Category Archives: local news

Puppy Tales, Part 61: Canine intution? You bet!

I hereby declare my belief in canine intuition.

Toby the Puppy embodies it. I know it whenever we approach home. And by “approach,” I don’t mean walking up to the front door of our dwelling. He exhibits his understanding of his bearings blocks away.

We came home this evening from a weekend trip to the Panhandle. We drove for more than six hours from Amarillo to our home in Fairview. As we made the exit off U.S. 75 about a mile from our residence, Toby perked up. He had been dozing for hours.

He sat straight up. He looked around. He recognized his surroundings. He was ready to get out of the car. He knows where he is at all times.

I have boasted through numerous previous blog posts about how smart Toby is. We’ve known it almost immediately upon his joining our family in September 2014. He adapted himself right away to life with a new family.

And as we hit the road on our various travels around the country, he has shown himself to be an outstanding traveler. Toby is a road warrior par excellence. 

He also knows when he’s coming home. Even when he’s knocked out. Unconscious. Lights out!

He wakes up. He’s ready to get out and make himself at home.

Counting down to the finish

I can think of an entire category of Americans who likely are awaiting anxiously the end of the 2018 midterm election campaign.

I’m talking about letter carriers.

I have become acquainted with the young man who delivers our mail. He is a Marine (I don’t like referring to Marines as “former” or “ex-” because once a Marine, well, you know … ) who served in the Persian Gulf War.

The campaign has bombarded us in Collin County with flyers. Man, we get a lot of ’em. Just the other day, I fished eight pieces of mail out of mail box; seven of them were campaign flyers, most of them repeating the messages we had received countless times already.

My hope is that letter carriers all across the land — not to mention the intrepid men and women who do that job in Texas — will enjoy the respite from what has to have provided a terrible burden for them all.

I know for a fact that I certainly will.

Two more days to go. Let’s get this thing done!

Citizen comment is good, but let’s be reasonable

AMARILLO, Texas — I ran into a longtime acquaintance tonight at Amarillo’s Civic Center auditorium. He is a member of the City Hall legal team and, quite naturally, our discussion turned to the recent kerfuffle at City Hall over citizen comment time in front of the City Council.

As I understand, a few soreheads in Amarillo are mad at the city administration and the council because of rules being placed on the time and substance of citizens’ comments during council meetings.

My friend said he believes Mayor Ginger Nelson and City Manager Jared Miller are placing reasonable restrictions on the time and tenor of the comments. I understand that many of the comments have gotten intensely personal. They have accused the council of violating the Texas Open Meetings Law and of keeping secrets from the public.

Well, I am not close enough to the situation to make a serious judgment on the complaints. Although I do believe governing bodies have the inherent responsibility to conduct their public meetings with decorum and dignity; if residents become too nasty and personal in their comments, they do not need to be heard.

I reminded my friend of what a former local county judge used to do. Randall County Judge Ted Wood — who took office when I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 — allowed county residents unlimited time to comment to the Commissioners Court. Wood’s view was that since the commissioners work for them, the residents are the “boss.” Commissioners, according to Wood, were obligated to give them an open forum to bitch and moan, rant and rail to their hearts’ content.

My friend said, quite correctly, that was an unreasonable concession to the public. Residents who blather on and on take up too much valuable time from the elected officials, from the public staff and from other residents who come to have their own voices heard.

The soreheads who gripe continually at City Hall have filed suit against the city. I don’t know the merits of their action, so I won’t comment. I’ll just offer this bit of opinion: The city, based on what I’ve read from afar, has acted reasonably in trying to maintain a level of dignity at City Council meetings.

The soreheads need to settle down.

Spring still the best time of year, but then there’s this

AMARILLO, Texas — I do enjoy the spring season each year. It is especially glorious on the High Plains of Texas, which can be subject to winter brutality. Barren trees, biting cold wind, snow that traps even the sturdiest of motor vehicles.

Then again, there’s the fall on the High Plains, which isn’t bad, either. We came back to Amarillo for a weekend, took a stroll around Medi Park Lake with our precious Toby the Puppy. The sun was bright. The leaves are turning colors.

And the lake is full!

Indeed, the lake we saw today is as healthy — if not healthier — than any time I’ve laid eyes on it. It’s been quite a few times, given that we lived in Amarillo for 23 years. I have seen Medi Park Lake dwindle to near-puddle status. Today? It’s brimming. The Canada geese are finding their way back during their winter migration; indeed, I wonder at times which of the geese we see at this time of the year in Amarillo are returning fowl. Hey, my mind wanders on occasion.

Water is rushing along culverts into the lake and then flowing beyond it, under Ninth Avenue and to points north.

It does amaze me how cyclical certain matters can become. You cannot predict it will happen. It just does.

Not that many years ago, Amarillo residents — along with city utilities officials — were wringing their hands as the city struggled through a punishing drought. Lake Meredith, about 50 miles north in Hutchinson County, had dropped to dangerously low levels, about 26 feet; the lake’s historic high was slightly more than 100 feet, dating back to the early 1970s. Amarillo relies on water from Lake Meredith, but then it couldn’t rely on the reservoir to quench the city’s thirst.

Wells got dug. The city pumped water out of the Ogallala Aquifer. The municipal water authority stopped pumping water out of Lake Meredith because the pipes were no longer underwater!

That’s changed. Lake Meredith has rebounded. Its level is something north of 72 feet. Ute Lake authorities upriver in New Mexico released water into the Canadian River, providing flow into Lake Meredith.

On this day, we enjoyed a brisk autumn morning walk around Medi Park Lake. The very sight of a healthy body of water is enough to make me almost consider autumn to be my favorite time of the year.

I still love springtime the best, as we come out of that dark, barren winter. In the Panhandle, it can get damn cold. You know?

Words of wisdom

Beto’s been to all counties, even to the heart of Trump Country

I love how Beto O’Rourke boasts about visiting all 254 Texas counties. For the life of me I cannot fathom that, but the Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stands by his story … and he’s sticking with it.

I cannot help but wonder how he fared when he ventured into tiny Roberts County, just northeast of Amarillo along U.S. 60. It’s been said of Roberts County that it has far more livestock than live human beings.

However, the New York Times profiled Roberts County a year ago as the nation’s friendliest county for Donald John Trump. I looked up the results from the 2016 presidential election. Trump carried Texas by about 9 percentage points, which is down from the total that previous Republican presidential nominees — Mitt Romney in 2012 and the late John McCain in 2008 — scored in their losing bids against President Obama.

Roberts County, though, voted 94 percent for Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton got the handful of votes remaining.

How does someone such as O’Rourke, a flaming liberal/progressive, actually campaign in Roberts County? I haven’t been privy to news reports on how this event took place.

Suffice to say, though, that it speaks quite well of the young man from El Paso that he is willing to travel into the heart of Trump Country — and I consider Roberts County to be Ground Zero — and pitch his notion of good government.

His strategy seems to be to cut his party’s losses in the deepest Republican-red regions of the state and hope he holds onto his margins in the urban centers where Democrats usually outperform Republicans.

If he can cut the GOP margin in Roberts County by, say, three ballots, I figure the young man is on a roll.

Coming back to familiar haunts … and headaches

AMARILLO, Texas — We all love to return to familiar haunts. Of that I am quite certain.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I have returned to Amarillo for a couple of days. She and I will attend a concert downtown and then we will return to Fairview, where we now call home.

But returning to Amarillo almost always is a joy for me. I love the feeling of familiarity. It’s a sense of belonging. I don’t need a telecommunications navigational device to guide me from place to place. I can travel quite literally from one corner of this city to another and know my way without the aid of some fancy technological gizmo.

We’ve lived in Collin County for several months. We have returned to Amarillo frequently during that time, taking care of family matters and so forth. We no longer have many of those needs, although we do enjoy spending time with one of our sons, who still lives here.

Our sense of belonging is coming to us steadily in Fairview. We know our way around our neighborhood and a bit beyond. Getting from one end of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, however, presents a whole universe of challenges we don’t face when we return to Amarillo. I’m certain you get my drift. The Metroplex is home to about 7 million individuals, compared to around 200,000 who live in Amarillo. You get the idea.

We’re getting acclimated just fine in the Metroplex.

Now, a return to Amarillo would be damn near perfect were it not for one major impediment: road construction.

I can handle the Interstate 40 and I-27 work. The Texas Department of Transportation is rebuilding the highways that split the city essentially into thirds. The city street department, though, has many streets under repair. Getting through the construction zones is a challenge … to say the very least.

Turn lanes are closed off. Some streets now are “grooved” while crews scrape the top finish off of them. You’ve got flaggers everywhere. The city is awash in orange: cones, signs, barrels.

I know I should be patient. Indeed, I have said as much on this blog. I am doing my level best to exercise patience and maturity as I navigate my way through this mess.

It’s a chore. Bear with me as I struggle to keep my sanity behind the wheel of my car.

I still do enjoy returning to familiar haunts.

Ready for the end of this campaign season

The deluge of TV ads and the torrent of mass mailings filling up my mailbox have convinced me: I am ready for this midterm campaign season to end.

The TV ads broadcast in the Dallas/Fort Worth area tell us the same thing … over and over and over again.

For instance:

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions has “lost touch” with his constituents; his Democratic opponent Colin Allred is “all wrong” for the congressional district. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under indictment and shouldn’t have his job as the state’s chief lawman; his foe, Justin Nelson, is “too liberal” for the state. GOP candidate Van Taylor is a “family man and a proud Marine” and should represent the Third Congressional District. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says “liberals want to turn Texas into California.” Beto O’Rourke blasts Ted Cruz’s absenteeism from the U.S. Senate; Cruz says O’Rourke favors “open borders” and we have “too much border security.”

I want to scream! Enough, man!

Wow! I don’t recall undergoing this deluge, this amazing volume of political advertising during my more than three decades in Texas. Not in Beaumont. Not in Amarillo. In Fairview? It never ends.

It’s the repetitive nature of it that I find annoying. It reminds of why I detest hearing the same musical commercial jingles all the time. After hearing the same silly songs over and over, I want to throw something at the TV.

Election Day is just around the corner. With apologies to my late mother — who often counseled me against wishing my life away — Election Day cannot get here soon enough.

Half-staff flags becoming more of a U.S. norm

I ran an errand a few minutes ago and noticed something along Stacy Road, a busy thoroughfare between Allen and Fairview, Texas.

It was the sight of flags flying at half-staff. Several business owners along the south side of Stacy had lowered the flags in front of them, no doubt because of the tragedy that erupted in Pittsburgh, Pa., this past weekend when an anti-Semitic gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 congregants.

Flags all across the land have been lowered to half-staff.

It makes my wife and me wonder: Is this becoming the new normal in this country?

We seem to be lowering flags and displaying them at half-staff at least as often as we fly them at the top of the flagpoles. I understand that’s probably not entirely accurate, but the sight of those lowered flags serve to remind us of yet another tragedy.

I am not naïve enough to think we’ll ever rid our society of these events. It’s just that they seem to be occurring with such increasing frequency.

This is such a sad thing to see.

Beto crawls back into the belly of the GOP beast

Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke says he doesn’t have any pollsters on his campaign staff.

If that is true — and I don’t disbelieve him — then someone is telling the young man that it is in his political interests to spend so much time in Texas’s most Republican regions as he campaigns against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke had yet another campaign rally this morning in Amarillo, which many have labeled as a sort of Ground Zero of Texas Republican politics.

Public opinion polling puts Cruz up by a 5 to 7 points, depending on the polling outfit. I’ve noted already the view expressed by some around the state that O’Rourke’s strategy appears to be to cut his expected losses in GOP-friendly rural Texas while trying to shore up his expected majorities in the state’s urban centers in places like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

O’Rourke certainly gins up energetic crowds wherever he goes. I have to hand it to the young congressman from El Paso for the guts he shows in venturing into the belly of the proverbial Republican beast.

He appeared recently on late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert’s show and told Colbert how he has visited every one of Texas’s 254 counties. He mentioned Muleshoe (in Bailey County) by name as one of the communities he has visited, prompting Colbert to wonder aloud that a “town with the name of Muleshoe must have great barbecue.”

Whatever. It also has great people who seem willing to listen to what this outlier Democrat has to say to them.

So it is with Amarillo residents and those who live in many rural communities throughout the state.

I don’t know whether O’Rourke’s strategy will work. The polling, if we are to believe it, tells us Cruz is leading.

Then again, the pollsters told us Hillary Clinton would be elected president in 2016 by a narrow margin. Might there be another surprise awaiting us this time around?

My hope continues to spring eternal.

Puppy Tales, Part 60: Yes, we’re a trio

Toby the Puppy is out of sorts.

He’s been moping around the house. His “team” has been separated.

You see, my wife — aka Toby’s mother — has been out of town the past few days. It’s just been the Puppy and me at home. He does all the things he normally does with me: He awakens every morning around the same time; we eats breakfast, we goes outside for his morning, um, potty walk; we play fetch with one of his squeaky toys for a good part of the day; he eats dinner and then we turn in for the night.

However, he does none of it with quite the same gusto and joy that he displays when all three of us are together.

My wife tells me that when she takes Toby for walks that he is anxious to return home to see “Daddy.” Since I cannot verify that with my own eyes (if you get my drift), I rely on my wife’s testimony. Given that I married the most honest woman on Earth more than 47 years ago, I have no reason to doubt that she’s telling me the unvarnished truth.

And she informs me routinely that Toby loves yours truly, but he loves “he just loves me more.”

Toby the Puppy considers us to be a trio. He loves it when we’re all together. He’s in his element. He is safe and sound and he gets all the attention he deserves … which happens to be every ounce of it we can spare.

OK, so he’s a bit out of sorts. He’s a little under the emotional weather at the moment. I keep telling him that Mommy is coming home soon, which seems to perk him up.

It’s just not soon enough.

In the meantime, Toby the Puppy has just me.