Category Archives: local news

There’s something to this ‘Texas friendly’ thing

I concluded not long after moving to Texas in 1984 that Texans, by nature, are a most hospitable bunch.

It’s not a trait unique to Texans. However, it is a quality I didn’t grow up with in my native Oregon.

My wife and I just returned from a walk through our Fairview neighborhood and, so help me, I lost count of the number of times I waved at and/or said “good morning” to total strangers.

Almost everyone we usually encounter either greets us initially or returns a greeting from either of us, usually with a smile.

Why is this so remarkable? I want to mention it in the context of what we keep hearing about our government leaders and how angry they are at each other and how that anger is being projected toward their “bosses,” the voters — such as you and me.

I don’t find that to be the case as I go about my day.

I am generally a social animal. I like people. I like being around them. I enjoy the give-and-take with strangers. I like talking to people and getting to know them just a bit beyond the surface level — although I know enough not to get too personal with my inquiries.

Maybe it’s the nosiness in me. I was a reporter/editorial writer/editor for a lot of years and that particular personality trait served me well as I cultivated sources during my career.

When we moved to Texas back in the spring of 1984 I was taken aback almost immediately by the friendliness of the folks who live along the Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle, where my family and I called home for nearly 11 years.

Then my wife and I uprooted ourselves in early 1995 and ventured a good bit up yonder to the Panhandle. We encountered the same sort of openness and friendliness as we greeted strangers.

What’s interesting, too, about West Texas is the way motorists wave at each other while traveling along lengthy stretches of highway. One can drive several (dozen) miles at times without seeing another motorist; when one approaches from the opposite direction, the driver is likely to toss you a wave … or he or she might lift an index finger off the steering wheel as you whiz by.

I guess that’s what those signs at the border mean when they welcome visitors to “Drive Friendly, the Texas Way.”

One doesn’t get that kind of greeting in the Metroplex, where such right-of-way desolation doesn’t exist, if you get my drift.

And so … about the time you get dismayed at the negative tone you hear on the news each day emanating from the halls of power, I have a solution for my fellow Texans.

Get out of the house and take a walk through the neighborhood.

Hoping for a change of direction in Austin

I am beginning to make up my mind on some of Texas’s higher-profile statewide races in this year’s election. It involves my desire to see a change in the makeup of many public offices.

I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you here … just for grins and giggles.

Lieutenant governor: Mike Collier, the Democrat, needs to succeed the incumbent Dan Patrick. I don’t know a great deal about Collier, but I know plenty about Patrick, the main force behind the 2017 Bathroom Bill that met its demise in the Texas Legislature. The bill would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender at birth. It discriminated against transgender individuals. It was a patently poor idea that needed to die. Patrick needs to go.

Agriculture commissioner: This office usually is hidden in anonymity. Republican incumbent Sid Miller, through his buffoonery and bloviating, has elevated it. Democrat Kim Olson needs to replace him, if only because she appears to be a more serious individual who can devote her full attention to promoting Texas farming and ranching interests.

Attorney general: Texas needs an AG who isn’t under criminal indictment. Republican Ken Paxton is facing a trial for securities fraud. Democrat Justin Nelson is clean. He teaches law and practices law. Paxton’s tenure as attorney general has been shadowed by the pending trial that awaits.

U.S. Senate: I won’t belabor this one. My feelings about GOP Sen. Ted Cruz are well known to readers of this blog. I want Democrat Beto O’Rourke to win next month. Cruz puts himself first and Texans’ needs second.

There’s one more race I want to mention. The governor’s race is important, too. GOP incumbent Greg Abbott is running against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez. This race is a snoozer. I am still undecided. I happen to think well of Gov. Abbott personally. I have had the pleasure of interviewing him when he was serving on the Texas Supreme Court and later as state attorney general. I don’t know Valdez, although I am aware she is the former Dallas County sheriff.

She has made next to zero impression on me. Abbott will win handily. He might have my vote. Or, I might leave that ballot spot unmarked.

I’m still weighing my options for Texas Legislature and for the Third Congressional District.

Time is running out. I have to get busy and make up my mind. Wish me luck.

Clean house at state AG’s office

Texas can do a lot better than it has done in selecting its top law enforcement officer.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican (naturally!), is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger Justin Nelson. Paxton isn’t a normal incumbent. He happens to be an incumbent who’s been indicted for securities fraud.

But here’s the surreal part of it, the maddening element: Paxton is likely to win re-election when all the ballots are counted on Nov. 6.

I am going to cast my ballot for Nelson.

What’s fascinating to me is that Paxton — who used to represent Collin County, where I now reside — in the Texas Legislature. Yet a Collin County grand jury found enough credible evidence to indict him for securities fraud; Paxton allegedly didn’t register properly as an investment agent.

Here’s the fabulous part of it: While he was in the Legislature, Paxton voted against a bill that would have made it a felony to commit the very crime for which he has been accused.

The Dallas Morning News, which has endorsed Nelson, has taken note of Paxton’s penchant for partisanship while serving as AG. To be honest, I kind of expect such from most politicians in Texas. NOt that it’s acceptable, mind you. The partisanship doesn’t bother me nearly as much as having a state attorney general who is under criminal indictment.

Good grief, man! Can’t we do better than that? Of course we can! Will we do better when given a chance to select an attorney general on Election Day? Uhh, probably not, given the state’s hard-right lean.

Check out the Dallas Morning News editorial here.

The editorial board offers a solid reason to go with the challenger. Then again, I’ve been convinced for some time that Ken Paxton isn’t my guy.

Amarillo no longer ‘ignored’ by state

It’s hard for me to believe that at one time many residents of Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle felt “ignored” by the powers that be way down yonder in the state capital in Austin.

Every now and then I still hear the occasional gripe that Austin doesn’t give a damn about Amarillo, or the Panhandle, or those who live there. Those who say such things — or think them privately — need to get out more.

I’ve moved away from there but I return on occasion with my wife. I am amazed at what I see transpiring along the city’s major highways.

I see dozens, maybe hundreds, of work crews toiling to renovate Interstates 40 and 27. I see dozens of trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, road-grading equipment and assorted vehicles of all shapes and sizes  with “Texas Department of Transportation” decals plastered on the doors.

No longer can anyone with a straight face complain about Amarillo being “ignored” by the state.

I don’t know what the dollar figure is on all this work, but it’s got to be in the mid- to high eight figures.

A former state legislator, Republican David Swinford, was known to grumble out loud about the lack of attention Austin was paying to the Panhandle. I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I met the Dumas lawmaker shortly after arrival and asked him whether it was true — as I had heard — that he wanted to split the Panhandle off from the rest of the state. Swinford didn’t deny it categorically and said that he was miffed that the state didn’t pay the Panhandle enough attention.

Well, I guess my old buddy David Swinford has seen his wishes come true.

These work crews are tearing up the highways, not to mention along Loop 335 along the southwest corner of the city. Eventually, TxDOT will begin work extending the loop along Helium Road about a mile west of Soncy Road.

I look forward to watching this all take shape from some distance — except when my wife and I return to do battle along the I-40 as we enter from the east.

You’ve heard it said to “be careful what you wish for”? These days, the grumbling I hear in Amarillo speaks mostly to there being too much attention being paid by the state.

A more fitting memorial honors a hero

CLAUDE, Texas — A little more than 74 years ago, a 21-year-old U.S. Marine was engaged in a ferocious firefight on a Pacific Island. Enemy troops lobbed a grenade at his position.

The Marine threw himself onto the grenade. It exploded, killing him. The Marine’s bravery and valor, though, saved the lives of four comrades and for that single heroic act, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Charles H. Roan is a hero forever. His hometown of Claude not many years ago erected a memorial in PFC Roan’s honor. It was damaged by someone, either accidentally or on purpose. I wrote about that memorial in an earlier blog post.

I want to share this brief item, along with the accompanying picture, to show you how the community has erected what I consider to be a more fitting and lasting memorial to its son, the Marine, the hero who gave his full measure of devotion during World War II.

The Charles B. Roan Veterans Memorial sits on the south side of U.S. Highway 287 as you enter Claude from the west. It contains memorial bricks that comprise a walkway into the memorial; the bricks are engraved with the names of other veterans.

Roan, though, earned this tribute through what the Medal of Honor citation calls his “intrepidity.”

I am glad the community responded in this fashion, by honoring Charles Roan — and all veterans — in the first place and by erecting a strong and stable memorial that will honor this young man’s heroism … I hope forever and ever.

Semper fi.

***

Once again, here is the text of the citation awarded to PFC Roan’s family by President Truman.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese Forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands, 18 September 1944. Shortly after his leader ordered a withdrawal upon discovering that the squad was partly cut off from their company as a result of their rapid advance along an exposed ridge during an aggressive attack on the strongly entrenched enemy, Private First Class Roan and his companions were suddenly engaged in a furious exchange of hand grenades with Japanese forces emplaced in a cave on higher ground and the rear of the squad. Seeking protection with four other Marines in a depression the rocky, broken terrain, Private First Class Roan was wounded by an enemy grenade which fell close to their position and, immediately realizing the imminent peril to his comrades when another grenade landed in the midst of the group, unhesitatingly flung himself upon it, covering it with his body and absorbing the full impact of the explosion. By his prompt action and selfless conduct in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of four men. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.

Happy Trails, Part 128: Getting tired of rain … again!

I once posted a blog item that told of how I had grown to appreciate the rain, given that we lived in the Texas Panhandle, where annual rainfall amounted to fewer than 20 inches.

We moved to Amarillo from Beaumont, where it rains a lot more than that; we moved to Beaumont from Portland, Ore., where it rains constantly. Growing up I hated the rain.

Now we have relocated to Fairview, just north of Dallas.

It has been raining here. A lot! It’s making me grow tired of the rain yet again.

My wife and I spent a few days out of town. We pulled our RV from our garage location in Amarillo to Copper Breaks State Park, about a dozen miles south of Quanah. It rained a good bit while we were there, but it was mild compared to what fell on the Metroplex and the Hill Country while we were staying at Copper Breaks.

Then we returned home Wednesday, driving into the deluge that had flooded much of the Metroplex.

Now we hear that “a lot more rain is on the way,” according to a TV meteorologist.

OK, I am not going to gripe about the rain. I know it brings life to any region that is fortunate enough to receive it. I also know that it brings destruction if it comes too rapidly; just as those who live along the Llano River in the Hill Country have learned.

I guess it’s just in my nature to bitch about the rain, just as I griped for more than two decades while living in Amarillo about the lack of it and the incessant sunshine.

Now that I am older and possibly wiser (although that’s open to plenty of debate, as my blog critics might suggest), I’ll just have to learn with what I cannot control.

Happy Trails, Part 127: Just wait, it’ll get here soon enough

I guess I can count as many non-retirees among my friends as those who’ve called it a career and are retirees … just like my wife and me.

I talked today in Amarillo with one of my non-retired friends. She was asking me how I “liked retirement.” She wondered if we were doing a “lot of traveling.” She added, “It must be nice, being retired.”

Well, yes it is. Then I reminded her of two things: First, she is a long way from retirement; second, it’ll get here before she knows it.

“I hope so,” she said, acknowledging that retirement today seems like a distant vision, adding immediately afterward that “I do still like working, though.” I’m glad to hear that, because she is good at what she does.

However, I have told many working men and women the same thing. The time will arrive; you’ll at yourself in the mirror and you’ll decide it’s time to call it all good. It’s time to retire. Then you’ll sit back for a moment or two — maybe three — and then wonder: When did I get so old? How did it happen so quickly? Where in the world did the time go?

Yep. That’s how it happens. It sneaks up on you. None of us realizes it in real time, but when the time arrives to retire, you almost always wonder the same thing about how it all slipped away so quickly.

We all can tell each other to prepare for retirement, do what we can to ensure financial security. Get all your affairs in order.

You’ll just have to take my word for it, that time has this way of speeding by when we least expect it. We might wish for it to do so in real time.

My mother always told me, though, about the hazards of “wishing your life away.” Don’t wish for retirement to arrive. It’ll get here in no time … none at all.

Sagan gets a (sort of) endorsement

My old buddy Greg Sagan is trying to do the nearly impossible: defeat longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry in this year’s midterm election.

Sagan has gotten some help from a most unlikely source. The question now though is this: What good will it do? I have an answer: Hardly none.

Still, the Houston Chronicle, which sits way down yonder on the Texas Gulf Coast, has urged readers of the paper to vote against Thornberry, who’s running for re-election in the 13th Congressional District, stretching from the Texas Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

The Chronicle said “voters from Amarillo to Wichita Falls” should endorse the Democrat Sagan or the Libertarian Calvin DeWeese. The paper referred to the challengers as “two politicians who didn’t kick us while we were under 50-plus inches of floodwater.”

The Chron is angry that Thornberry was one of four Texas Republican congressmen to oppose aid to the Houston area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. You remember Hurricane Harvey, yes? It dumped all that rain a year ago along the Gulf Coast from Houston to the Golden Triangle.

Three of the four naysayers aren’t seeking re-election. Thornberry is the last man standing. He has drawn the ire of the Houston Chronicle. One of the GOP lawmakers who said “no” to Harvey funds is Sam Johnson of Plano, who happens to be my congressman now that my wife and I have moved to the Metroplex.

The task for Sagan now is spreading the word among Texas Panhandle voters about the seeming heartlessness of a native Texan who just couldn’t support legislation aimed at helping fellow Texans in maximum distress.

I am pulling for my pal, Greg Sagan.

Entering crucial stage of midterm campaign

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before. A “wave election” occurs when the least likely incumbent takes a fall, signaling a dramatic change in fortunes for the halls of Congress.

In 1994, I had a ringside seat for one of those events. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks of Beaumont represented one of Texas’s last Democratic bastions in the Golden Triangle. He’d been in Congress for more than four decades. His foe that year was a guy who came out of nowhere.

Steve Stockman shocked the political world by beating the late “Sweet Ol’ Brooks” to take his House seat as part of the Contract With America GOP delegation.

I figured at the time if Brooks was to lose, the entire House was going to flip. Sure enough. He did. The House did flip.

Stockman lasted one term before being defeated for re-election in 1996. He was elected again much later, but then lost again after another single term. He’s now facing prison time for fraud.

Fast-forward to the present day. Texas’s U.S. Senate seat is in play. Democrat Beto O’Rourke is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that is as Republican as it gets.

The way I figure it today, if somehow O’Rourke manages to pull off what looks like the Upset of the Ages, then the U.S. Senate stands a good chance of flipping from Republican to Democratic control.

It’s a steep hill for the El Paso congressman. He trails the Cruz Missile. But not by much. I see polls that swing from 2 points to 8 points. Cruz should — by standard political measures — be way up. He’s not.

O’Rourke well might lose on Nov. 6. I don’t want him or his allies to claim some sort of “moral victory” by making it close. A loss is a loss. For my money, Cruz needs to lose. He might represent a lot of Texans’ values. He doesn’t represent mine.

If the Cruz Missile gets blown out of the sky, then I am betting that the entire Senate turns over.

Believe me, stranger things have happened — just as it did in the Golden Triangle all those years ago.

MPEV sprouts like a weed in downtown Amarillo

Holy cow! We haven’t been gone all that long  from Amarillo. We’re coming back for a quick visit and we’re going to see the change taking place at a rapid pace in the city’s downtown district.

A friend sent me this picture. It is of the multipurpose event venue — the “ballpark,” if you will — that’s under construction across the street from City Hall.

I am beginning to believe that, by golly, they’re going to be ready for the first pitch to be tossed in April 2019.

The ballpark will be home to an as-yet unnamed AA minor-league baseball team that’s affiliated officially with the San Diego Padres of the National League. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles to be the new team’s name. So help me I don’t know why, but I have changed my initial opinion of that name that showed up on a list of finalists under consideration.

The ballpark continues to be very big deal for the city. It will cost an estimated $44 million. It will seat about 5,000 baseball fans. My hope — perhaps it’s even my hunch — is that the ballpark will be full of fans when someone throws the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day of the Texas League season in Amarillo.

I look forward to casting a gaze up close when we venture to Amarillo in a few days. We’ll be back just a few weeks later to attend a concert at the Civic Center.

I won’t be surprised to see that the ballpark/MPEV has sprouted even more dramatically as the city marches its downtown district to a bright future.

I hate wishing for a drought to continue in the Panhandle of Texas, but another dry winter — such as what the Panhandle experienced this past winter — will enable the contractor to finish the job on time.