Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

He can’t stop giving back

J.J. Watt just can’t get enough of doing good for others.

First, the stalwart Houston Texans defensive end went about raising money for Hurricane Harvey victims this past summer. He set the bar at about a quarter-million dollars; he ended up raising tens of millions of dollars for those who suffered grievous loss from the deluge that inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle.

Then there’s more.

Watt is going to pay for the funerals of the 10 people killed in the Santa Fe High School massacre that erupted the other day. Of the victims, eight of them were students; the other two were teachers.

J.J. Watt isn’t content with just letting his immense athletic talent pave the way toward notoriety. Oh, no. He exhibits his huge heart and compassion for others who are in pain.

Bless this generous young man.

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.

Happy to report this friendship shows durability

A recent trip to the Golden Triangle produced a wonderful — but not surprising — acknowledgement from a friend whom I have known for more than three decades.

His name is Fred. He and my wife and I managed to catch up during our visit to the Beaumont area.

Fred reads this blog frequently. He is critical of my political point of view. He sees the blog mostly through Facebook, which is one of the social media platforms I use to distribute my musings about this and/or that political happenstance.

My old pal noted that his wife once questioned why he reads this blog, reminding him that he disagrees with my leanings so vehemently. “Hey, no problem,” he said to me. “It’s only politics. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”

There, dear reader, are the magic words.

I was heartened in the extreme to hear my friend say that to me. I wrote a blog post more than five years ago about that very thing and how this blog has cost me a friend or two along the way.

True friendships outlast politics

It just goes to show you that real friends don’t let politics get in the way of solid relationships … such as the one Fred and I have forged.

Thank you, my friend.

Happy Trails, Part 96

Fairview, Texas … here we come!

I’ve grappled for the past couple of days trying to decide how to make this announcement. I just did.

My wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — are heading southeast in very short order to a little town tucked neatly between two larger communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Fairview sits between Allen and McKinney, two fast-growing suburban communities just north of Dallas. Our new dwelling is close to lots of commercial activity; entertainment is nearby.

Most importantly, it’s about a 10- to 15-minute drive from where our granddaughter lives in Allen with her parents.

This moment arrived quite unexpectedly. We didn’t anticipate making this decision so rapidly.

We spent a couple of weeks on the road hauling our fifth wheel through the South Plains, the Hill Country, the Golden Triangle, the Piney Woods and then to the Metroplex. We looked at some dwellings.

Then we made a decision. We like that one!

And that happens to be what one might call a “luxury apartment.” We notified the manager of our interest. We said we preferred a ground floor dwelling. Then one became available. We called from our current base in Amarillo. We submitted an application. We got approved. We settled on a move-in date. We notified the mover who has the bulk of our possessions in storage.

We are, as they say, good to go.

Our move won’t result in a complete severance from Amarillo for the time being. We’re going to shuttle back and forth regularly between Fairview and Amarillo while we tie up a loose end or two.

As I have shared the various stages of this retirement journey on High Plains Blogger, I have grown anxious about when I could make this declaration.

I am no longer anxious. I have just made it.

Our next big — and probably final — huge challenge is now at hand.

We are happy beyond measure.

Facing a topic quandary for this blog

A relocation might be approaching more quickly than my wife and I thought. More on that at a later date.

As we prepare to detach ourselves eventually from the Texas Panhandle and relocate to the Metroplex region of North Texas, I am facing a bit of a quandary: how to transition from commenting on local matters that pertain to the Panhandle to our new surroundings.

High Plains Blogger will retain its title even after we relocate. I have made that “command decision.” I like the name. I’m comfortable with it. The blog title does pay a sort of tribute to one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood.

It comments heavily on national political matters. I also like commenting on local issues. Even though my wife and I departed the Golden Triangle more than two decades ago, I am even prone to offering a word or two about life in our former digs. along the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Our time in the Panhandle, though, is more than double than what we spent in what I affectionately call The Swamp. Thus, I likely will continue to keep an eye on goings-on in Amarillo and the Panhandle even after we depart for points southeast of here.

I do intend to familiarize myself with issues unique to the area north of Dallas where we’ll end up. I cannot pretend to know all the nuances that go into every issue. Heck, I am quite willing to acknowledge that I don’t know all there is to know about everything that happens in a community I called home for more than 23 years.

But … my Panhandle knowledge base is a good bit more informed than it will be when we relocate to the Dallas ‘burbs.

Oh well. It might be that I’ll refocus my attention on matters relating to national politics, government, public policy and, oh yes, a bit of life experience thrown in from time to time.

Heaven knows the president is keeping my quiver full of arrows.

Rain is no longer an annoyance

There once was a time when I hated the rain.

I lived in a city, Portland, Ore., where it rains constantly. I grew up there. I detested the endless drizzle.

Then I got married and moved eventually to Texas. We lived first in Beaumont, along the Gulf Coast, where it rains a lot, too. There, though, the rain comes in furious bursts. Then the sun would come out. So would the humidity. Ugghh!

After a while we moved to the Texas Panhandle, where it rains a lot less. Of late, the Panhandle has received even less than that, which is to say it’s been tinder-dry here. We’ve had one day of measurable rain since October 2017.

Today, though, we received another healthy dose of measurable precipitation. More is on the way, along with some thunder and lightning, or so we are being told by the TV weather forecasters. Hey, they got this one right. I’ll accept their projections for the next day or so.

The rain we’re getting through the night and into the next day won’t do a thing to break the drought we’ve endured for the past six months. It’s a bit strange to recall that a year ago at this time the Panhandle was being drenched. The playas were filling up. Farmers were grinning from ear to ear; so were the ranchers who watched their cattle fatten up with the rich harvest of grass and grain the rain produced.

Then it stopped. We finished 2017 with nary a drop of precipitation, even though the first half of the year enabled us to nearly double our annual average rate of rain and snowfall.

Here we are today. The rain is falling. It’s coming in fits and starts.

I no longer hate the rain. It brings a sense of comfort.

Weird, eh?

Happy Trails, Part 94: Home is where you park it

It’s not often at all that I adopt a bumper sticker slogan as a mantra for living.

But I have done that very thing. We now live according a slogan we saw on an RV: Home is where you park it.

We just returned from a two-week sojourn — all in Texas — through the South Plains, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, the Golden Triangle and the Metroplex.

Along the way, I adopted a new manner of referring to “home.” You see, now that my wife and I are no longer tethered to property attached to the ground, we now refer to our fifth wheel as home.

So, instead of saying I’m “going home,” I find myself referring to some geographical location. Home is attached to the back of our pickup, or it’s anchored to an RV campsite temporarily — until we head for the next place.

Our return to Amarillo reminded us of one of the “charms” of living on the High Plains of Texas.

It’s the wind, man!

Holy moly, it was howling when we departed in early April. It was howling today when we pulled into our RV park/temporary residence. We had read about the wildfires that scorched lots of ranch land; this afternoon, we saw evidence of them along U.S. 287 just west of Clarendon, where we understand the fire caused closure of the highway for several hours while heroic firefighters battled the blaze.

This arrangement — an RV serving as our “home” — won’t last forever. I don’t want to give away too much, but we might have located a precise location to resettle once we depart Amarillo on a (more or less) permanent basis. I’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, our life now is a reflection of a slogan made popular by other RVers.

It’s cool.

This place is for the birds

HIGH ISLAND, Texas — I’m officially mad at myself.

My wife, sons and I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for nearly 11 years and we never visited this place. It’s the Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island, about 40 or so miles from Beaumont.

It also is one of the premier “birding” sites on Earth. That’s right. One of the best in the world! People come from all across the world to see this place.

My wife and I visited this oasis with friends; a couple of our friends visited briefly with a visitor from Maine, who happened the know the species of a particular bird that caught our eye. She’d never been to Smith Oaks, but knew the bird’s identity.

The rookery stood in the path of Hurricane Harvey this past summer. It suffered some damage. The fresh water turned brackish because of the storm surge that swept ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.

On this day, though, it was full of birds. Herons, spoonbills, cormorants, egrets. They were everywhere. This happens to be the nesting period. Birds were building nests. Some were tending to and feeding young birds.

What a wonderful sight to see!

If you look at the picture I posted with this brief item, you’ll notice an alligator at the water’s edge. The beast looked to be about a 10-footer. He was one of two prehistoric creatures we saw lounging in the 70-degree sunshine.

The rookery is sponsored by the Houston Audoban Society. You pay a small fee to enter it. I’ll just say this right here: It is money well spent.

I need to ask myself now: Why in the world did we never visit this place when we lived just down the road?

I suppose it isn’t that uncommon to take for granted nature’s treasures that sit just beyond our doorstep. So, we had to drive here all the way from the other corner of this huge state to take in a natural wonder.

Harvey’s impact will be felt for a long time

BEAUMONT, Texas — Here’s the buzz my wife and I are getting while visiting friends in the Golden Triangle: Hurricane Harvey left a lasting — but not indelible — impact on this region.

We’re hearing that many neighborhoods remain under repair. The Northwest Forest neighborhood west of the city is “like a Third World country.” Streets are under repair. We noticed huge slash piles of brush stacked up under tall timber along Interstate 10 as we entered the city.

But the city will fight its way back.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second blast in the late summer of 2017, dumping a record-setting 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour span of time. It deluged the city water system. Two of our friends told us of being without water for more than a week, while the electricity was restored in short order.

“Riverfront Park is destroyed,” we were told. The park used to be a site of outdoor activities next to the Civic Center along the Neches River. It’s now gone.

We all have read about huge fundraising efforts ongoing to assist the folks in Houston, about 80 miles west of the Golden Triangle on Interstate 10. Houston Texas all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt has become an iconic figure in the Bayou City for his work raising more than a quarter-billion dollars to assist in the repair of Texas’s largest city.

Yes, Houston needs help. The state and the federal government have stepped up to lend disaster assistance.

The pain stretches a good bit beyond the big city. Beaumont is feeling the pain brought by the storm’s rage.

I have no doubt that our friends in the Golden Triangle will recover. They will triumph. They will get on with their lives.

I’m betting, though, they’ll never listen again to the sound of rain with the same serenity it used to bring.

Harvey’s footprint remains huge

VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK, Texas –– I knew it before we got here. But to see it up close still reminds me of just how powerful nature’s wrath can be.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second time along the upper Gulf Coast in the summer of 2017. It had blown in earlier over the Coastal Bend, wiping out neighborhoods with high wind and storm surge.

The storm backed away over the Gulf of Mexico and then returned over Houston and the Golden Triangle with — shall we say — a record-setting deluge. It totaled 50 inches in a 24-hour span of time, which is the greatest single-day downpour in continental U.S. history.

Harvey’s footprint remains all over the Golden Triangle. We arrived at Village Creek State Park — just north of Beaumont — hoping to hike the trails and enjoy the sights and smells of the Big Thicket. No can do, we were told by the park staff. All the trails remained closed.

The storm inundated the park. It damaged the trails. It made them impossible to trek.

The Big Thicket National Preserve just a few miles north of us are OK, the state park staff told us.

It’s good to be back where we once lived for nearly 11 years before moving to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995.

My heart broke during Harvey’s assault on the Golden Triangle. Many of our friends suffered from the storm’s wrath, if not from actual flooding and the damage it brought to their property, but from the terror they clearly must have felt during that terrible time.

We’ll get to catch up with some of them. We might even hear their tales of struggle and triumph.