This week I spent a day or two finally, reluctantly, digging through boxes holding 20 or so years’ worth of newsprint.

Here was most of my life’s work, and at first glance, it didn’t look like much. It just looked like enough paper to line a thousand birdcages. Enough to train the Obamas’ new puppy plus all the puppies adopted in Dallas for the next year. Pounds and pounds of cheap, moldering, dead-tree newsprint. Yesterday’s news, indeed.

But as I dug through the piles, I found some things that actually made me feel pretty good.

Here’s the two-part series I did in late 1989, “AIDS: The Shadow of Fashion.” It was, as far as I can determine, the first major media take-out on how the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s had decimated the fashion industry, and on the dire effect the disease was having on everyone in the business. The New York Times had to hastily follow us on this one. I know they did, because their men’s fashion writer, Woody Hochswender, told me so. (As it turned out, he used the same “shadow” metaphor in his lede.) It was a groundbreaking story — even the gay magazine The Advocate didn’t get around to doing it till a year later — but it was, I was told, “too depressing” to run on the cover of the fashion section. So it ran inside, where half of DMN’s readership probably missed it altogether. Perhaps that was the intention.

Here’s a decade’s worth of High Profile cover stories. High Profile was a Sunday section that appeared in DMN from 1981 until 2000; the cover was always a magazine-length profile of a prominent Texan, or someone who had lived at least part of his or her life here. High Profile was a plum job, and undoubtedly the most fun of all the jobs I ever had at the paper. Where else would I have gotten to chat with sources like Cesar Chavez, Walter Cronkite, Ted Turner, Lady Bird Johnson, Tommy Tune, Bobby Short, Otis Chandler, Larry King, Barbara Walters, George Stephanopoulos, James Carville, Dan Rather and Tom Landry?  

 I wrote well over 100 High Profile covers: writers such as James Michener, Anne Rice, Robert Fulghum. Artists such as David Bates and Van Cliburn. Actors such as Kathy Bates, Marcia Gay Harden, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker. (If I High Profiled an actor, and he or she was later nominated for a Best Actor/Actress Oscar, then he or she was obviously fated to win, because I stand at 4-for-4 on that score.) I profiled the president of CNN, Tom Johnson; PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose; pop singer Lisa Loeb; astronaut Mae Jemison. I even profiled a couple of Texas billionaires: Fort Worth’s Ed Bass and Dallas’ Mark Cuban. The story on Cuban ran in late 1999, and in it, I scooped our renowned sports department and broke the news that he was thinking of buying the Dallas Mavericks, which he did about two weeks later.

Here, as a Sunday Dallas Life magazine cover, is “The Crusader,” a profile of political consultant Paul Begala. Here’s a Sunday lifestyles cover on writer-producer Thomas Schlamme, back in 2000 when his hit NBC series The West Wing was at its height.

I also profiled a prominent Dallas lawyer named Harriet Miers, when she was elected president of the Texas bar association. Fourteen years later, when she was [briefly and disastrously] nominated to the Supreme Court, I was pulled off my food beat to write an updated 1A profile of Miers. Because I was, it appeared, the only reporter, anywhere on Earth, who had ever gotten an in-depth, detailed, personal interview with this elusive lady.

A few years ago, I spent seven or eight months trailing around a 16-year-old Hispanic girl named Gina who had been orphaned and was homeless, but still attending school while sofa-surfing at her friends’ houses. All she really wanted right then was to buy a headstone for her parents’ graves, something that seemed impossible for her to achieve. She also hoped to go to college, but had no idea how.

After our story ran, she was invited to go to New York and be on the Montel Williams Show. And DMN readers sent $18,000 to help Gina toward her dreams. As a result, she was able to buy the headstone inscribed with her parents’ names, dates and the words: “Love Lies Here.” The rest of the money is still in a Dallas bank, awaiting her entry into culinary school. Gina’s college career was sidetracked by an early marriage and teenage motherhood, but she still graduated from high school on time. We are still in touch, and I am enormously proud of her. She’s one story where I know I made a real difference in someone’s life.

Here’s the Sunday Op-Ed cover I wrote on the centennial of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. (Most notable quotable in that one: Karl Rove, old Turd Blossom himself, who’s a big fan of TR.) The Roosevelt story was supposed to run on Sept. 16, 2001, but got knocked off the schedule for a month by 9/11. I will never forget how, at 8 a.m. on that Tuesday morning, I was supposed to be calling historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning TR biographer Edmund Morris at his New York home. It had taken forever to get an interview with him, and I was very anxious to make sure our phoner went well.

At the appointed hour, however, Mr. Morris was in the shower, according to his wife Sylvia. She asked if I would, please, call him back in 20 minutes.

During that 20 minutes, I sat mesmerized by the morning news shows and, simply stupefied, watched our world change forever. At 8:20, reluctantly, I dragged myself back to the telephone and called Mr. Morris. We had a very nice chat for 20 or 30 minutes, all about TR and Morris’ forthcoming biography, Theodore Rex. The TV images kept intruding on my train of thought — but, ever the reporter, I was bound and determined that nothing would interfere with getting my long-sought interview.

As we prepared to say goodbye, I couldn’t help myself. I said: “Mr. Morris, have you got your television on this morning?”

“No,” he said, sounding a little puzzled, and perhaps wondering why I thought any civilized person would ever watch TV in the morning.

“Well,” I said carefully, “you should go turn it on. Something terrible is happening there in New York. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center, into the Twin Towers, and they’re burning. It is truly dreadful.”

Startled, Morris said a hasty goodbye and hung up quickly, no doubt to go and sit mesmerized in front of his own TV. It has often occurred to me since then that Edmund Morris will probably always remember that the first person who told him about 9/11 was some reporter from Dallas. And I will remember that he was the first person to whom I reported that news.