When I was 14 years old, I volunteered (with some generous prodding from my mother, Kathy) for two days a week in the middle of the molten-hot Houston summer to clean out bird exhibits at the Houston Zoo.

Great start to an introductory column, right?

In reality, and maybe as no surprise to any of you, this was not a glamorous job. I was part of a program that allowed junior high school students an opportunity to join many of the departments at the zoo — primates, sea lions, hoofed animals — for the summer and gain volunteer experience while seeing how a zoo runs from the inside.

How the bird department was run primarily involved cleaning bird cages. Every day. All day. And let me tell you, birds are about as regular as you can get, and there was plenty to pick up.

During that hot summer, I was dive-bombed by ravens, pecked at by hens and stalked by Argus pheasants as tall as I was who were not pleased by my sudden appearance in their enclosure, let alone my frantic attempts to hold them at bay with a broom and dust pan as I yelled for help.

Don’t make fun, pheasants are no joke.

I was truly miserable, and the bird department staff — God bless those folks -- were about as strange as you could imagine a group of people committed to caring for birds can be.

I remember the awkward silences that attended each and every break room encounter as we all stared at each other, looking for the right words (or any).

Ten years later, I told this story to a good friend of mine and he said something that surprised me.

“I would have loved to get to know those people.”

I asked him why he thought that. I had always remembered the story because of my own tribulations.

“Because no one ends up in the bird department at the Houston Zoo by accident,” he told me.

The truth is, each of those people came from somewhere and had a story.

They had all spent years doing exactly the same job as I did that summer and were always cheerful and kind, if not particularly talkative.

These were people who spent their lives cleaning up after birds and caring for them for too little pay and zero recognition for their work. I mean, what a story.

That mentality — stories are everywhere — is what excites me the most about my journey here in the Killeen-Fort Hood area. Folks in Cove are about as welcoming as anywhere I’ve ever been and love their city with a passion that’s truly humbling.

I am honored to be around to tell their stories, because those are the stories worth telling.

As a city official told me last week, “no one gets to Cove by accident,” and Covites should be proud of that.

So with all of that being said (you’ll find I’m long winded), I’m happy to introduce myself as the new Cove Herald editor.

A paper runs best when the community is on board, so I hope you will feel free to reach out to me at any time for any reason.

There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming up in the next few months in Cove, and I will do my best to be there at every council meeting and community event.

On the front lines, so to speak.

So if you see me around town, come talk to me, introduce yourself.

Let’s make some new stories together — not involving pheasants, please.

Kyle Blankenship is editor of the Copperas Cove Herald. Contact him at kyleb@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

Contact Kyle Blankenship at 254-501-7567 or kyleb@kdhnews.com

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