Tales from the Beat: Harry DeVault provides unplugged performance in old R-C office

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor Published:

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor

Nobody at the R-C could churn out copy quite like former Kent State athletics beat writer Harry DeVault. I don’t care how long the story needed to be or how close to deadline we were, Harry could tailor his story length as necessary and make deadline -- every time.

I’ve truly never seen anything like it. Part of the reason was Harry’s legendary work ethic, part of it was his typing skills. Harry’s fingers flicked over a computer keyboard like the Phantom of the Opera’s on an organ, hands poised above the keys and crashing down upon them in a blur as he rapidly pounded out a story.

On one particular Saturday night in the mid-1990s at the old R-C building in Ravenna, Harry had returned to the office after covering a Golden Flashes game and was busily hammering out his story. I was sitting at my computer helping to produce the sports section with then-sports editor Tim Houser.

Harry’s KSU game was the centerpiece of the sports front, and although time was of the essence -- especially on a pressure-packed Saturday night -- we were confident that Harry would have his story done in plenty of time.

After all, Harry making deadline was as sure a thing in life as death and taxes.

So Tim and I gave little thought, then, to Harry’s progress on his story as he sat at an adjacent computer behind us.

Whereas Tim and I were sitting at desks that butted up against a wall in the sports department, Harry was sitting at a desk that was part of a row of desks situated out in the open in the news department. The computer at this particular desk actually sat atop a small table that jutted against the desk next to the chair, giving the desk something of an “L” shape.

So instead of facing the desk as he wrote his story, Harry actually was turned to the 3 o’clock position at the small table, with the desk just to his left.

This setup meant two things: 1. You had plenty of leg room underneath the small table to stretch out as you sat at the computer, because the table had an open-ended bottom, and 2. The wires from the computer were completely exposed as they hung down from the back of the table and ran underneath the desk to the floor outlet.

Leg room and exposed wires, we discovered, are not a good combination.

As Tim and I dutifully put the sports section together -- always with an eye on the clock -- Harry suddenly boomed behind us, “Well, I just lost the whole damn thing.”

Startled, Tim and I turned around to see what was wrong.

“What happened, Harry?” asked Tim. Harry, who was unwittingly funny when angry, responded loudly: “I just lost the whole damn story.”

“How did that happen?” asked Tim.

Harry proceeded to tell us that he had his legs stretched out and crossed underneath the table, and when he went to uncross his legs, he inadvertently caught them on some wires and unplugged the computer.

Between Harry’s theatrics and the imagery of his legs becoming entangled in wires and unplugging the computer, it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing.

“Did you save the story?” Tim asked, the unmistakable tone of worry creeping into his voice.

“Nope,” Harry bellowed matter-of-factly.

“The story’s gone. I was almost finished with it. Now I’m gonna have to rewrite the whole damn thing.”

And with that, Harry perched himself over the keyboard once again and promptly set about rewriting the story, fingers swiftly dancing across the keys as if nothing had happened.

The Phantom was back at work.

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