One of Carter Hague's favorite expressions was "rode hard and put up wet." He used it to describe people whose appearance was less than perfect, even bedraggled.
It's an old Texas expression about a horse that has been ridden too far and then put in the stable wet with sweat. Carter loved to use the saying, I think, because it was his way of acknowledging his roots way out in Texas in the hard-scrabble land around Waco in the early 1940s.
Carter, who died early Thursday morning on St. Thomas, never looked bedraggled. What he did look like was a Texas farmer who had spent too much time in the sun, his face brown and wrinkled.
But this man was not your ordinary farmer. His older brother attests that Carter had taught himself to read by the time he reached his fourth birthday. When he landed on St. Thomas in the early 1970s and joined the Daily News, he became a committed journalist.
He departed the Daily News six years later. Junie Melchior, publisher of the Daily News, thinks Carter didn't approve of the sale of the newspaper by the Melchior family to the giant Gannett chain. We haven't seen too much of each other lately, so I can only speculate about Carter's reaction when Gannett sold the paper to Jeffrey Prosser a little more than a year ago.
"The brightest and the wittiest," is how Derryle Berger remembers Carter from his almost 30 years on St. Thomas.
Ah, that wit, quick and acerbic.
For years, UVI faculty colleague Paul Leary and I dined every Friday evening at Alexander's in Frenchtown. Most nights, Carter and his beloved Linda are sitting at the bar. I have one drink to stoke my courage, then thread my way through the crowd to match wits with Carter. I return all too soon to the table.
"He take you again?" Leary asks.
"He's too fast for me," I mutter.
Leary's theory was that there was something about the Virgin Islands that attracted only especially interesting people to its shores. It was difficult to argue with Leary because the living proof of his theory was sitting down there at the end of the bar.
Carter worked at a lot of jobs on St. Thomas. There was his time on the Daily News. But by the early 1980s he was ensconced at WVWI Radio as news director.
He was not your typical radio newscaster with the big voice. That would be Rick Ricardo or Jean Greaux. What Carter had going for him was a supply of ad libs, his wry comments on the otherwise dry news reports, drive-off-the-road-when-you-hear-them-on-your-car-radio ad libs. He was responsible for a lot of fender benders during the noon hour and evening rush hours.
Penny Feuerzeig remembers an internal memo — a mock column of sorts — that Carter wrote during his Daily News tenure. It dealt with how to translate the rhetoric of local politicans. "The people's right to know" meant "What I want them to know." "Rank and file" meant "my supporters."
Behind Carter's rapier wit lurked a real journalist. Highly intelligent, exceptionally well read, he could write and edit rings around most of us.
And he cared.
Before he left the Daily News in 1978, he spoke to a gathering of the newspaper's writers and editors. Use the enormous power of the Daily News wisely and well, he admonished them. It is easy to abuse that power, he said, if it is used for purposes other than protecting the public interest.
Someone who was there remembers it as a memorable speech. It's also a fitting epitaph for Carter Hague, that genuinely gifted man who graced our lives on St. Thomas for so many years.