Back in the early 1990s, while riding together up Interstate 35 en route to represent the Johnston County Capital-Democrat at some Oklahoma Press Association function or another, my then co-worker Jon Parker and I laughingly hammered out what came to be known as the “Small-Parker Treaty of 1992.”

Two years later – as a means of responding to inane rumors that Jon and I were embroiled in some sort of silly feud regarding our columns in the C-D (which we weren’t) - I publicly revealed, with Jon's blessing of course, the terms of that imaginary accord. As described in the March 10, 1994, edition of the Capital-Democrat, the Small-Parker Treaty stated that I must at all times insist that Jon Parker was the best newspaper columnist in Oklahoma and that I was only second best. Jon, in turn, was required to insist that John Small was the best newspaper columnist in the state of Oklahoma, while he was only second best.

“Whether either of us actually believes this is questionable, since we both take a certain amount of pride in our own work,” I wrote at the time. “Besides, it’s a known fact that when God wrote the recipe for what makes a good newspaper columnist, He scrimped a little bit on the humility. Still, we are both honorable men - and friends, to boot - so we stick to the bargain.”

In retrospect it seems odd that I wrote those words exactly 20 years ago this month. I doubt that I ever thought of the Small-Parker Treaty again after writing that 1994 column. But it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I got the news Tuesday morning that Jon Parker had passed away after a battle with cancer.

The “treaty” was our tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging the respect we had for one another, as colleagues and as friends. During the years we toiled together as staff reporters and columnists here at the C-D, Jon and I tended to bring the best out of one another. Sometimes it was a bit like a sibling rivalry; whenever one of us would crank out a better-than-usual story or column that got favorable response from readers, from colleagues at other newspapers or (especially) from The Boss, the other one would hunker down and try that much harder to get that kind of response the next time.

Our publisher, Ray Lokey, liked to call us the “Dynamic Duo,” often referring to us as “journalism’s equivalent to Batman and Robin.” To be honest, that kind of embarrassed us – but not so much to keep us from playfully arguing from time to time over which of us was Batman and which of us was Robin. Eventually Jon acquiesced and let me be Batman; he told me that since I had the bigger comic book collection, was still a fan of the old 1960s TV show and had actually met Adam West once, I was probably a little more deserving of the title. 

Then we both collapsed on the floor in spasms of laughter. It seems we did that a lot back when we were working together.

We also argued a lot, but never about anything really important. He liked to give me grief over the fact that I preferred old reruns of The Flintstones and Archie to more contemporary animated fare like The Simpsons or Beavis And Butthead. (I still feel that way, incidentally... and don’t even get me started on Family Guy or American Dad.) I, in turn, chastised him loudly for not agreeing with me that Star Wars should have won the 1977 Best Picture Oscar instead of Annie Hall. He said I was crazy; to be fair, he’s not the only one who has said so....

Jon eventually left to write for other publications, starting with the short-lived Carter County Courier in Ardmore. I left for a short time as well, taking the job as news editor at the Durant Daily Democrat; after two years I decided it wasn’t the career move I’d been promised it would be and came back to the C-D, where I’ve been merrily toiling away ever since. Jon was one of those I turned to for advice before making both moves; he supported me both times but seemed especially happy when I came home to the C-D. 

We lost touch not long after that, as even the best of friends will do when they are separated by time and distance. Then, about six months ago, he contacted me out of the blue on Facebook from his home in Baltimore, Maryland. We began exchanging e-mails and messages back and forth from time to time, sharing thoughts on politics and current events and debating such earth-shaking topics as whether Christian Bale made a better Batman than Michael Keaton. 

Other than the little matter of the several hundred miles separating us, it was almost like old times...

On March 12 Jon posted a message on Facebook stating that he was going to the hospital the next morning. That was the last time I heard from him. Then, on Tuesday morning, I saw the message from his aunt stating that Jon had passed away. She said he was surrounded by family and friends when he left. I was glad for that.


Thanks for reaching out and reconnecting with me after all that time, Jon. And thank you for being a part of my life. It just wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without you.

(Copyright © 2014, by John A. Small)