Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I don't usually cry when I read the Omaha World-Herald. But Matthew Hansen's May 25th article, "They Covered Whiteclay," made me shed tears.

He wrote that the University of Nebraska's journalism school had just won a prestigious national award, a grand prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights journalism award. To win, the students beat out HBO, the New Yorker, National Geographic and every other finalist: a TV network, magazine and U.S. newspaper. No student had ever won this award before.

For such a victory, I felt like cheering, so why did I sit in my recliner in my living room, the newspaper on my lap, weeping?

The students won that award for their "Wounds of Whiteclay: Nebraska's Shameful Legacy." It focuses on that shameful 12-person town of Whiteclay, where four beer merchants sell 3.5 million cans of beer annually to desperately poor, addicted Oglala Lakota Indians living on a nearby reservation. http://www.woundsofwhiteclay.com.

To do this, the students, during the past year, "wrote stories, snapped photos, shot video and designed a website," Hansen wrote, while they also took classes and worked part-time jobs. Their high-powered professors challenged their students to go beyond "poverty porn."

I could imagine myself as one of those students working with the professors. In 1958-59 I was a journalism student at UN-L. My professors, and particularly Neale Copple, taught a kind of realism I hadn't known before.  "Copple demanded a lot," a student recalls, "he expected a lot. He had very high standards." Reaching, grasping, pulling myself up, I found capacities in myself that I didn't know I possessed. As these 11 students must have. 

So I wept in memory, but also with gratitude for Nebraska's farseeing journalism program.  When Will Owen Jones taught the first journalism university class in 1894, he inaugurated the same kind of professional expertise that I experienced and that so obviously motivated those 11 students. So I wept in pride.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


At supper, Dad cut a piece of meat loaf, popped it in his mouth, chewed, swallowed, patted his lips dry. "I treated that Senator Carl Curtis to coffee, and he said, 'Just between the two of us, that Bobby Kennedy sure is a spoiled brat. Doesn't have the patience to build a solid legal case against the men he's questioning. So he just engages in shouting matches.'"

Dad swirled a piece of meat loaf into its juices. His voice softened. "And guess what. Carl wanted to know if I'd be willing to come to Washington D.C. and testify on Bobby Kennedy's committee—against Hoffa.

Dad whooped. "I nearly broke his arm off, I pumped it so hard."

Just like that, I thought. A second chance to get back at that punk Jimmy Hoffa!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Black Hole

Let me "take flight / From dismal," as Emma Lazarus wrote in 1881. But that's tough. 

My bipolar disorder leaves me dismally inclined; its medicine reduces mania more effectively than it lightens depression.

On good days, I can appear civil, even though I roil in pessimism. But if stress kicks in, I simply sink into a Black Hole.

So when I agreed to have cataract surgery on June 20th, panic spun me down.

Oh, no! He'll operate on the wrong eye!

Oh, no! The surgeon will sell me a newfangled fancy multi-focal intra-ocular lens for $11,000 that will blur my sight!

Oh, no! I'll go blind!

So this email from my friend Kira stunned me: "I had cataract surgery years ago, and it made a wonderful difference. You will enjoy seeing the world with new eyes!" 

What? Joy is a possible reaction to eye surgery?

From inside my bottomless pit, I could scarcely believe Kira's words. But they gave me hope. 

So I inched out of my wretched abyss, struggling to know how I too might "take flight / From dismal."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tic Douloureux

One day in May 1954, my father staggered under a sharp, stabbing, incapacitating throb on the right side of his face. He felt like someone had smacked him with a hot poker.

The local doctor sent Dad to Mayo Clinic. "Tic douloureux is one of the most unbearable nerve disorders known to humans," the Mayo doctor said, "certainly more painful than a migraine headache, even more painful than childbirth." He set a date for surgery.

Dad returned to his top-floor hotel room in Rochester, Minnesota, to wait. He walked to the window. As he stared down at the street, he thought about jumping.

It wasn't just his tic douloureux. It was the Teamsters. 

True, Jimmy had not bothered him for several years, but Dad watched the little guy creep closer and closer to Nebraska. Along with Jimmy moved his gangsters. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

“Faster, Faster!”

I was still fifteen that May 1953 when the Harlan County Dam halted the Republican River and created a huge lake almost seven miles long.

Dad and I had looked forward to this day. Together we'd built a big wooden boat from a kit. I started hundreds of screws, and he finished them.

At last we launched the big boat. Out across the huge Harlan County Reservoir we spun! 

I took my turn with my sisters riding on the flat surfboard Dad towed behind the boat. 

How I loved the speed and the spray!

"Faster, faster," I screamed, and Dad would rev his big engine up, watch me fly across the glimmering water. 

Then he cut the engine and grinned as my surfboard slowly submerged, and I fought immersion.

  Coffey's Transfer at War with the Teamsters
A Daughter's Memoir             
by Marilyn June Coffey

Publication Date: July 30 
the date Hoffa "disappeared"

written for: a JoLt of CoFFeY 
 An Intermittent Newsletter
by Marilyn June Coffey

The author of:
A Cretan Cycle: "A single, sharp, funny story in verse" retells the Minotaur's myth 
Great Plains Patchwork: A lyric tale of the "wondrous strange" great plains
JackJack & JuneBug: A steamy, poignant love story (with Jack Loscutoff)
Mail-Order Kid: A popular biography of Teresa Martin, an orphan train rider
Marcella: A controversial, internationally published coming-of-age novel
Mas - tur - ba - tion: A rollicking tract on a "quite inexhaustible" subject
Pricksongs: A libidinous collection of tart poems from the turbulent sixties
That Punk Jimmy Hoffa: A memoir depicts how Coffey's father beat Hoffa
The Battle of Orleans: A documentary about a hotly disputed Marcella reading 
Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers: Details the dirty deals that helped settle Nebraska

& publisher of Jack Loscutoff's latest books:
Aunt Gussie's Socks: A Russian-American based memoir (in fact and fiction)
A Line of Shorts: The breezy short stories and holy satires of an awesome wordsmith

Buy Coffey's & Loscutoff's books: 

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