Tag Archives: Amarillo

Christmas spirit is alive and well in our neighborhood

My wife and I have settled in nicely in our new digs in Collin County.

We have become acquainted with our neighbors on both sides of us, with neighbors in four homes across the street, a couple living on the corner … and apparently some children we see playing and cavorting on occasion.

Our community is becoming comfortable to the both of us daily.

We have received a taste of the Christmas spirit that seems to abound in our Princeton neighborhood.

The doorbell rang and a young man was standing on our porch. He handed my wife a small box. It contained freshly baked cookies prepared in the gentleman’s kitchen.

He handed my wife the box. We opened it. The cookies beckoned. We ate them. They were delicious.

Why mention this? I guess it’s because we have just experienced a neighborly gesture one doesn’t see all that often.

I thought momentarily of when we moved into our brand new home in southwest Amarillo in December 1996. We had just had the house built. We pulled out belongings out of storage, where they sat for nearly two years.

One day, just before Christmas, a neighbor walked across the street carrying a large plate of brownies. She wanted to welcome us to the neighborhood.

In all our years of marriage, in all the places we had lived that was the first time a neighbor had done something so kind. It made us feel as if we were part of the community.

It was the only time someone had extended a bit of holiday cheer to us … until tonight. 

The Christmas spirit is alive and well. We can testify gleefully to its good health.

Port Neches refinery fire is especially scary … for me

I heard the news this morning of that big explosion and fire way down yonder in Port Neches, Texas.

ABC News kept saying it was just east of Houston. The local Dallas-Fort Worth ABC affiliate, WFAA, referred to it more precisely: that Port Neches is just 15 miles south of Beaumont.

That kind of reference gets my attention because, as you might know, I lived and worked in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before my wife and I migrated from the Golden Triangle to Amarillo in 1995.

There have been no fatalities associated with the disaster. Some folks were injured. I worry about their health.

On a broader scale, I worry about our many Golden Triangle friends who live near the huge petrochemical and oil refinery complex throughout the Beaumont/Port Arthur region.

Petrochemicals and the refining of crude oil is the economic lifeblood of the region. When we moved to Beaumont in 1984, there was a school of thought that all one had to do to make a comfortable living was just get a high school diploma and then apply for work at one of the many petrochemical plants. They paid well. They were lifetime jobs if that’s what you wanted to do.

My former boss at the Beaumont Enterprise once told me that all those bass boats, expensive pickups and SUVs were paid for my the handsome wages earned at those plants.

There also is the danger associated with working at those facilities. I don’t recall seeing any major refinery fires explode during my time in Beaumont. The Port Neches fire, though, should remind us of the danger inherent in that line of work.

I haven’t even mentioned — until this very moment — the air quality issues associated with living in the proximity of those plants. That’s a story for another time.

I am worrying tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, about the health of those who work in that environment and those — especially our many friends — who live nearby.

Please be safe.

That was quite the storm!

I took a job 35 years ago in what I suppose you could call Tornado Country.

We moved our young sons from Oregon to the Golden Triangle of Texas, a region prone to hurricanes and the twisters that spin off the storms as they crash ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.

Then my wife and I moved to Amarillo, which also has experienced its share of tornado-induced misery since the beginning of recorded history. My wife and I once watched a funnel cloud form about a mile west of our house while baseball-sized hail pummeled our dwelling and destroyed our roof.

Then a year ago, my wife and moved to Collin County in the Metroplex.

Tonight we had our first tornado “experience” since moving to Collin County. All is well and good. The storm passed south of us as well as south of our son, daughter-in-law, our granddaughter and her older brother. Our son’s extended family is safe, too.

However, this is the kind of thing — even after living in Tornado Country for 35 years — that still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

The local weather forecaster broke into a program we were watching to alert us of thunder storms. Then came the “tornado warning,” which means they had spotted a funnel cloud on the ground.

The storm chasers provided some gripping video to go along with the near-frantic commentary coming from the meteorologist. One of them caught a picture of a heavily damaged pickup stalled on Interstate 635; the driver of the truck then gave a thumbs-up to the TV crew that was taking pictures of the damage done by the storm that had roared through the area.

Our son informed us they had storm sirens blaring in Allen. Ours in Princeton stayed silent. We did, however, receive a lot of rain.

The storm has passed on. My hope is that our neighbors to the east stay safe.

How will I sleep tonight? Probably not well. Tomorrow, though, is another day. We’ll see what it brings.

Yes, the city surely has ‘changed’

My wife and I are continuing to make new acquaintances in our new home in Collin County and as we do, we routinely tell folks from where we moved.

We came here from Amarillo, we tell folks. The response is varied. “Oh yeah. I’ve been through there. Have you eaten the big steak?” is one. “Hey, that Palo Duro Canyon is really something,” is another.

We met a fellow the other day who said this, “I go to Amarillo frequently. Man, that city has changed!”

Yeah. It has. I didn’t take the time to ask what precisely he has noticed about the changes he has observed, although I did offer my own brief observation.

“The downtown district is nothing like it used to be,” I told him, “and it’s still undergoing an amazing transformation.”

Indeed, the city’s change has been dramatic.

We moved to Amarillo in early 1995. I went to work at the Globe-News’ office downtown. I was struck by how quiet it was. I learned of the “main drag” that used to run along Polk Street. The blocks between Seventh and Ninth Avenues were virtually desolate.

They are no longer desolate. There has been a tremendous infusion of business activity along Polk. And along Buchanan Street. So, too, along 10th Avenue.

There’s tremendous construction clamor occurring as crews work to finish ongoing projects. The Potter County Courthouse complex restoration has transformed the courthouse square. County commissioners have just voted to proceed with a $54 million construction of a new courts building.

And, let’s not ignore Hodgetown, the new ballpark that is getting the finishing touches in time for the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home baseball opener in a couple of weeks.

The medical complex on the far west end of the city is growing. Texas Tech University is pushing ahead with construction of a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. Medical clinics are popping up throughout the area.

Texas highway planners are tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27. City street repair is diverting traffic throughout the community.

Has the city undergone change? Uhh, yeah! It has!

Part of me wishes we could watch it unfold in real time. A bigger part of me enjoys seeing the result of all that effort upon our occasional return trips to the place we called home.

Hard to let go of those Panhandle issues

My wife and I are settled nicely now in Collin County, Texas. We are purchasing a new home and our beloved puppy, Toby, is running himself ragged in his new back yard.

But the blog keeps gravitating back to the community we left after living there for 23 years.

Amarillo, Texas, is the place we called “home” for the longest stretch of our married life together. Indeed, we spent roughly half of our life there. I had a great job, and my wife also found solid gainful employment during our years there.

It is hard for me to give up on commenting on issues that still matter to me. Downtown Amarillo’s rebirth still has my attention. So does the incessant street and highway construction. The same can be said of the local political leadership comprising individuals I got to know quite well during my time as a journalist.

With that, I guess I will declare that High Plains Blogger will continue to comment on Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

I feel I developed sufficient familiarity with the issues that are driving Amarillo to enable me to keep abreast of what is happening there even as we pursue our retired life together in Princeton. We surely intend to continue focusing our attention on our granddaughter, who — after all — is the reason we uprooted ourselves from our Amarillo home and relocated to the Metroplex.

Nor will I fail to take note of the places we intend to visit as we continue our travels throughout North America. It’s a huge world out there and I want to share what we find along our journey.

Still, I keep hearing the call to comment on a community I got to know pretty well. So, I will answer that call when it moves me.

It’s impossible to say “farewell.”

Happy Trails, Part 145: Yes, we like this better

I cannot believe this question stumped me for a moment . . . but, it did.

My wife and I were closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas, when we hit a quiet spell in the process. The title clerk asked a simple question: Do you like it better here than Amarillo? 

That’s a direct question, yes? Of course it is! However, there are some hidden complexities in it.

I froze for just a bit. I rolled it around in my head, trying to figure out the best way to answer it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Amarillo is a lovely city. It is growing. It has about 200,000 residents, which makes it a significant community. We made many friends there and we’ll miss seeing them. The major difference between there and here is that despite the size of Amarillo, it’s out there all by itself. In order to get anywhere in the Texas Panhandle, to see or do anything in a place other than Amarillo, you’ve got drive a long way. 

That is not nearly the situation in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Here, we are surrounded by, well . . . damn near everything!

We live in Fairview at the moment. Princeton will be our home in short order. Princeton is not far from McKinney, Allen, Plano, Frisco, Richardson, Carrollton and Dallas. If we want to drive just a little bit farther, we can find things to do and see in Grapevine, Arlington, Keller and Fort Worth.

It’s a fairly significant leap to move from a metro area comprising about 500,000 residents to a metro area that is home to more than 7 million folks. Thus, one can get lost in the crowd here, unlike in Amarillo, where one can see the same folks almost weekly just when you go about your day.

Of course, I didn’t factor into my answer the most significant reason why we like it “better” here than Amarillo. That would be our granddaughter, Emma, who is the primary reason we moved from there to here in the first place.

Thus, do we like it better here than we did in the place where we used to live? Yep. Absolutely!

Happy Trails, Part 144: The move-in will commence

PRINCETON, Texas — Pardon me for showing you this picture once again. I just have to divulge that we’ve signed on many dotted lines. We did so late this morning as we “closed” on the purchase of our “forever home.”

So what happens now?

The move-in will commence. However, given that we’re now retired and given also that we have a bit of time left before our tenancy in our apartment expires, we’re going to take just a bit of time to make this move.

But . . . not too much time.

We’ve got some muscle signed up to help us. Our sons are here. Both of ’em. So we’re going to employ them for as long as we can. We’ll be moving smaller items in our vehicles over the course of the next several days.

This move is a bit different from any we’ve done before. For example, the most recent relocation before this one occurred in March 2018. We vacated our house in Amarillo and moved into our fifth wheel. We emptied the house of all its furnishings, putting them in storage. We painted the place. We replaced some fixtures, seeking to “modernize” them.

Then we accepted an offer. We intended to close a bit later than we did, but the buyer wanted in right away. We had to expedite the move before we shoved off on an RV trip we had planned. We got a little frazzled as we signed the house away.

I don’t expect any frazzling to occur with this move. We have decided to be deliberate, systematic, highly choreographed.

But today was a huge day in our retirement journey. We intended to make our apartment our “forever home.” It didn’t work out that way.

Now, however, we believe we have found the end of our rainbow.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Happy Trails, Part 142: Moving into transition

One of the more exciting aspects about the next — and hopefully final — stop on our retirement journey has been the changing nature of the community we’re going to call home.

Princeton, Texas, sits east of McKinney — the Collin County seat. The next town to the east along U.S. 380 is Farmersville; the one after that is Greenville, hometown of the late Audie Murphy, the Medal of Honor recipient and the Army’s most decorated soldier of World War II.

Princeton is still a rural community. It is home to around 10,000 residents. When you drive east from McKinney you see lots of orange barrels, cones and “Road Work Ahead” signs. They’re tearing up the highway, expanding it, improving access and exits.

The residential neighborhood we’re entering also is under construction. Indeed, our street is cluttered with construction vehicles.

I am getting the strong sense that McKinney is inching its way east toward Princeton. The rural community will become an urban one in due course.

It has all the requisite urban accoutrements: a postal ZIP code, plenty of commercial outlets, heavy traffic (at times), traffic signals, sewer service. You know, all those things associated with urban life.

I find it strangely exciting to witnessing this change from the front end. We had a similar ringside seat to all that change in Amarillo. We moved into our newly built house in late 1996. Our home was one block from civilization as we knew it in Amarillo. Beyond the busy street to our west were literally miles of pasture land. You could hear coyotes yipping and yapping in the early morning hours when you went out to fetch the newspaper.

It all changed rapidly. They built the Greenways residential complex west of Coulter Street. It went up in a major hurry. The range land gave way to manicured lawns. Urbana arrived in far west Amarillo.

We’re going to witness it yet again in our new home.

I plan to welcome the change . . . as long as it arrives in an orderly fashion.

Regional commentary: it’s spreading!

I am so sorry to report that Amarillo and Lubbock aren’t the only two communities in America where newspaper editorial policy is suffering from the urge to combine resources under a combined “regional” approach to commentary.

A friend sent me a link telling me that Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina are combining their editorial pages, that they’ll be supervised by a regional editor who will oversee editorial policies in both communities.

Here is the link.

Oh, my goodness! The deterioration of editorial autonomy is deepening.

GateHouse Media, which owns the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal recently announced hiring a guy who will serve as a “regional director of commentary.” He’ll live in Lubbock and then commute to Amarillo on occasion during the week, I suppose to try to read the pulse of the community.

The early returns aren’t too promising. The Texas Panhandle no longer has a newspaper that provides leadership on local issues; nor does the South Plains region.

As to what is happening in North Carolina, I predict a similar fate befalling those Charlotte and Raleigh. McClatchy Newspapers runs the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News  & Observer. Those cities also are even more diverse and disparate than Amarillo and Lubbock. They both are cosmopolitan cities; they are highly sophisticated. Raleigh is part of that Research Triangle region that brims with high-tech expertise; Charlotte is the state’s largest city and is a bustling financial center.

The release I read about the N.C.-merger reads, in part: The move is the latest in a series of changes that combine McClatchy’s North Carolina operations. Presumably, this will mean the board will focus more on statewide news and less on local news specific to Charlotte or Raleigh.

There you have it . . . more than likely. Both communities’ newspaper editorial pages are likely going to look away from those issues of specific interest or concern to them individually.

Oh, the demise of newspaper editorial leadership continues. It is painful for this former opinion writer/editor to watch.

Time of My Life, Part 12: Whom or whether to ‘endorse’

We have entered an era of enhanced distrust or mistrust of the media. That wasn’t always the case and I was proud to practice a craft that the public held in much higher regard than it does now.

We weren’t universally adored and admired, but come election time we had politicians lining up — quite literally — waiting for a chance to be interviewed by those of us who comprised an “editorial board.” They sought our “endorsement” for the campaign they were waging for whatever public office was on the line.

It’s a bit different these days. Politicians are forgoing those meetings with editorial boards. The most memorable “snub” occurred in 2010 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided he wouldn’t speak to any editorial boards in the state. He said he preferred to take his re-election message “directly to the people.” We got the message. What did we do? The Amarillo Globe-News decided to invite his Democratic Party challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White, to talk to us. White accepted. He came to Amarillo and sat down for an hour or so talking about issues affecting his campaign and the state.

The paper then recommended White for election as governor. We were far from alone. However, judging from the response we got from our readers, you would have thought we had just endorsed Satan himself. The anger was palpable based on the mail we got from our heavily Republican-leaning readership.

It didn’t matter. Gov. Perry was re-elected in a breeze. And he established a trend for others to follow:

Ernst follows Perry model: Who needs editorial boards?

One of the more fascinating after effects of these editorial endorsement interviews — particularly with candidates running for local offices — was that every election cycle proved to be a learning experience for me. I always learned something at some level about the community where I lived that I didn’t know. Whether it was in Oregon City, Ore., or Beaumont or Amarillo in Texas, I learned something new about the community.

I was able to interview candidates who were invested deeply in their communities and they would share their often heartfelt experiences growing up there. I tried to take something new away from those encounters. Did I learn all there was to know about Clackamas County, Ore., or the Golden Triangle or the High Plains region? No. However, I did know a lot more about all those areas when I left them than I knew going in.

I was privileged to meet a future president of the United States, U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House, movers and shakers of all stripes, men and women who wanted to serve on city councils, or county commissions, they sought legislative office, various statewide public offices, school boards . . . you name it, we met ’em.

It always was a privilege to get to know these individuals, even those who weren’t serious in their quest. Believe me, we encountered our share of those as well.

They were willing to subject themselves to the grilling we provided them. They withstood our sometimes-difficult questions. There is something good to be said about them, too — and the process in which we all took part.