Category Archives: local news

This guy is really and truly an iconic figure

I don’t follow men’s professional basketball all that closely these days. Sure, I know who are the game’s top stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry.

Oh, yeah! Dirk Nowitzki, too!

Well, I had to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to understand fully how much this guy Nowitzki means to diehard fans of the Dallas Mavericks.

Wow! This big fella got quite a send-off as he retired from the National Basketball Association.

I had little clue as to what he means to this community.

The Dallas Morning News published a 14-page special section on April 14. We came home from a two-week trip to points south and east to find that edition of the paper on our driveway. The section contained stories about how he perfected his fade-away jump shot; it had testimonials from his former coaches and from former rivals; about how he makes an impact on D/FW kids.

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley calls Nowitzki “the nicest man ever.”

There even was a two-page spread showing a remarkable graphic of every shot he took and made during his more than two decades as a pro basketball player.

Incredible! Nowitzki is thought of as one of the game’s truly good guys. He is devoted to his wife and young children. He spends time visiting seriously ill people in hospitals and he does it all under cover.

He played 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. He came to Big D from Germany, the nation of his birth and where he grew up. You listen to him these days and you detect barely a German accent. He is going to stay in Dallas in his retirement years.

He finished as the No. 6 scorer in NBA history, passing Wilt Chamberlain to reach that ranking. He finished behind legendary figures, too: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

I watched the Mavericks over the years from some distance. Sure I knew that Nowitzki was a great athlete. I knew he could shoot well for a guy who stood 7 feet tall.

I just didn’t appreciate the iconic status he attained during the course of 21 seasons playing basketball.

Holy cow, man!

We aren’t alone in moving to the Metroplex!

This just in: My wife and I were part of a trend of those moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 2018!

Who knew?

According to the Texas Tribune, the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 131,000 people moved to the D/FW area in 2017-18. The Metroplex remains the fastest-growing region in Texas, which is among the fastest-growing states in the nation.

In May 2018, my wife and I picked up our belongings and moved them to Fairview, a community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. Not satisfied with our living arrangement there, we then looked for a home to buy. We found one in Princeton, which also is in Collin County.

We have since learned a couple of things about Princeton. It is the fastest-growing community in Collin County and our investment here is going to accelerate rapidly over the next decade or so.

I have made no secret about why we moved from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex.

Is it at all possible that those other recent transplants to D/FW also have grandchildren they want to watch grow into adulthood?

Still wondering: Why not mandatory helmet law?

As my wife and I have motored across Texas and into Louisiana for the past few days we have witnessed a number of motorcyclists behaving (in my view) dangerously on our public highways.

They whip across lanes, weaving at high speeds through traffic.

What’s more, most of them are bare-headed. They aren’t wearing helmets.

And . . . it makes me lament that Texas decided back in 1995 to toss aside its mandatory helmet law in favor of allowing motorcyclists to blast their way along our highways with exposed noggins.

I know this is a hopeless notion as long as Republicans control the Texas Legislature, but I am going to express my wish that legislators one day might find it within them to reintroduce the helmet law.

At this moment, only 19 of our 50 states require motorcyclists to wear helmets; 28 states — including Texas — require some motorcycle riders to wear the protective gear. Those riders are children. Only three states — Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire — have zero helmet requirements for motorcyclists and their passengers.

I might be overly pessimistic about the Texas Legislature’s potential for doing the right thing. The GOP-controlled Legislature did enact a law in 2017 that bans handheld cellphone use while driving motor vehicles. I still am amazed that the Legislature did pass such a law in 2011, only to have then-Gov. Rick Perry veto it, calling the law an infringement on personal liberty. It took a new Legislature and a new governor, Greg Abbott, to create that new law.

I wish the Legislature could find it within itself to do the same thing with motorcycle helmets. In 1995, when lawmakers dropped the law, they required licensed motorcyclists to be insured for at least $10,000. To which I said at the time “big . . . fu***** . . . deal.” Someone who suffers a traumatic head injury can burn through 10 grand before he or she even enters the ER.

I do know that helmets save lives. They also spare motorcyclists from debilitating head injuries that over time put a terrible strain on our state’s medical and social services.

While working as a journalist in the Golden Triangle in the early 1990s, an acquaintance from Orange County told me he hated the helmet law because he couldn’t “feel the wind” in his hair. I laughed in his face.

I know I’m spitting into the wind on this notion. That’s all right. I’ll keep spitting whenever the spirit moves me.

Happy Trails, Part 155: Staying flexible

SLIDELL, La. — A news source back in Oregon once told me he was “so flexible I hurt all over.”

That would be me. Also my wife. Toby the Puppy? Oh, sure. Him, too!

Our retirement journey has imbued the feeling of flexibility as we travel here and there around this vast country of ours. Mother Nature’s wrath sometimes requires us to change our course, adjust our timetable, make changes . . . stay flexible.

We had intended to depart this New Orleans suburb on Wednesday. No can do, man! The weather is going to be too crappy at our next spot. We’re heading home later this week. We are quite likely to pull our fifth wheel into Princeton, Texas, on Friday.

But instead of spending two nights in Shreveport, La., we’re spending an extra night here. We’ll shove off a day later, staying in Shreveport only overnight.

Ahh, that’s what retirement has enabled us to do. Ain’t it grand? You bet it is!

We have been blessed with wonderful weather on almost all of our excursions. We ventured to the Pacific Northwest in October 2017 to attend my 50-year high school reunion in Portland. It poured the entire time we were there. So I’ll toss that trip aside.

The rest of our sojourns have been bathed in sunshine . . . more or less.

Now we’re having to wait out a thunderstorm that threatens our next stop on our way home. That’s OK. We can wait as long as we need to wait.

Flexibility allows us that luxury — even if it makes me hurt all over.

Sod Poodles, ballpark add to city’s life and future

I have repurposed this picture from my social media network and I now intend to use it to illustrate a point I think needs making.

Amarillo’s Sod Poodles, the minor-league baseball team that has opened to big crowds at Hodgetown, appear ready to lead the city where my wife and I used to live toward a new and bright future.

We have no regrets about moving away, but I damn sure wish at times I could be there to cheer the “Soddies” on.

I am hearing about a smattering of gripes from those who think the fireworks at the games are too loud. Residents are bitching about the money spent to build the ballpark and to inject new life into the downtown district.

The gripes are to be expected, I suppose. No project, regardless of its value, is deemed as picture-perfect to everyone affected directly or indirectly by it.

Sure, I live some distance away. Thus, I won’t likely hear these gripes in person; I’ll merely read about them on social media. I intend to remind those along my own social media network that the gripes are misplaced and likely misinformed.

The ballpark cost a good bit of dough: $45 million. The city spent more to condemn the Coca-Cola distribution center and relocate it to a business park near Rick Husband-Amarillo International Airport. There have been tax incentives and abatements given to businesses that have sprung up along Polk Street.

I am baffled, though, at the complaints that the city’s effort to spruce up its downtown district is misdirected.

It is not!

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Every flourishing city in America has at least one thing in common — a vibrant downtown business-and-entertainment district.

I am unable to predict whether Amarillo, Texas, will join the ranks of prosperous American cities. It remains my strong sense, though, that the city is on the way toward that future.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles’ presence in that shiny new sports venue can lead the way.

In search of ‘transparency’ at the Amarillo school district

A coalition of Amarillo Independent School District constituents is getting fired up.

They want answers. The Parents for Transparency Coalition isn’t getting them. So, what is the course the coalition must travel? Beats me, although I certainly to respect the group’s demand for answers to a couple of questions that are continuing to roil the AISD community.

The school board is meeting Monday night at the Rod Schroder Education Support Center. The transparency coalition wants the school board to open an “independent investigation” into the resignation of Kori Clements, the former Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach. This resignation has roiled the AISD community. Clements quit a vaunted high school athletic program after a single season. She cited interference into her coaching duties from a parent and the lack of board and administrative support as her reasons for quitting.

The coalition has been advised that the school board will not take up the matter at its Monday meeting.

The Parents for Transparency want answers. They deserve them. They want to know if the allegation that the offending parent is a school trustee is true. They want to know why the board failed to back Clements’s complaint about the parental interference. They want the school board to explain itself. They are demanding that the school administration — now led by newly named Superintendent Doug Loomis — do the same thing.

Is that an unreasonable request? It is not.

However, asking the school board to hand this matter to an independent investigative team is like asking members of Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms they can serve on Capitol Hill. It’s not going to happen.

Still, I stand with the Parents for Transparency as they seek answers to questions that continue to gnaw at the guts of the public school system.

Happy Trails, Part 154: Why didn’t we come here before?

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am kicking myself in the backside.

My wife and I lived in the Golden Triangle for nearly 11 years before we relocated way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle. That 24 years ago.

Today we arrived at a Texas state park jewel about 40 miles from where we used to live. Sea Rim State Park is a marvelous place to sit, relax, listen to the sounds of the surf and to just veg out.

That’s what we’re doing this evening as we settle in for a couple of nights on the Texas Gulf Coast.

I am not much of a beach guy. But we did visit the coast a few times during the Gulf Coast segment of our long journey through life together. We would drive to Galveston, entering the island community from the ferry that left the other side of Boliver Pass. Or . . . we would head the other direction from Sabine Pass, toward Holly Beach, La., which I used to consider was one of the coast’s hidden treasures.

Sea Rim is a wonderful state park, and part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife network of parks. We have spent a number of nights at many of those parks as we’ve continued on our retirement journey.

Sea Rim is a small-ish park, as far as Texas state parks go. I understand it has sustained considerable hurricane damage in recent years. Monstrous storms named Rita, Ike and Harvey all inflicted serious damage to Sea Rim, in that order.

But the park is clean. It’s tidy. This weekend it’s busy. I heard that the state’s Beach Clean-Up Day will occur Saturday. I’ll have more on that later.

I regret not coming here before now. Better late than never.

Silicon Gulch not exactly fully connected

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — Yours truly’s string of consecutive blogging days came dangerously close to ending this week.

How could that happen? Here’s how: We hauled our fifth wheel recreational vehicle to Pedernales Falls State Park, set up our campsite and then discovered that our site had zero Internet accessibility and damn near no cell phone service.

Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Except that I want to keep the streak alive. It has survived. Here, though, is the quandary.

Pedernales Falls is near Austin, which I’ve always been led to believe is one of the most “connected” communities on Earth. Hey, it’s the hub of what they call the Silicon Gulch, that stretch of real estate between Austin and San Antonio. High-tech firms continue to sprout all over the region.

I didn’t anticipate being disconnected from rest of the planet, being that we are vacationing in this highly connected, 21st-century community.

There might come a day when I no longer want to keep this blogging streak alive. I have occasionally enjoyed being disconnected from the Cell Phone Universe.

The good news, though — if you want to call it that — is that we are to travel to my brother-in-law’s house in this suburban Austin community. It is from here that I am able to post these musings.

And so, the streak goes on.

Our travels will take us very soon to Sea Rim State Park in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas. Let us hope — or let me hope — that we have Internet available there to keep this blogging streak on course.

Happy Trails, Part 153: Weekends galore!

Those who have been retired far longer than my wife and I have been will understand what I am about to say next.

I am having a bit of difficulty understanding that the term “weekend” no longer is relevant to either of us.

We have embarked on a two-week sojourn that will begin in Amarillo. We’ll pull our fifth wheel south to San Angelo, then to the Hill Country, down to the Golden Triangle, then to New Orleans, to Shreveport and then home.

What’s different about this particular journey is that we’ll be parking our RV in a new storage place just around the corner and down the street from our new home in Princeton, Texas.

Which brings me to the “weekend” point.

My wife has reminded me that we’ll be able to grab our fifth wheel and take it on short trips to any of the numerous state parks surrounding us in Collin County.

“Sure thing,” I have said. “We can plan a weekend trip.” She laughs out loud at me. “No-o-o-o! Don’t you get it? We don’t have to wait for the weekend,” she responds. “We can go in the middle of the week. No crowds. Others will be working.”

Well, duhhh.

I just will need to keep all of that in mind once we get a wild hair and want to haul our fifth wheel out of storage and head out for some quiet time in the woods, or next to a lake.

I’m getting the hang of this retirement thing. Every now and then, though, I need a knock on the noggin to be reminded that weekends are for working folks.

Retirement hobby keeps juices flowing

Time for a quick update. Here goes . . .

This blog is on an 893-consecutive-day streak. I have posted items on High Plains Blogger for those many days in a row.

I have no intention of letting up.

I want to share (boast, if you don’t) some news with you.

  • March was the second-best month recorded by this blog in terms of page views and unique visitors. I am proud to make that announcement.
  • ┬áThe second-best month followed by the best month ever by just two months. High Plains Blogger posted its most productive month in January.

Those two record-setting months have set me up for another record year of page views and visitors. I intend to seek to keep the heat burning.

I have discovered a pattern as it regards these best-ever blog performances. They usually include some comment on local matters.

The January and March figures were driven by some posts I published concerning the resignation of an Amarillo High School volleyball coach. There is intense interest in Amarillo in what prompted Kori Clements to quit the AHS post after a single season. Her resignation letter was one of the more, um, declarative such statements I’ve ever seen. She blamed the school board and the administration for failing to back her as she fended off complaints from a parent who griped at her over playing time given to the parent’s daughter.

There will be more to come as developments warrant.

I also intend to keep the heat on Donald Trump and those who serve in the president’s administration. I want to emphasize what I believe is a critical point as I continue to comment: The president and his administration work for us, for you and me. The individuals who report to the president are not paid by him; they are not answerable ultimately to him.

We are the bosses. They all are our employees.

So, I’m heading for a 900-consecutive-day streak. I want you to stay with me. I also ask you to share these musings with those with whom you share social media networks.

There. Boasting is over. Until the next time.