I rolled into town around 2 p.m. on a Saturday. My new reporting job on the Clovis News-Journal in Clovis, N.M. wasn't supposed to start until Monday, but I wanted to give the town a look-see to figure out if I would like it.
I was driving a white Impala convertible with a red leather interior. Although it was February, the temperature was in the 70s and I had the top down. Dressed in a red silk shirt I had picked up at a Navajo trading post near Gallup, N.M., jeans, boots and a rakishly tilted Stetson, I thought I was ready for Clovis. I would soon find out if Clovis was ready for me.
As I entered the publishing plant, a tall slim man with glasses got up from his desk.
'Howdy,' we both said about the same time. He extended his hand. 'You must be the new reporter,' he said. 'I'm Dave Molina, managing editor.'
I was curious. 'How did you know that? Me being the new reporter,' I asked.
Molina smiled. 'Nobody in town dresses the way you do. Welcome to Clovis.'
That meeting -- how many years ago was it, 20, 30, 40? -- was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Dave was the editor, I was the reporter. We would become drinking buddies, investigative reporters, gambling pals and dust devil amigos.
I would introduce him to four women who would become his ex-wives. Dave was a Lothario when it come to women. He would meet a woman at noon, decide 'I want to marry her' and before you knew it, the deed had been done.
Dave and I covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We had just hired a new reporter named Richard Leggitt from Dallas, TX. where Kennedy was shot while riding in an open convertible with his wife, Jacqueline, and Gov. John Connelly of Texas. Since we didn't have a good photo of JFK in our files for the page one story, I hurried down to the Clovis Post Office and borrowed the official Presidential portrait.
Dave was married with two children, but his marriage was on the rocks. He and I became familiar with the Clovis 'watering holes' as we referred to the bars. We also discovered we both had a fondness for gambling. I discovered a strategy book on how to win at blackjack and we decided to test the system in Las Vegas.
That weekend, we won more than $1,400. Dave managed to drink up at least $400 in free drinks at the casinos we frequented. That was enough for his wife, Terri, who decided to cut the blanket and take their kids to her parents' place in Texas.
Our paths separated for a while. I found a job as assistant city editor of the Hobbs Daily News-Sun in Hobbs, N.M. One morning I got a phone call. It was from Molina and he was in Los Angeles.
'Hey, Amigo,' he said. 'How'd you like a job on a real big cit newspaper? I'm a copy editor for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and they need reporters.'
I was getting tired of the prairie country of eastern New Mexico and followed up on his tip. Two weeks later, I was in smoggy Los Angeles working as a general assignment reporter for a Hearst newspaper, a job I held for four exciting years.
My friendship with Dave strengthened. He was between marriages and when he asked me to get him a date, I called a girl I had met and she lined Dave up with Lee, a slim dental assistant who had a reputation as a man-hater. That night, Dave sang to her between Coors Beers and by midnight he promised me, 'I'm going to marry that girl.'
Time flies. Dave and I separated once again, I traveled to Florida. I got my old dust devil buddy a job on a start-up magazine and for a while the team of Molina and Lawrenzi were back in business.
The last time I saw Dave Molina before his death was in Las Vegas. I was coming out of a casino on Las Vegas Boulevard and, lo and behold, there was my buddy standing there.
'Only you and my mother could find me in las Vegas,' he said, grabbing me in a bear hug. 'Let's have a cool one for old time's sake.'
Dave passed away of a heart attack at a hospital in Nogales, AZ. Rest in peace, my dust devil amigo. We made a pair.