Tag Archives: Amarillo

Happy Trails, Part 121: Getting used to this response

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — So … I was waiting this afternoon for Old Faithful to shoot itself into the air.

I turned to a gentleman and his wife sitting behind us on a bench. We talked for a moment or two: about Vietnam (we both were wearing caps revealing our war connection) and about the fact we were sitting on a huge volcanic fault that might explode some day, maybe soon.

Then he asked, “Where are you from”? I stumbled for a moment.

Then I mumbled being “from near Dallas.”

My retirement has taken my wife and me to Fairview, just north of Dallas between Allen and McKinney. I haven’t grown entirely comfortable telling strangers that I am “from the Dallas area.”

I can’t explain it, other than to suggest that Fairview isn’t as widely known to folks as, say, Amarillo and Beaumont, where we lived for more than 30 years while I worked for a living in daily print journalism. Most people I have met over the years know where Amarillo and Beaumont are on the map. Indeed, when I mention “Amarillo,” I often get a response that goes something like, “Hey, isn’t that the place with the big steak?”

As I grapple momentarily for the right way to tell folks where I now reside, I am left sounding awkward and perhaps a bit feckless.

It’ll come. Soon.

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

It’s official: Amarillo is the tightest community in America

A dinner date last night in Plano, Texas, cemented what I’ve long felt from the moment my wife and I moved to Amarillo, Texas, in early 1995.

It is that Amarillo, a city of about 200,000 residents, is the most tightly knit community I’ve ever seen. It might be the tightest community in America.

Here’s what I mean …

We had dinner with four young people, two couples. One of the young men is a former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News. I had met his wife once many years ago. The other couple also hail from Amarillo; they are close to the first couple I just described. The two young women are cousins.

We chatted and laughed through the evening over dinner and beverages. Then one of the young women said, “Since you were with the newspaper, you might know my stepdad.” I asked who that would be. She mentioned his name. My jaw dropped. I slapped my forehead. Her stepdad happens to be a prominent commercial real estate developer.

Of course I know him. I’ve known him fairly well for many years.

This encounter was just one of a countless string them of them my wife and I have had over the years living in Amarillo. We would meet total strangers. Then we would find out that they either are (a) close personal friends with those we know or (b) are related to them.

Then to have this encounter 350 miles away from Amarillo and find out that there really are very few degrees of separation — or so it seems — from anyone in the Texas Panhandle community just affirms what I’ve believed all along.

Everyone in Amarillo seems to know everyone else.

I wonder now if (six degrees of separation from) Kevin Bacon has ever been to Amarillo. Surely he has.

Get ready for it: Amarillo Sod Poodles

I am getting a bit of enjoyment reading the smattering of letters to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News from baseball fans arguing against Sod Poodles as the name of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball next spring in Amarillo, Texas.

One of them appeared today. There have been some others. They cannot stand the name that emerged as one of the finalists selected by Elmore Group, owners of the team that will move from San Antonio.

I hated the name when I first saw it, too. Then my mind changed. I now have become something of a fan of the name. Sod Poodles supposedly is some sort of historic, Old West reference to prairie dogs. I keep hearing from lifelong Texas Panhandle residents that they’ve never heard of the term … until now!

The team owners wanted to choose from among five names that would cause fans to talk about the team. I believe Sod Poodles is the name that will have fans talking the most vociferously.

I don’t know what the team ownership will decide. They’re supposedly polling the public for its preference. They’ll announce the “winner” later this year. I am not certain of this, but I am betting the Elmore Group is under no obligation to certify and release the ballot results while announcing its decision.

Just a note to suggest that my hunch is that the team owners are going to go with their gut on this one.

You go, Sod Poodles!

Shameful sign removed … for real?

Media are reporting something good coming out of something hideous.

Fox News says that ghastly sign that invited “liberals” to “please continue on I-40 until you have left our great state of Texas” has been taken down.

I don’t live in the Texas Panhandle these days, so I’m left to take the media outlet at its word, that the sign is gone. It had been erected in Vega, Texas, just a bit west of Amarillo.

I’m wondering now about the why and by whom. Why did the person who put the sign up decide to remove it? I’ll hold out some glimmer of hope that whoever is responsible for it got shamed into taking it down.

The billboard that contained the sign is owned by Randy Burkett, a former Amarillo City Council member. He served a single term from 2015 to 2017, then decided he wouldn’t seek a second term.

Good deal, yes? Given his ownership of this billboard, I’d say “yes, definitely.”

Such a closed-minded point of view on a well-traveled public interstate highway sends a chilling message to those passing through. Their unmistakeable takeaway is that people with a “liberal” or “progressive” world view are not welcome here.

What the hell kind of message is that to send in a nation that is supposed to welcome all kinds of thought and political expression?

I do hope the message is gone. I also hope it stays gone.

As for who put the sign up and then took it down, may this individual — whoever he or she is — decides to exercise at least a modicum of discretion when expressing a political point of view.

Happy Trails, Part 110: Put away … already!

I am married to Wonder Woman.

No, she doesn’t spin around and morph into a super heroine dressed in some goofy red-white-and-blue costume.

But … she’s a wonder nevertheless.

This woman with whom I have shared my life for 47 years has managed to find places to put possessions we had stuffed into a 2,150-square-foot house in Amarillo into a “luxury apartment” that is just a little more than half that size in Fairview.

Now, is every single thing precisely where we intend to keep it? Probably not. We’re likely to discard some of these possessions. However, as you look through our new digs you get the sense that it’s actually assembled in a livable fashion.

I credit Wonder Woman for this. She is the master of packing and unpacking. She is systematic in her approach. She takes time to survey the situation, then attacks it with gusto.

Wonder Woman is reluctant to take too much credit for this skill she exhibits. She credits it to the number of times she moved as a much younger person. She learned this packing-unpacking skill at a young age, she’ll tell you. So it becomes sort of second nature for her.

Me? I’m not wired that way. Although I do consider myself to be more adaptable than I thought I might have been. Our move from Oregon to Texas in 1984, when we both were in our 30s, required me to activate that adaptability wiring. It worked. I was able to acclimate myself nicely to life along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Then again, I left the proverbial “heavy lifting” to Wonder Woman, who arrivedĀ  in Beaumont a few months after I landed there. She got there at the same time the mover arrived with our possessions. And, yes, she was able to store our worldly goods into an apartment where we lived for a time until we decided to purchase a home.

We repeated this process nearly 11 years later when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo. Same story, a new verse. Wonder Woman did what she knows how to do.

We’re retired these days. You know that already about us. Her skill at unpacking, though, remains unrivaled.

I am grateful beyond measure. I am one lucky fellow.

Firefighters answer the call yet again

Fire is breaking out in the Texas Panhandle.

We aren’t there to witness it up close, first hand. I am hearing reports of serious scorching in an area southeast of Amarillo.

I also am hearing reports of firefighters coming from far and wide to assist the assorted Panhandle firefighting units in battling the blazes. The Mallard Fire has burned 73,000 acres in Armstrong County, creating something called a “pyrocumulus” cloud that developed above the blaze and triggering a severe thunderstorm.

Holy moly, man!

It’s time once again to offer word of thanks and eternal gratitude for the selflessness exhibited in times of need by these heroes. So help me, I can’t say it enough.

These men and women run toward trouble when it erupts. It’s the same ethic that drives police officers to do the same thing.

Man, oh man. If society needs heroes to honor daily, they wear the fire and police uniforms. Many of them are volunteers, which means they get paid next to nothing to risk their lives to protect the rest of us.

They are coming from Bexar County in South Texas, or so I’ve heard; let’s see, that’s about 500 miles from the Panhandle. Other reports have firefighters traveling from the Metroplex (Flower Mound, to be precise).

These individuals represent the best of us. They embody selfless public service. They are the pure definition of the term “public service.”

I wish them well, safety, and God’s blessing as they do their work on our behalf. Many thanks go to them all. They’re heroes.

Happy Trails, Part 97: Dreading the goodbye

This retirement journey upon which my wife and I have embarked is on the cusp of bringing a major change in our lives.

We are set to relocate to a community in the greater Dallas area. We’re less than two weeks from our shove-off date.

I’m going to be candid. This impending move fills me with a bit of dread. I don’t dread the move. I dread saying goodbye to a community I have grown to love.

As I write this post, we are awaiting a possibly severe thunderstorm. Yes, I love the weather in the Texas Panhandle. I love the changing seasons. I love the summer heat, the spring blooms, the fall colors (yes, our foliage can get quite pretty in the autumn) and I enjoy the winter snowfall (unless it falls in blizzard fashion, which it has done during our 23 years living here).

Mostly, I am going to dread saying goodbye to the friends we acquired along the way. We have many of them. My wife and I both worked fulfilling jobs in Amarillo. One job occupied the vast bulk of my working life here, and that job — as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News — enabled me to cross paths with some of the most interesting, influential and engaging individuals throughout the Panhandle.

I developed good professional relationships with many of them and some of those relationships turned into personal friendships. I had to take care to avoid letting those friendships interfere with the craft I pursued in Amarillo for nearly 18 years.

The dread comes in saying goodbye to those folks. I cannot possibly do so in person. Perhaps I can do it here. Many of them read this blog. They well might see this post and respond.

The vast bulk of my Texas Panhandle memories are good. They fill me with warmth and a touch of wistfulness as my wife and I prepare to head on down the road to Fairview.

I say all this with a certain caveat. We won’t sever our Amarillo ties completely. We have family here. We intend to return frequently — if only for short bursts of time — to see them.

Over time, our visits likely will diminish.

Yep, it’s the goodbyes that are the toughest of all.

We left Oregon in 1984 for Beaumont, Texas. When I departed the newspaper in Oregon City, the publisher gave me one of those coffee table books full of pictures of Texas. My colleagues at the paper wrote lovely messages to my wife and me. It brought me to tears.

We departed Beaumont in 1995 for the Panhandle. That day was even tougher. My colleagues at the paper also wrote goodbye wishes in a book and then played “Amarillo By Morning” that rang throughout the newsroom. I cried like a baby as I walked to my car.

My resignation from the Globe-News was, um, more sudden. I didn’t get a chance to bid adieu in the moment to my colleagues. Perhaps this will suffice.

Meanwhile, we are awaiting our shove-off date with tremendous excitement at what — and who — await us at the other end of our journey.

MPEV gets a break from Mother Nature

Amarillo’s newest sports and entertainment venue is getting a big break from a most unpredictable source.

That would be Mother Nature.

Yes, the elements that can — and have — bedevil major construction projects are working to assist the contractor working to build Amarillo’s downtown multipurpose event venue, aka “The Ballpark.”

I heard a couple of weeks ago from an Amarillo Economic Development Corporation official that the MPEV already is a “week ahead of schedule,” which made me wonder at the time, “How is he able to measure such a thing so early in a project of this size and magnitude?”

Whatever. The crews have dug out a huge hole in the ground across the street from City Hall. Site preparation is proceeding rapidly. I suspect that quite soon we’re going to start seeing crews laying down the components that will go into the MPEV’s foundation. After that, the framing will commence.

And on and on it will go.

The MPEV is projected to cost around $45 million. It will seat roughly 4,500 seats for baseball, which will begin there in April 2019 when the AA minor-league baseball team moves from San Antonio to Amarillo.

I don’t want to spook the project, given the good meteorological fortune that has foreshadowed it to date, but we do have the rest of the spring and summer coming up and then the winter of 2018-19. As dry and relatively calm as the winter of 2017-18 turned out to be, there can be no way to predict this far out what the next winter will bring. We all know the quips and jokes about the fickle Amarillo and Texas Panhandle weather, yes?

My faith in what the MPEV will bring to downtown Amarillo remains strong. It will play a huge role — perhaps the major role — in reshaping the city’s central business and entertainment district.

To date, I am gratified and hopeful that the construction crews will be able to proceed quickly and, of course, efficiently as it moved toward completion of this important project.

Gratitude and hope, though, cannot predict what Mother Nature has in store. As inclined as I am to pray for rain to help our beleaguered farmers and ranchers, I am torn because I don’t want the MPEV stalled because of torrents.

Happy Trails, Part 83

A dear friend has told me that “Happiness is Amarillo, like Lubbock, in your rear view mirror.”

Perhaps. But not entirely.

You see, I am going to miss several aspects of living in the Texas Panhandle. One of them involves the progress my wife and I witness almost daily as we make our way around the city.

Amarillo residents know all too well about the intense highway construction that’s under way along Interstates 40 and 27. They’re rebuilding bridges over I-40. State crews are hard at work along Loop 335 on the southern edge of the city.

I am going to miss watching those projects proceed.

Downtown Amarillo is undergoing an extreme makeover, highlighted by construction — which has just begun — on the multipurpose event venue. The city has made great strides toward the future in the past couple of years, but there remain many miles yet to travel.

I will miss watching downtown continue its march forward.

Amarillo in reality bears little resemblance to the community my wife and I saw when we arrived in early 1995. It has grown up a good bit over the past 23 years. I am not referring just to the population growth.

The city’s airport has been modernized. The stretch along virtually the entire length of I-40 through Amarillo has witnessed a boom in hotel construction; a month barely went by when we didn’t see more hotel construction sites opening up — and more are going up even as I write this brief blog post.

The city has done well during our time here and we have enjoyed watching it evolve.

I will miss watching that evolution continue.

Here’s the thing, though: We’ll be able to return to see the results.