's exploits appeared in the three southwest Missouri newspapers where she had plied her craft. She wrote about everything from getting lost in London to learning to drive on the “right” — make that left — side of the road to even the bewildering variety of toilets, or “loos,” she found in Europe.

Charlie described her fear traveling the Chunnel, a tunnel that passes under the English Channel, and her sea sickness during a boat ride. (She did throw up that time.) Other columns described the food she ate or her impressions of English pubs.

“It was a great trip. I just felt like it was a gift,” Charlie says. “I couldn't afford it but I felt like I couldn't afford not to do it. So I just went and things just kept turning up and I got to do so many things that I would have never, ever expected.”

It was an adventure that touched her readers.

“I still have people tell me they really enjoyed those columns,” Charlie says. “People cut them out and put them in their scrapbooks and sent them to other people.”

Back home, Charlie's travels are less exotic but no less thrilling for the writer with the “itchy feet,” as a friend in Tasmania, of all places, described her.

“Any place you go is an adventure,” Charlie says. “I just think life is an adventure so anytime I write I guess it's about a journey of some kind — around the world if I ever get that far or it just may be a journey of the mind or the spirit.”

Rural Missouri December 2014
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