Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

One year later, a look back


August 7, 2019

Ron Warnick

The grave of Quay County Sun senior reporter Thomas Garcia in Logan Cemetery.

The past year revealed what it's like to land a dream job in the worst way possible.

Before I moved to Tucumcari, I'd subscribed to the Quay County Sun. I dreamed what it would be like to work at the newspaper at a town I'd grown to love.

But I'd grown cynical about journalism, where I'd spent much of my adult life. I dabbled in other areas, such as Internet marketing. I hadn't done regular reporting in decades and doubted whether I still could.

Once I'd moved to Tucumcari in January 2018, I sent an email to the newspaper's then-publisher, Rob Langrell, letting him know I was available if a job opening arose.

I'd assumed the opening would occur if former managing editor and now-correspondent Steven Hansen retired. I didn't consider the possibility of replacing senior writer Thomas Garcia, who was younger than me.

I got an acknowledgement of the email, then forgot about it. I went on to other things.

That all changed Aug. 11, when Langrell called to say Garcia had died suddenly that day. It was one of those calls where one has to sit down upon hearing it. Langrell said he needed a reporter ASAP and asked whether I was interested.

I was. I became senior writer at the Sun days later.

While Garcia's family and friends planned his burial, I dove into covering the Quay County Fair and other news. I didn't go to the funeral. I knew of Garcia but didn't know him. I would have felt like an interloper had I went. I kept my head down and concentrated on the job.

An unexpected thing happened. The skills that had lain dormant for decades came back quickly. The cynicism I held vanished. Reporting for a small-town newspaper proved fun.

In short, I was having the time of my life.

This exhilaration at the expense of another wasn't lost on me, however. It wasn't survivor's guilt as much as it was confusion over the dichotomy of joy and sorrow. A line in a song by country-music artist Kacey Musgraves - "You got me smiling with tears in my eyes" - had a lot more meaning.

A Colorado woman I'd known helped reconcile those conflicted emotions the most.

"Honor him by filling the place that he has left you with joy, respect and eagerness for what you will learn," she texted me.

I called Garcia's mother, Virginia, last week. She said "it's still hard" to deal with his death as the one-year anniversary approached. She indicated she held no ill will for her son's replacement.

"He would have wanted someone to carry on and give people what they want to know," she said.

She said the San Antonio Catholic Church in Logan would hold a Mass at 11 a.m. Sunday - the anniversary of his death and just a few days after what would have been his 39th birthday.

While in church weeks ago, I felt the urge to visit Garcia's grave at Logan Cemetery. I did so during the Fourth of July weekend.

I didn't bring flowers. I brought myself and nothing else but the New Mexico wind.

I stood before his grave and told him I was sorry for what happened to him.

I told him I was carrying on as best as I could.

I told him I hoped he was proud of me.

I told him how succeeding him had become an unexpected blessing.

And I thanked him.

Ron Warnick is the senior writer for the Quay County Sun. Contact him at

[email protected]


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