I can hear the question now: Why did the Hesperia Star publish a profile on Raymond Pryke, the longtime owner of a competing newspaper, the Hesperia Resorter?

The answer is both simple and perplexing, prompting another, larger rhetorical question. Why has the local news media taken so long to interview and report on one of Hesperia's most interesting figures? Love him or hate him -- and there are probably many who do both -- Pryke is a true original who simply can't be ignored. That's why we featured him in an extensive front page story this week.

I hadn't talked with Pryke since I was a ValleyWide Newspaper employee more than 15 years ago. In recent years, I ran into him twice at local functions. Each time we said hello, shook hands, and chatted for a minute or two. Last week, Star reporter Beau Yarbrough arranged an interview with Pryke to discuss the overturning of a $3 million judgment against him and ask him what makes him tick. The three of us met at a restaurant across from ValleyWide's longtime Main Street digs near E Avenue.

At 84, Ray possesses the same fervor for all things political that I remember he had soon after Hesperia incorporated in 1988. Lots has changed since those days, but not Pryke. Underneath the gray beard and baseball cap is a mind that is always calculating, adjusting and dissecting. As we spoke to him, it occurred to me that he surely was studying us too.

Not much gets by this man. Although he said he didn't know his IQ, it's got to be impressively high. I've spoken to several people in the genius range -- 140 IQ and above -- and many of them don't have his intelligence. His hat and whiskers may make him look like a desert rat, but he has the smarts of an Oxford grad, which actually isn't too far off the mark for the English-born Pryke. If he weren't a maverick newspaper publisher, he probably could have been a high-powered $500-per-hour attorney. Not surprisingly, the former county grand jury foreman knows the legal system and his first amendment rights.

Mentored in the 1950s by Hesperia's founding father, M. Penn Phillips, Pryke is actually a part of the town's history. He knows or has published stories on Hesperia's movers and shakers, both pre- and post-incorporation.

The Hesperia Star, which is owned by the Daily Press, and the Hesperia Resorter are very different publications. Each has their place in Hesperia. With both parents living until their middle 90s, one thing is crystal clear: Ray Pryke is likely to be publishing for many years to come.