Category Archives: local news

Puppy tales, Part 8

This item clarifies something I wrote earlier, right after we acquired a Chihuahua mix dog from someone who lives down the street and around the corner.

I had written that Toby had been neutered. I was mistaken.

His “equipment” was not as readily visible as I had thought. We took him to the doctor’s office for his first going-over and she noticed he had his tools. “Do you want to neuter him?” she asked. “Yes,” I said.

Well, we did it this past week. We took him and removed his malehood from his little body.

The result? No change in his disposition. We had been told he might be a little, um, moody once we got him home. That has not been the case with Toby. He’s as frisky as ever. We leave the room for 45 seconds room, return and he acts as though we’ve been apart for a month.

Well, since we consider ourselves to be responsible pet owners, we’re glad we had this deed done.

With this post, I think I’ll scale back on the “puppy tales” entries. You know how this is going already. We’re glad we have this marvelous addition to the family.

Our 12-year-old cats, truth be told, are slowly beginning to adapt to life with a new little brother among us.

I’ll let you know if major developments occur along the way.

I’m out.

Gas prices to drop? Where?

The headline from The Associated Press caught my eye online today right after I noticed that gasoline prices in Amarillo had spiked 17 cents per gallon overnight.

The AP story tells of how gas prices might fall below $3 per gallon by year’s end.

So help me God Almighty, the roller-coaster ride that gas prices take makes me want to hold on with both hands.

Our gas prices had been falling steadily over the course of the past month. They hit $3.02 per gallon of unleaded gas — until last night.

Then the prices shot back up in the biggest overnight spike I’d seen in some time: 17 cents.

Now we hear about further declines? In “some parts of the country”? Gas prices will fall below $3 per gallon?

This is the new normal, friends.

Back when it gas hit the then-unheard of price of $3 per gallon, oil experts were talking about $5 gasoline. One of the was none other than the legendary Texas Panhandle oilman Boone Pickens. He was among those predicting very expensive gas. It hasn’t happened.

Now it appears the price is going the other way.

AP reports that fall is a time when prices usually decline. Refiners switch to cheaper grades of oil. Lately, though, we’ve seen greater automotive fuel efficiency, more alterative energy production and conservation at many levels. All of this results in greater supply as demand declines.

The global price decline is a different matter. AP reports: “The drop in global crude oil prices is a surprise. Despite increasing violence and turmoil in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-producing region, the global price of oil has fallen to $97 a barrel, close to its lowest level in more than two years.”

Maybe the overnight spike in the heart of Oil Country is an aberration. Let’s hope so, OK?

Cell phone courtesy course is in order

Cell phones. I love ’em and hate ’em at the same time.

What do I love about cell phones? A few things come to mind: I love being able to call my wife when I forget something I’m supposed to get while running errands; I love the Bluetooth feature in my Prius that allows me to talk and drive at the same time while not fiddling with the gadget; I love being able to place — or receive — an emergency phone call, which has happened in both instances.

OK, what do I hate about them? Watching individuals talk and drive at the same time. The No. 1 thing I hate about them is being forced to listen to someone’s conversation.

It’s that aspect of cell phones that brings to mind an idea I hadn’t thought of until just today. Cell phone merchants ought to conduct cell phone courtesy courses, teaching first-time users (if there are any of them left on Planet Earth) the do’s and don’ts of cell phone usage.

Here’s an example.

I was at work Tuesday at the car dealership that employs me part time. The waiting area in our service department was full of customers; maybe about 10 or 12 folks were sitting there waiting on vehicles they’d brought in for service.

About four of them were talking on cell phones. But one of them — a gentleman about 70 years of age — could be heard above everyone else. In fact, his was the only voice I heard for nearly an hour. He was talking loudly on his cell phone.

The woman sitting right next to him was talking on her cell phone. I didn’t hear a thing she said. She was being discreet.

Mr. Loudmouth? He was anything but discreet. He was bellowing into his phone for no apparent reason. He wasn’t hard of hearing. How do I know that? Because he and I spoke briefly and he had no difficulty hearing what I was saying to him in my normal conversational voice — which isn’t particularly loud.

But he just had to talk loudly into that gizmo.

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. But, hey, I couldn’t help it. Neither could any of the other customers who had to listen to this guy’s constant blathering.

Cell phones have become a part of our society. However, I think I have an idea that would make it a less-intrusive element in our way of life. I am going to pitch it to one of the sales folks working at the cell phone store where I do business.

Glad the Scots said 'no' to independence

I’ve been thinking about the vote in Scotland to stay attached to the United Kingdom and the thought occurs to me: Would a “yes” vote to declare independence fuel further secession talk in Texas?

I’m only half-joking about that speculation.

A neighbor of mine sports a “SECEDE” bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle, right next to one that says he was “Proud to Serve” in the U.S. military. Frankly, I don’t get the juxtaposition.

Imagine if Scotland had voted to pull out of the UK. The Scots would have had to form their own military establishment, rather than relying on Her Majesty’s impressive military establishment for protection. There would be all kinds of ancillary expense to forming a nation.

The same thing applies to any notion that one of the United States of America should want to secede.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry a few years back made some careless remarks about secession. He came strangely close to endorsing the idea, only to back away and say he is a proud American who doesn’t want the Union broken up.

And we hear such talk among others around the state. I would call them the fruitcake wing of the Lone Star State’s 26 million or so souls, most of whom are good, decent and proud Americans.

I shudder to think what might have happened had the Scots had said “yes” to independence. I’m glad they went the other way on the issue. Sanity has a way of prevailing when the chips are down — most of the time.

Three cheers for public television!

Public television deserves a serious shout-out.

So I’m going to give it one today. There will be more to come as situations arise.

I’ve just watched a magnificent 14-hour documentary special broadcast on Panhandle PBS, the Texas Panhandle’s public television affiliate. It was titled “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” It is available online at — and I encourage readers of this blog to look at it if they didn’t watch it when it aired this past week.

(In the interest full disclosure, I must mention that I blogged daily on the “The Roosevelts” for Panhandle PBS. The blog, “A Public View,” can be found at — but hey, I digress. Back to the subject at hand.)

Why the shout-out?

Well, public TV occasionally surfaces as a target of political conservatives who have this idea that public money need not fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or the Public Broadcasting Service. They see PBS as some kind of propaganda tool — which it most assuredly is not!

“The Roosevelts” special was produced by Ken Burns, arguably the nation’s foremost documentary filmmaker. His list of acclaimed specials is getting too long to mention here. I’ll bring up one: “The Dust Bowl.” It aired in 2013 and told the story of humanity’s worst manmade ecological disaster. What’s more, it was centered right here, in the Panhandle and in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Burns’s special hit this region right in the gut, as many now-elderly residents recalled the terrible events of that era.

Burns delivered the goods once again with “The Roosevelts.” It told in intimate detail the struggles of this remarkable political family, centering on Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. They were all kin to each other, even though Franklin and Eleanor were husband and wife as well.

This is the kind of programming that the public needs to fund with public money.

You want educational television devoid of tacky commercials? That’s what public television provides us.

It’s also why the opposition to public television funding is ridiculous on its face.

Give me more of it.

This book will be worth reading and re-reading

This idea should have been put forth years ago.

Then again, the product it would produce wouldn’t be nearly as rich as it figures to be.

My good friend and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue has been a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News for about seven, maybe eight years. Prior to that he was sports editor.

He is asking readers for some help selecting his “best of” columns to be included in a book the paper will publish soon.

Jon Mark is a community treasure. He tells a story as no one else does or can. He says the book will be 200-plus pages in length.

The brief blog item he wrote is typically self-deprecating. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is a sure sign of a good and talented man.

Jon Mark, though, does take his craft seriously.

Do I have a favorite? I cannot even begin to select one, or a dozen, or a truckload of columns he’s written over the years.

I’ll trust others to compile the “best of Jon Mark Beilue.” I am certain beyond any doubt it will be a keepsake volume.

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.