DQs to close? How will these communities cope?

Diary Queen is a staple of the first order in towns all across the Texas Panhandle.

The fast-food drive-in serves as a community gathering place. Its standing rivals that of local high schools on Friday night during fall football season … if you get my drift.

The company has announced, though, plans to close a large number of its restaurants. I heard today that nine possible closures include those that are scattered in small towns across the Panhandle.

I’m actually wondering if the corporate moguls who run the DQ chain understand what they’re about to do to many of these communities. They’re going to cut the heart and guts out of many of them.

Dairy Queen has made such a huge imprint in these towns that the Amarillo Globe-News sports department — when compiling information for its seasonal football supplement — would conduct what it called its annual “DQ Tour” across the Panhandle. Reporters and photographers would fan out across the region to interview coaches and student-athletes for the publication.

I’ll concede that I actually never lived in communities such as Clarendon, Perryton, Dumas or Dalhart — towns that are included on the potential DQ hit list. However, 22 years living in the Panhandle has given me a pretty good understanding of life outside of Amarillo.

In many towns across our sprawling landscape, that life includes gathering at Dairy Queen.


I now want to share a brief anecdote I heard from a former Amarillo resident; it involves the DQ in Tulia. I don’t think the person who told this story to me will mind my sharing it here.

George and Judy Sell used to reside in Amarillo; they moved away some years ago. George Sell once told me that he and his wife were married on the same day as their good friends, Pete and the late Nelda Laney of Hale Center; Pete Laney, you might recall is the former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Sells and the Laneys, George Sell told me, would meet annually on their shared wedding anniversary at the Dairy Queen in Tulia, which is roughly equidistant between Amarillo and Hale Center.

Right there is how you measure DQ’s importance to a community.

I saw the list of potential Panhandle sites to close. I didn’t see Tulia on it. Still, I see potential emotional crises on the horizon in many other Texas Panhandle communities.

Be strong, y’all.

Let the Mueller probe proceed

Good news — if you want to call it that — is coming from U.S. Senate Republicans.

Senior GOP lawmakers are pledging to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into that “Russia thing” proceed to its conclusion. I’ll presume they intend to let it go wherever it leads.

Mueller delivered three indictments this week. They likely are the first of more to follow. The big fish Mueller reeled in is Paul Manafort, Donald J. Trump’s one-time presidential campaign chairman, who stands accused of money laundering and “conspiracy against the United States.”

Mueller’s probe seeks to determine — among other matters — whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome.

According to The Washington Post: “My basic philosophy is, once you have an independent counsel, you ought to give him a chance to follow the facts,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chairman of the subcommittee that handles the Justice Department’s funding. “If somebody’s doing a job, you don’t want to cut it off.”

Senators issue warning

This might be where the legislative branch of government collides with the executive branch, notably if the president decides to curtail Mueller’s probe — one way or another.

My own hope is that Senate Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with their Democratic colleagues in ensuring that this probe proceed.

I also hope the president does the same. My fear that Donald Trump will do something foolish and stupid, though, threatens to overpower my hope.

Welcome back, Tiger; many of us have missed you

I am heartened to hear the news that Tiger Woods is planning yet another comeback to the world of professional golf.

You have to understand how I feel about this guy. I will concede in a New York minute that he has proved himself to be a dirt bag of a husband. His serial philandering was too much for his ex-wife to bear. He got caught up in that nasty scandal — and then his health went bad.

I tend to separate sports celebrities’ personal life from their exploits on their respective fields of competition.

I like watching pro golf on TV. I really like watching Tiger Woods compete. He brings a certain panache and flair to a game that at times needs it. The Golden Age of golf, from my standpoint, occurred in the 1960s and ’70s, when Arnie competed head to head with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player; then came Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. (I  need not bother with a last name when referencing The King of Golf. The same can be done, I suppose, with Tiger.)

Tiger has 14 major titles under his belt. He’s seeking to break Jack’s record of 18. I once thought it was a done deal. It now appears out of reach, given his recent performances on the links.

Whatever, he says he is coming back in December. Tiger has gone through those back surgeries. He’s suffered some personal indignities along the way. He and rival Phil Mickelson revealed recently that they really are pals, that their so-called mutual dislike was trumped up.

Tiger will have a tough road ahead to regain his top-tier ranking. The pro golf game is full of young guns ready to take their place among the greats of the game: Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson come to mind. They are as fearless as Tiger Woods has proved to be in the heat of competition.

So … welcome back, Tiger.

This golf fan is pulling for you.

‘Me Too’ movement culling men from celebrity ranks

The “Me Too” movement is spreading. It is inflicting plenty of casualties.

To which I say, “good,” as long as the allegations have merit.

The movement is spawned by the number of women around the world who have contended that men in high places — with powerful standing — have committed egregious acts of sexual harassment and abuse against them.

It’s an “impressive” list of celebrities who have been taken out by these allegations: Former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly; his boss at Fox, Roger Ailes; legendary comic Bill Cosby; Fox News co-host Eric Bolling; MSBNC contributor Mark Halperin; Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey; Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

And, yep, there even have been accusations leveled against the president of the United States.

Will there be more? Quite possibly.

The corporate culture has for too long given men in high places a pass to conduct themselves in a disgusting manner. The “Me Too” movement came to be as women came forward to say, “me too,” that men have abused them.

Of all the allegations leveled, I want to make a point about what has been said about former President George H.W. Bush, who reportedly has been accused of “sexual assault” by women who said the wheelchair-bound statesman patted them on their backside. Excuse me, but that in no way constitutes sexual assault. Indeed, the former president’s staff has acknowledged that he might have done so  in a “good natured manner.”

It’s not assault by any definition of the term.

For many of the rest of them, though, the scorn they are experiencing appears well-founded, assuming that they actually did what they are accused of doing.

If the “Me Too” movement culls the world of celebrities of sexual predators, then it will have accomplished much to make this world a much better place.

Trump facing serious trouble

This probe into the “Russia thing” has taken a stern turn for the worse … if you’re the president of the United States of America.

Robert Mueller, the meticulous special counsel, has indicted two key Donald J. Trump presidential campaign aides on money laundering charges. The indictment against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes a charge of conspiracy against the United States — which makes me say “whoa!”

Now that Mueller has struck, the talk has surfaced yet again about what the president might do. The Hill reports that GOP senators are resisting calls from Democrats to protect Mueller from a possible firing by the president.

Senate grapples over indictments

Will he pardon Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates? Will he pardon George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia connection?

Ah, but will he actually fire Mueller?

I keep circling back to this notion that if the president is as innocent of colluding with Russian hackers as he insists he is, why would he do anything?

However, I am left to say “holy crap-ola!” If the president is going to do anything that smacks of obstruction — such as, oh, firing FBI director James Comey over that “Russia thing” — then he exposes himself to the full wrath of Congress.

You see, the president has developed universal loathing among Senate and House Democrats. His Republican alliance in both legislative chambers is showing serious cracks, too.

I am left, therefore — as an avid anti-Trumpster — with terribly mixed feelings about what I think the president should do. Does he take the foolish course and do something he will regret? Or does he just shut the hell up — for once in his adult life — and let the process run its course?

OK, here’s my preference.

Keep your big trap shut, Mr. President, and just let the special counsel — who was appointed by the Justice Department because you followed the voice of foolishness with the Comey firing — do what he’s been charged to do.

Earth to Judge Moore: Read the Constitution

Roy Moore went to law school, has served on the Alabama Supreme Court and I must presume has actually read the U.S. Constitution.

The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, though, has blathered ridiculously about whether Muslims should be able to serve in the U.S. Congress.

I am left to utter a simple “ugh.”

Moore says, for instance, that U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., should be barred from serving simply because he is Muslim. The candidate’s idiocy has been challenged by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who earlier had announced his backing of Moore to join him in the Senate.

Moore is demonstrating a breathtaking ignorance about the Constitution, which states quite clearly that there shall be “no religious test” for anyone seeking or holding public office. It means that no one’s faith should become a litmus test for their qualifications to serve in public life.

There once was a time when Catholics were scorned because of their faith. Mormons continue to battle that stigma. As for Muslims, they are considered the dreaded “enemy” of Americans. Yep even those who also happen to be Americans.

Cornyn disagrees with Moore

Roy Moore is furthering the cause of bigotry with his belief Ellison’s faith should bar him from serving the country.

Sen. Cornyn said he disagrees with Moore’s statement about Ellison and whether Muslims should serve. But his statement does sound rather tepid, in that he doesn’t say what I believe he should say — which is that Roy Moore’s ignorance of our nation’s governing framework makes him unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Trump ‘losing streak’ continues at full speed

Donald J. Trump’s boasting of being a “winner” has taken another punch in the gut.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted the president’s former campaign boss, Paul Manafort, of money laundering in his probe of the “Russia thing” that caused Trump to fire former FBI director James Comey.

Hmm. Where does this go? I intend to wait with bated breath. How about you?

The indictment of Manafort, along with that of campaign official Rick Gates signals a new pace in this investigation, which began when the president gave Comey the boot.

The ultimate aim appears to be determining whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russian hackers in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome. The president bellows “witch hunt” and “fake news” and all kinds of other things.

My understanding of Mueller, though, is that the special counsel is as serious, measured, thorough and meticulous a lawyer as they come. I don’t think he’s going to indict a proverbial “ham sandwich” just to score some points.

And so … the hunt continues.

This case is going to get even more curious as Mueller’s team continues its work.

As Politico describes it, Meuller’s task has turned into a sprawling probe.

Happy Trails, Part 52

I am happy to report that we have returned from another highly successful retirement sojourn.

It covered 4,279 miles — give or take a few — from Amarillo to the Pacific Northwest and back.

What I want to mention specifically is that Big Jake — our 3/4-ton pickup that hauls our fifth wheel RV — has flexed his proverbial muscle and has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s up to the task.

Jake lugged my wife, Toby the Puppy and me — along with our fifth wheel — up and over some of the most rugged climbs we believe we’ll ask as we continue our lives in the Age of Retirement.

We set out Oct. 9 for points west. We made stops in Gallup, N.M., Needles, Calif., Chowchilla, Calif., Grass Valley, Calif., Eugene, Ore. and finally in Portland, Ore. Jake took us on some hefty climbs along the way — through New Mexico and then into the Sierra Nevada.

Ah, but it got a bit more stringent on the return trip.

We set out for home on Oct. 23, with stops in Bend, Ore., Winnemucca, Nev., Provo Utah, Glenwood Springs, Colo., and Fountain, Colo. It was the Glenwood Springs-to-Fountain leg where Jake earned his spurs, his stripes; the Provo-to-Glenwood Springs leg was no picnic, either.

We managed to climb to 10,600 feet at Vail, Colo. Then we descended, only to climb again, when we reached 11,100 feet at the Eisenhower Tunnel just west of Denver.

Oh, my! Jake did well.

My wife and I knew we bought a winner when we acquired this beastly truck more than three years ago. Jake had hauled us through the Appalachians, the Ozarks and through the Black Hills. No sweat.

This trip, the longest yet in terms of distance, proved to be a stellar test of the muscle contained under Jake’s massive hood.

Big Jake passed. He gets an “A.” Now we’ll catch our breath, get ready for the next big transition in our life — getting our house ready to sell. Then we’ll hit the road yet again.

No worries. I am certain Big Jake is up the next challenge.

This vet got one heck of a surprise

FOUNTAIN, Colo. — I am about to offer a brief illustration of just how far this country has come in its treatment of Vietnam War veterans.

It has come a long way from the bad old days when vets from that conflict were treated with maximum disrespect and, dare I say, dishonor.

We ventured to this city to meet with good friends. They recommended a place they were anxious to try out. It’s called “Sarge’s”; it is owned by a U.S. Army veteran and it caters to vets. Its walls are decked out in military insignia, pictures, knickknacks, this and that.

The owner of the place came to our table to chat us up. I didn’t get his name, so I’ll refer to him only as “Sarge.” I asked him about his career: He retired in the summer of 2016 after 23 years of active duty; he was an infantryman. “Oh, you must have seen combat,” I said. Yes, he answered, reeling off deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then I mentioned that my last duty deployment was with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which formerly was based in Fort Carson, Colo., just up the road from where we ate our dinner; I served with the unit when it was based at Fort Lewis, Wash. I told him I had trained as an aircraft mechanic and then served in Vietnam with an Army aviation unit and then was sent to serve as a flight ops specialist at the I Corps Tactical Zone operations center in Da Nang.

“The Army, in its wisdom, then sent me to the 3rd Cav and let me drive a five-ton cargo truck,” I said. “Hey, it makes perfect sense me,” Sarge said with a laugh.

Then he summoned one of his employees over, whispered something to him and then declared he was reducing our dinner tab by 50 percent. “I take half off for all Vietnam and Korean War vets,” he said.

I … was … stunned. What none of us realized at the moment was that he discounted the tab for all four of us.

“Don’t I have to show you proof that I served in ‘Nam?” I asked. “Oh, no. You just said it without missing a beat,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.”

This likely would not have happened in 1970 when I returned home from my Army service. Please understand that I did not suffer the indignity inflicted on many other of my Vietnam War brothers. I merely watched it unfold in real time as we all sought to start our lives as we returned to “The World.”

I merely wanted to mention how Sarge has exhibited with a simple act of kindness to someone he didn’t know who merely said he had served in a long-ago conflict.

America, you indeed have come a long, long way.

Here come the indictments

Robert Mueller’s planned announcement of indictments relating to “The Russia Thing” has taken on the look of a film premiere.

I’m on pins and needles.

A federal grand jury reportedly is set to issue indictments based on special counsel Mueller’s intense investigation into whether the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign “colluded” with Russian hackers who sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Who’s going to be indicted? Former national security adviser Michael Flynn? Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort? Might it be presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner?

Could it be all of the above?

Trump team gets ready

The Trump legal team reportedly is preparing some sort of reaction to the news that’s coming Monday from the grand jury.

Of course, the president continues to insist there’s nothing to hide. He says he didn’t collude with the Russians; yet he continues to bristle publicly that Mueller is continuing this investigation at all.

My take is as it’s been for months: If the president has nothing to hide, then he should just let Mueller and his team of legal eagles do their job. If he has done nothing wrong, then the Mueller team can say so publicly.

That’s not how this president rolls, though.

Which makes me wonder: Is this guy hiding something?

Hey, let’s all stay tuned. Pass the popcorn.