Category Archives: local news

Gov. Abbott climbs aboard the stay-at-home wagon

I suppose you could accuse Texas Gov. Greg Abbott of being a bit slow on the uptake in his statewide response to the coronavirus pandemic.

I will not join that chorus.

Gov. Abbott today issued a stay-at-home order for Texans. Don’t leave the house except to purchase essential items, such as food, fuel and assorted necessary household items. We can venture outside, walk around the neighborhood but we just need to keep our distance from our neighbors. Abbott’s order is in effect at least through the end of April.

There likely will be a decision soon on whether public schools will open on May 4, which the governor set as the return date for millions of students and their teachers. I am getting close to being able to bet the farm that Abbott will close the schools for the remainder of the academic year. A May 4 return date — at this moment, with the cases of COVID-19 still skyrocketing — seems far too early.

Only 10 states are left that haven’t issued the kind of order that came from Austin today. Perhaps they, too, will join the rest of the country. It well might be that the federal government will issue a nationwide order, pulling everyone off the street and closeting all Americans in their homes. I’m OK with that order if it comes.

So far the nation’s response has been a bit of a hodge-podge of reaction, depending on the state or the county or the individual community. My wife and I live in a city, Princeton, that doesn’t to my knowledge have any known cases of COVID-19.

However, I did get a chilling response from Farmersville Police Chief Michael Sullivan, who I interviewed for a story I am working on for the Farmersville Times. He said local officials depend on information released by county health officials, which does not account for those who might be carrying the virus but who haven’t yet been tested by public health authorities.

This story is far from showing signs of letting up. I am going to applaud Gov. Abbott for stepping up the state’s response, even if he was a bit slow to take action.

Any chance Texas can restore sanity and reinstate helmet law?

I chatted the other day with a former colleague about someone else we both know, a woman whose son was grievously injured in a motorcycle wreck about a decade ago.

The young man was speeding along a street in Amarillo when he crashed his motorcycle. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. The young man suffered permanent brain damage.

The chat with my friend spurred a thought in my own brain: What was the Texas Legislature thinking in 1997 when it repealed the state’s mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists? I sniffed around a found an article that talked about how motorcycle wreck-related deaths have increased dramatically since the Legislature gave cyclists the option of endangering themselves.

Republicans took control of the Legislature and in 1997 took over as the majority party. The “limited government” crowd then saw fit to repeal a law that I always thought was a reasonable requirement for anyone who sat astride a “crotch rocket.” The motorcycle law is no more onerous that requiring every passenger in a car to buckle up for safety with a seat restraint.

Legislators saw the helmet law differently, I reckon. They made a mistake, in my humble view.

To be fair, children still must wear helmets if they’re riding a motorcycle with Mommy or Daddy.

What’s more, the state now requires motorcycle owners to have an accident insurance policy worth at least $10,000. That’s fine, I guess, except that one can go through 10 grand in about 10 minutes when you check into a hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

As we get through this coronavirus pandemic and the next Legislature convenes in January, I am somewhat hopeful that Democrats might retake control of at least the House of Representatives. Maybe a House chamber controlled by Democrats might seek to restore some sanity to our roads and highways by bringing back a helmet law. I know it still has to go through the Texas Senate and it still needs the signature of a Republican governor, Greg Abbott.

My hope does spring eternal.

Puppy Tales, Part 83: Oh, how the time flies

This is the face of a 6-year-old pooch. Toby the Puppy turns 6 on April Fool’s Day.

That is no joke, except that there’s more than a little irony that we would celebrate Toby’s birthday on this particular day.

Toby has been part of our family for almost all of the time he has been scampering on the good Earth. He barged into our lives one sunny summer day in Amarillo, Texas. Our great-niece brought him home with her after she found him curled up in an alley not from our home. Our niece was spending some time with us in 2014. There’s a bit of a back story regarding all of this, but you’ve heard it already.

If you’re interested in revisiting the whole story, look here:

Pet ownership lesson No. 1: Don't let them run loose

The irony of all this is that when we took our puppy to the veterinarian, we asked her how old he is. She looked into his mouth and said, “Five months.” That’s it. The doc knew. We backed it up from Sept. 1 and, lo and behold, it happened to fall right on April 1.

There you have it. The “joke” was on us. Except that Toby the Puppy has been no joke. He’s been an absolute joy. He has made us laugh every single day since the moment he entered our home and captured our hearts.

I have chronicled through this Puppy Tales series of blog posts about how smart he is, how well-behaved he is, how intuitive he is and how my wife and I have had to speak in code in front of him because — and I am quite certain of this — he understands the English language.

I want to extend birthday greetings to our beloved Toby the Puppy. There will be more tales to tell about him.

It’s been a wonderful six years. He has made my wife and me so very happy and I know absolutely without a doubt that he shares his happiness with us.

Mayor teaches a course in Leadership 101

Leadership reveals itself in many forms.

One way is when a leader prepares for the worst while hoping for the best outcome. Example: U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower launched the D-Day invasion of Europe in June 1944 hoping for ultimate victory, but he was prepared to deliver a message to the world in the event of failure; he would take full responsibility for a tragic outcome.

Another way is when an elected public servant battles a potentially deadly disease, steps away from his or her public duties and then returns to announce a strategy to deal with a worldwide health crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Example: Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson.

I doubt Nelson — who I don’t know well, but is someone with whom I am acquainted — would welcome a comparison with the great Ike, but I am going to offer it anyway.

Nelson is battling cancer. She has backed away from her normal mayoral duties to fight the disease. But this week she issued a mandatory shelter-in-place order for the city of 200,000 residents. She issued the order calmly, with confidence and with compassion. I didn’t watch her make the declaration in real time, but I am willing to bet my entire (and dwindling) retirement fund that she made no mention of her illness, that she didn’t lay a “woe is me” guilt trip on her constituents.

We’re all enduring some level of discomfort during this difficult time. Those who are stricken by the coronavirus deserve our love and compassion. Others of us deserve unflinching leadership from those elected to serve us.

We do not need to hear self-congratulatory blather and mindless happy talk during this dire time … and if you detect a reference to what we’re getting from the very highest levels of our nation’s government, then you win the daily prize.

Well done, Mayor Nelson. Stay strong. Your city needs you.

Whipsawed between emergency and opportunity

I posted an item this morning on Facebook that said the following: Gasoline selling for $1.59/gallon; diesel for $2.17/gallon in Princeton, Texas. Good — no, great! — for consumers.

Where do I began to analyze the irony of that so-called benefit? I’ll give it a try.

The sharp decline in fuel prices seemingly would be a net benefit for a nation reeling under the weight of tragic circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. I am not going to make a single bit of light over the sadness and heartache associated with the illness and the consequences it has brought.

The falling fuel prices are the result of plummeting demand. Texas has issued a shelter in place restriction, as have many other states. We don’t dare go anywhere. Nothing is open. Plus, we don’t want to put ourselves in jeopardy or possibly others as well. We aren’t burning automobile fuel.

My wife and I drive a big Dodge diesel-powered pickup; it’s our sole motor vehicle. The price of fuel is dropping, although not nearly as rapidly as gasoline prices have declined.

We are unwilling and mostly unable to take advantage of the return of relatively cheap motor fuel.

What will happen when the threat dissipates? Or when governors, mayors and county officials tell us it’s safe enough for us to start resuming our daily lives?

The demand for motor vehicle fuel will return. It will put some additional strain on the supply of the fuel that at this moment is sitting there … in tremendous abundance.

My point is that while the drop in fuel prices looks at first blush like a positive development, it isn’t really … given that the overwhelming worldwide circumstances of the moment are preventing us from taking full advantage of what has occurred.

Iconic play falls victim to coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have inflicted a major casualty in the Texas Panhandle: an iconic musical that has been thrilling millions of visitors for decades.

“Texas” is going to miss its 2020 summer season at the Pioneer Amphitheater on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon.

This is a very huge deal in the lives of West Texans, not to mention those who have flocked to the canyon floor to watch the musical that tells the story of the settling of the Panhandle.

Donald Trump declared that the national “social distancing” guideline will remain until April 30. Texas has imposed similar measures statewide. Communities and counties are taking proactive measures, too, to stem the spread of the illness that likely is destined to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Hey, if they can postpone the Summer Olympics until July 2021, it only makes sense that the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation will put “Texas” on the shelf as well until next year.

This news saddens me, but it must be done.

UFO spotted from backyard!

It’s time for a random thought and time to steer away from pandemic madness.

Here it comes …

I walked into my backyard the other evening. The sky over Princeton was clear. I looked up and saw two blinking lights. I don’t know what they were. It was dark, man! I couldn’t discern the source of the lights.

The random thought? Were they unidentified flying objects? Yes, I submit. They were.

Which brings me to the point of this mindlessness: When are UFOs no longer UFOs? Which brings me to another point: If I see a UFO and I determine that it is a vessel that has flown to Earth from some extraterrestrial location, is that a UFO? Of course not! I will have identified it as a space ship from some other place.

Thus, I fear we have misapplied the term “UFO” to mean something that it shouldn’t mean. UFOs from beyond our solar system aren’t UFOs if we know what they are.

OK, I’m now done with this random thought.

The pandemic craziness remains to occupy my worrying moments.

How will this crisis change our beloved country?

The bad news is obvious: Too many Americans are suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, as are too many of our fellow human travelers around the world.

The good news is a bit harder to find, but it’s there: We will emerge from this crisis in due course. It likely won’t be as soon as Donald Trump keeps saying it will occur, but we’ll get through this.

Now for some  uncertain news: How will this crisis and our national reaction to it change this country we all love beyond measure?

My strong sense is that when we emerge on the other side that we won’t be quite the same as we were prior to the first death was recorded what seems to long ago.

Maybe we should adopt tighter personal hygiene habits. We should wash our hands more frequently than we did prior to the pandemic. Perhaps we should adopt some modified form of “social distancing.”

To be clear, I am a hugger. I tend to embrace good friends I haven’t seen in some time. That might change, particularly if my friends wave me off, suggesting I should keep my distance. I guess I’ll take on a case-by-case basis.

On a government level, we most certainly should reintroduce the pandemic watchdog element to our National Security Council. Donald Trump eliminated that arm of the NSC not long after he took office as president of the United States. We are paying for that inattention now. Each of our state governments perhaps ought to find the will and the wherewithal to establish pandemic-oriented agencies as well.

The change in our national psyche also is likely to linger long after the disease runs its course. I hope with all my strength for a vaccine, much like we developed in the 1950s with polio. Many other diseases have emerged since then, but we haven’t found cures for them; I think of HIV/AIDS in particular.

Our daily lives are likely to see changes. What they turn out to be remains one of the great unknowns, one of the uncertain elements that awaits us.

Until the end of this crisis arrives, I’ll concentrate on hoping for the best news … that it’s over. Then we can start planning for the uncertain future that lies ahead.

One county judge peers into a neighbor’s ‘yard’ and offers sound advice

If I were sitting in Collin County Judge Chris Hill’s chair at this moment I might be inclined to tell Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to mind his own bee’s wax.

Then again, were I occupying Jenkins’ chair, I might respond with, “Hey, Chris, we’re all in this together. I’m looking out for everyone in the region. That includes the residents of Collin County.”

Jenkins took part in a conference call among local county judges and local health officials who were meeting to discuss the coronavirus pandemic; Hill didn’t take part. Jenkins has issued a shelter-in-place order for all Dallas County residents, essentially ordering all non-essential businesses to close; Hill has asked folks to stay at home, too, but has kept businesses open.

Jenkins seems to think that his neighboring county judge hasn’t gone far enough. So that’s why he’s admonishing Collin County residents to stay at home while scientists, doctors, first responders answer the call to battle against the coronavirus.

Hey, I live in Collin County. I am heeding the advice given by Judge Jenkins. As for Judge Hill, well, he ought to rethink his reluctance to order the closure of those businesses.

As the Dallas Morning News has reportedAsked about the call with the hospital executive, Hill said it was accurate that he didn’t participate but that he had participated in two other calls with county judges Thursday that Jenkins didn’t take part in. “We need regional cooperation right now in North Texas,” Hill said. “And I urge Judge Clay Jenkins to reconsider his position.”

I need not remind anyone that the coronavirus cases in North Texas are growing rapidly. Accordingly, as a taxpaying constituent of Chris Hill, I hereby ask him to rethink his position.

We have “regional cooperation” in North Texas, even with Clay Jenkins’ apparent scolding.

Glimmer shines through the gloom

It’s not all gloomy out there. Yes, we’re struggling with a monumental health crisis, the likes of which none of us has experienced.

There is plenty to smile about in this time of trouble, turmoil and tempest.

My wife and I essentially are following all the rules laid down by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other local officials. We’re keeping our distance from the rest of the world; we venture out only to go to the grocery store; we wave at our neighbors from across way out yonder; we are Facetiming with our sons, our daughter-in-law and granddaughter. No touchy-feely, not even with them!

We also are taking time to complete some household tasks.

We finished one today: We cleaned and rearranged our garage. That’s one item crossed off my wife’s to-do list.

There will be more.

We also are spending some time reinforcing each other, talking about issues, associated problems that might occur. We also are worrying terribly about all of our loved ones.

We have siblings who live a good distance away and they all have underlying health issues that cause us concern. They’re all smart enough to do the right thing to ensure they remain coronavirus-free. We remain hopeful that we’ll all be intact when we come out on the other side.

So … we trudge on with smiles on our faces while looking for the glimmer peeking through the gloom.