Category Archives: local news

Puppy tales, Part 7

It is my duty to report that Toby the Dog has committed his first act of vandalism in our home.

You’ll remember that we acquired Toby just a few weeks ago. His former “owners” said they didn’t want him. We were mortified that they reportedly had turned him loose in our neighborhood hoping someone would claim him.

We did precisely that. We’ve taken him in. Toby is part of our family.

However, this addition has not been totally hitch-free.

We put him in one of our bathrooms the other day while we left to run some errands. We’ve decided to do that rather than let him run around the house. We leave him with a bowl of water, a little bed we purchased for him. He’s good to go.

Well, we’re learning now how we need to puppy-proof our house, much as we’ve learned how to child-proof it.

How do we puppy-proof our humble abode? My making sure he cannot chew things he shouldn’t chew on.

Such as yours truly’s sandals.

Toby found my sandals and promptly removed the insole from one of them and chewed it pieces. All over the bathroom floor the material had been scattered.

We came home, found the wounded shoe, put 2 and 2 together.

OK, is Toby in trouble? No. It’s our fault that we didn’t think strategically to prevent this kind of damage from being done.

Hey, we still feel fortunate. He remains very well-behaved. He doesn’t bark unless he has something to say, such as when he tries to urge his new brother and sister — our 12-yer-old cats Socks and Mittens — that he wants to play. They both hiss at him and both have clocked him at least once. No harm, no foul. He’s starting to get the message. Toby doesn’t gnaw on our furniture. He doesn’t dig holes in our yard.

We’ll be sure to guard against further vandalism, however. We just need to outsmart him.

Blogging is a blast … most of the time

Readers of this blog know — I hope — that I take great joy in expressing opinions on this or that subject.

I consider it a form of recreation, perhaps even therapy. I like sharing it on various social media. I post the blog entries to my Twitter feed, which goes automatically to my Facebook feed. They also post automatically to LinkedIn and Tumblr.

Sometimes, though, the Facebook feed results in some, shall we say, unfortunate reactions among a few of the hundreds of friends and “friends” who read this stuff on that social medium.

Some of my friends/”friends” react to the blog post. Their reaction draws a critical response from someone else on the feed. Then the initial responder respond to the response. Back and forth it goes. Then others enter the fray. Then it becomes a game of insults, a put-down contest, if you please.

Some of it is good-natured. Some of it isn’t. Then it gets out of hand.

I commented earlier today on Texas executing a young woman for the murder of a little boy. I stated my opposition capital punishment. Then the fusillade started among a few folks who had read the blog.

It got a bit crazy.

Sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake and sometimes I don’t recognize good humor when it’s hidden behind insults. Perhaps my friends — and these individuals are people I know well — were just kidding among themselves. They really didn’t mean to say all those nasty things to each other, or at least outsiders looking in — such as yours truly — shouldn’t interpret them as mean-spiritedness.

Forgive me, guys. I don’t get it.

I’ll keep spewing this stuff. Others can comment. They’re free to insult each other as long as they don’t use the magic word, which in baseball rhubarb parlance is “you.” By that I don’t want them saying, “You bleeping so-and-so!”

Let’s keep it clean.

Will lame-duck status signal end to incessant griping?

Barack Obama becomes a lame-duck president officially on Nov. 5, the day after the midterm elections.

He in fact became such the moment he won re-election in November 2012, given that the Constitution prohibits him from running for a third term.

That hasn’t stemmed the constant carping about his presidency and his alleged “failures” as the nation’s chief executives.

I have a friend who keeps yammering about the president being an “empty coat.” Other conservatives keep blathering about how his economic policies have “failed the country,” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Still others right-wingers blame the president for the myriad international crises that that keep flaring up all around the world, as if the United States has the power to put them all down — all at once.

I’m wondering when the constant griping will start to subside. My best guess is that the midterm elections might provide some relief for those of us out here who actually support the president, who voted for his re-election and who believe he’s done a good job given the horrible circumstances he inherited when he took office.

I live smack in the middle of Anti-Obama Country. The Texas Panhandle voted 80 percent against him in two presidential elections. So I get that he doesn’t have much cache in this part of the nation.

Here’s what I don’t get: I don’t get why the Obama haters — and they truly hate the man, perhaps for reasons they dare not acknowledge publicly — can’t start looking ahead to the next election and start scouring the landscape for a suitable alternative.

Are they out there? Is there a Republican on the horizon who can do better at reducing the budget deficit, reducing the jobless rate, helping private business hire more Americans, help provide health insurance for millions of Americans who didn’t have it, protect us against terrorist attacks, round up illegal immigrants and end two costly wars?

Barack Obama’s lame-duck status ought to be good news for his enemies.

Come on, folks. Cheer up. The nation is still standing. And we’re still the strongest nation on the planet.

Courthouse building: opportunity or eyesore?

I ventured recently to Canyon, Texas to interview a West Texas A&M University professor on a project for Panhandle PBS.

And as I usually do when I venture to the Randall County seat, I drove briefly around the Courthouse Square.

There it was. The old 1909 Courthouse building. All dolled up. The yard was manicured. The clock tower was keeping time. The building was nice and shiny. The windows were clean.

Then I looked closely at the windows from my car and noticed the interior was dark. Still. Not a thing going on in there — that I could see.

I keep wondering: What is going to happen to that building?

Randall County vacated that structure years ago. Commissioners Court has moved across the street into what used to be the old county jail. Virtually the rest of the government structure has moved a few blocks east to the Justice Center, which once was home to a Wal-Mart.

County Judge Ernie Houdashell told me a few years ago he was trying to swing a deal. With whom, he didn’t say. He just would tell me that some folks are interested in moving into the building.

It’s also interesting that the Randall County website features the old courthouse structure on his home page.

Houdashell is a wheeler and dealer par excellence. I wish him well in his search for a worthy tenant. I have a few guesses on who or what might move in there. The Canyon Economic Development Corp. comes to mind. So does Canyon City Hall. I once thought the Canyon Independent School District might be interested, then CISD built that new office complex at the north end of town.

It’s just a shame to see a building with a renovated exterior paid for with historical preservation grant funds and local tax money just sitting there. Empty. Waiting for someone to turn on the lights.

It’s too pretty a structure to remain vacant.

TR clearly was a RINO

Watching the first episode of PBS’s series on the Roosevelt family last night, I was struck once again by the notion that Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed himself to be a dedicated Republican, but didn’t act like one who is defined by today’s Grand Old Party.

Let’s call TR the original RINO — a Republican In Name Only.

The first part of “The Roosevelts” documentary produced by historian Ken Burns tells of TR’s ascendance to the presidency. He was the youngest man ever to assume the office. He got there by way of the assassination of President William McKinley.

He set out to bust up monopolies, rein in oversized companies, while making them pay their fair share of taxes. He didn’t believe business could build the country all by itself. Teddy Roosevelt believed in activist government.

TR used government muscle to secure land in Panama and begin construction of the Panama Canal. Is that an “infrastructure project” or what?

Imagine today’s Republican Party doing any of that. It wouldn’t happen. TR would be laughed out of the party that we’ve come to know and — in my case anyway — loathe with a passion.

“The Roosevelts” is going to be broadcast throughout the week. It will continue through TR’s post-presidential life and the battle he fought with his own Republican Party. He didn’t think it was “progressive” enough, so he launched a presidential bid in 1912 under the Bull Moose party banner. He failed, but laid the groundwork for what would become the modern progressive movement.

The series will chronicle the careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, two champions in their own right. They were dedicated Democrats.

Teddy Roosevelt, though, more or less broke the mold that used to define early-20th century Republicanism. What has emerged in the century that followed is a mere shadow of what it used to be.

Regents chose well with Lowery-Hart

OK, so I’m a little late commenting on this one, but I’ll weigh in nonetheless.

Amarillo College’s Board of Regents made a sterling choice in naming Russell Lowery-Hart as the college’s next president.

Having said that, I still wish Lowery-Hart would have been put to a stronger test than he got before regents named him their sole finalist for the post, succeeding Paul Matney, who retired after a 40-plus-year affiliation with the college.

Lowery-Hart was second in command at AC. So he doesn’t climb many rungs on the ladder to take the top administrative job.

I get that regents know him well, that he knows the college political and academic infrastructure inside and out, and that he has virtually no learning curve to negotiate as he takes command of the staff.

Over the past few weeks I’ve visited with friends associated with Amarillo College. They all sang Lower-Hart’s praises as a man, an administrator, educator and someone who loves AC. They like his vision and the way he expresses it. They like that he’s “one of us.”

My only wish would have been that regents invited in candidates from other regions, interviewed them along with Lowery-Hart and then considered their visions, outlooks, approaches and credentials.

Something tells me Lower-Hart would have stacked up well against any set of applicants with whom he would compete.

A thorough vetting and comparison with other candidates would have strengthened the local guy tremendously and — were he to still get the job — strengthened the school he was chosen to lead.

Still, I extend my best wishes to the new Amarillo College president.



Puppy tales, Part 5

Toby went to the doctor today.

We got a surprise when the doc looked him over.

I went there with some questions, the first of which was: How old is this dog?

The veterinarian opened his mouth, peered at his teeth and said he doesn’t yet have his incisors. “He’s 5 months old,” she said without a hint of doubt.

I let out something akin to a gasp-howl. I couldn’t believe he is that young.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked … stupidly.

“Oh, yes,” said the doctor.

OK, I’ll take her word for it.

“Has he had any shots?” the doctor asked.

“I don’t know the first thing about this dog,” I responded. Well, actually, I had just found out the first thing — which is his age. I explained to her the quick version of how we acquired little Toby only a few days ago: Niece found him in the alley, he followed her home, she returned him to owners the next day, who then said they didn’t want him, she went out again the day after that, found him and his owners, told the owners, “My aunt and uncle want him,” took him back. Now he’s ours.

Toby’s now been vaccinated maybe for the second time. The doctor said it wouldn’t hurt him to get another round of vaccinations.

It’s the age thing that surprised me the most.

He’s a young’n.

Looks as though we’re in this one for the long haul.



Media landscape changing all around us

No matter how you slice it, dice it, puree it — whatever — the media landscape is a-changin’.

Even here in the relatively staid Texas Panhandle, where the announcement came out today that the one-time newspaper of record for the region, the Amarillo Globe-News, no longer will print its editions here. It will outsource that task to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, another property owned by the parent company that owns both newspapers.

None of this is unique to the Panhandle. The question of the day is: What’s coming next?

I remain concerned about the deadlines for late-breaking news. The printed newspaper won’t contain news that breaks shortly after suppertime. But, hey, readers can catch up with the news on the paper’s online edition — if they subscribe to the printed newspaper.

Print journalism is trying to make the transition from its old form to something new. The Digital Age has arrived. Some papers are doing a better job of making that switch from one form of delivery to another. Others are struggling with it.

The biggest hang-up is making money on the digital edition. I’m not privy to ad sales techniques, so I cannot comment intelligently on how newspapers in general — and the Globe-News in particular — sell the online edition to advertisers.

I’ve heard some anecdotal evidence, though, that suggests the printed newspaper continues to outpace the digital version by a huge margin in terms of revenue generated.

So, good luck with the transition.

I don’t have any particular loyalty any longer to the people who run my local newspaper. I left daily print journalism under unhappy circumstances. My loyalty remains, though, with my friends who continue to work there.

I hope they’re strong and they can persevere through this trauma. Take my word for it, many of them are being traumatized by what they cannot predict will happen in the near or distant future.


Rodeo offers hope for kids

Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and Girls Town is a legendary institution in the Texas Panhandle.

I’ve concluded that one of the things that contributes to that legend is a two-day rodeo held each year at the ranch, which is about 34 miles northwest of Amarillo in one of the prettiest regions of the Texas Panhandle.

My wife and I took our great niece there this past weekend to watch some kids ride bucking horses, try to ride sheep, rassle some steers and — in one of the more charming events — take part in a hobby horse race.

The late Cal Farley founded the ranch in 1939. It is celebrating its 75th year helping kids who, as the ranch motto says, find a “shirttail to hang on to.” The rodeo was the 70th. The link attached to this brief post was from the 2010 rodeo.

It looks essentially the same today.

Perhaps the most interesting element of this rodeo is that the children — all student/residents at Boys Ranch — have gotten quite proficient on the back of a horse. It’s a very good bet that many of the kids, who come from troubled lives and who enroll at the ranch to get straightened out, never have seen a horse up close, let alone ridden one at a full gallop.

Yet they’re out there competing and from what we were able to witness from our seats in the nearly full arena are having a great time.

There’s something else that deserves high praise. It’s the cost of the concessions.

The rodeo’s mission is to raise money for the ranch. I’ve been to enough fundraising events to know how these things work: You go to support a worthy effort and then pay through the nose for concessions, given that you’re already there and the folks who are putting the event on know you’ll pay for overpriced food and drink.

Boys Ranch’s prices for concessions are dirt cheap, which heightens the enjoyment for those who attend.

All the concessions are donated, so every nickel spent on them goes directly to Boys Ranch and Girls Town coffers.

It is a wonderful event that is worth seeing time and again.

Good job, kids.


This news was no surprise, but it still hurts

Have you ever heard of a development you more or less knew was coming but were still unnerved by it when it arrived?

It happened to me today with word that the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for 17 years and 8 months before quitting under duress, is shutting down its presses and will be printed at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 120 miles south.

The A-J is a sister publication of the Globe-News, both of which are owned by Morris Communications out of Augusta, Ga.

Where do I begin in trying to assess what this means to what’s left of the Globe-News’s readership base?

A lengthy essay in today’s G-N by the publisher, Lester Simpson, seeks to cast this news in highly positive tones.

It’s positive, all right, if the intent is to make the G-N even more profitable than it already is. It will do so by cutting production staff, tearing out its presses and perhaps selling the material as scrap or to someone who can use the antiquated equipment. There will be cost-sharing with the A-J in trucking the papers from Lubbock to Amarillo for distribution.

What are the negatives?

Let’s start with deadlines. Simpson said the paper will continue to guarantee home delivery by 6 a.m. That means the deadlines will be set earlier in the evening, given that it will take two hours to transport the papers north on Interstate 27 for delivery. What happens, then, if news breaks at, say, 10 p.m.? It won’t be reported in the next day’s paper, given that the paper likely will have been “put to bed,” to borrow a time-honored term.

The Globe-News used to pride itself on delivering the latest news possible to its readers. That promise, it seems to me, no longer will be kept.

And what does that do to the readership base that still depends on the paper? Well, by my way of thinking, it gives those readers one less reason to subscribe. That will be revenue lost. Advertisers who buy into the paper do so with the hope of reaching more  readers, not fewer of them.

Simpson writes that the company remains committed to print journalism. It’s also seeking to enter the digital age, right along with other media companies. And what are those companies doing to compete with each other — and with other media? They’re reducing the number of days they deliver the paper to home subscribers.

Therein, I believe, lies the next step in the Globe-News’s evolution from a once-good newspaper to a still-undefined entity.

The publisher doesn’t address the next step, of course, in his essay. I wouldn’t expect him to do so.

However, that’s the trend. In my time as a Morris employee, I didn’t see much evidence of a company willing or able to resist the national media tide.

Many folks knew this day was coming. It still is a punch in the gut.