Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

Time of My Life, Part 49: Those were the days

Social media occasionally allow us a look into the past, giving us a chance to reminisce on how it used to be and even think wistfully about what we are missing.

So it happened today when a friend and former colleague posted a faux newspaper page saluting his departure from his job and the start of a new adventure. My friend left the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise in the late 1980s and the posting of the page on Facebook has elicited a lot of comment from our colleagues and friends about this fellow and about the special feelings we all felt toward each other.

It reminds me of a series of special relationships I was able to cultivate during my career in print journalism. My journalism journey took me to four newspapers: two in Oregon and two in Texas. The first job was at the Oregon Journal, the now-defunct evening paper in Portland. My second job took me to the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier. Job No. 3 transported me to Beaumont. The fourth post was in Amarillo, Texas.

Throughout much of that journey, I was able to make lasting friendships that have survived the tumult, turmoil and occasionally the tempest of an industry that has undergone — and is undergoing — so much change.

I cherish those friendships perhaps more than I have expressed to those with whom I have worked, played, laughed and occasionally cried.

I mentioned to the friend who displayed the “fake” page the special camaraderie we enjoyed in Beaumont. It truly was a remarkable, talented group of professionals. Moreover, many of them had huge hearts that they opened up to me, who was then brand new to Texas and who had much to learn about the state and the community I would serve as editorial page editor of the newspaper. Moreover, I had left my family in Oregon when I took the job; they would join me later that year and we’ve never looked back. Many of my colleagues knew I was lonesome for my wife and young sons and they took me in, invited me to social gatherings and brought me into their fold.

That all made my transition to Texas that much easier.

Then again, the relationships I developed in Oregon City, Beaumont and Amarillo aren’t unique in an industry that used to comprise individuals from disparate backgrounds. They came together to work for an organization, seeking to do the best job they could do, to keep faith with the readers they served.

The newspaper industry, as we know, has been torn asunder in recent times. The Enterprise-Courier is gone; the Beaumont Enterprise staff has been decimated, as has the staff at the Amarillo Globe-News. We’ve all moved on, some to retirement, some to pursue — as the saying goes — “other interests.”

The Facebook post reminded me of how it used to be. I shall cling tightly to those memories. Those truly were the good ol’ days.

Happy Trails, Part 183: Sweat triggers early Texas memories

ATLANTA STATE PARK, Texas – A jaunt to this lush Piney Woods forest with our fifth wheel in tow triggered some memories for me.

Our family’s Texas journey began not terribly far from this corner of the massive state. I took a job in Beaumont, which is a bit — about 335 miles — due south along the Texas-Louisiana border, in March 1984. My family joined me in the Golden Triangle later that summer.

We learned quickly to become climatized to the intense heat and humidity in Southeast Texas. Our boys graduated from high school in the early 1990s. In January 1995, I took another job way up yonder in Amarillo. My wife and I moved there and spent the next 23 years enjoying gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and getting acclimated to the distinctly different weather patterns presented along the High Plains. We can attest to the truth of the saying that one can see all four seasons of the year in a single day in Amarillo.

The journey made its final stop in 2018 when we moved to Collin County.

I tend to reminisce when we return to regions with which we have some familiarity. I did so when we pulled into Atlanta State Park.

It’s the tall pines jutting out of the thicket of broad-leaf trees and assorted greenery. Then we had the downpour, followed by rising steam and, oh yeah … the humidity!

We have lived in Texas for most of our lives; that would be 36 years for me, as I am 70 … while my wife is a bit younger than I am. We’ve enjoyed the warm Gulf of Mexico water, the Big Thicket and jaunts to cities such as Houston and New Orleans; we took our belongings to the Panhandle, where we marveled at Palo Duro Canyon and watched a tornado develop less than a mile from our house in the southwest corner of Amarillo. We now are getting used to our new digs in Princeton and enjoying additional time with our precious granddaughter.

This retirement sojourn, though, does take us back to sweaty regions that remind me of what we endured way back when we were much younger and decided to pursue a new life in a part of the world we barely knew.

I remember it as if it just happened.

Cops under even more scrutiny

I never thought it possible that law enforcement officers would be put under the glare of national scrutiny in the manner that is now occurring all across the nation.

It has happened. It is happening right now.

During nearly four decades in journalism, I have covered law enforcement officers in two states. Those I have known professionally have been stand-up men and women. They have been devoted to the oaths they took to protect and serve the communities where they work and live.

Some of those officers became personal friends and I have sought to keep those relationships separate from the work I did as a reporter and later as an editor. I’ve always have told them: Don’t mess up.

We have entered a whole new era. Police have been seen via social media conducting themselves badly with regard to certain citizens who they swore to protect. These incidents have revealed an ugly and terrible racial divide.

Accordingly, the men and women who risk their lives each day simply by reporting for work are now being scrutinized in a way none of them possibly ever expected.

I live near a law enforcement officer. He works unusual hours and I often go several days without ever seeing him. I now intend, once I get the chance, to visit with him and to elicit — I hope — a candid response to what he is feeling as he interacts with the public he serves.

I long have believed the cops I have known back in Oregon, in the Golden Triangle region of Texas, in the Texas Panhandle and even now in North Texas (where my wife and I plan to spend the rest of our lives) to be men and women of high integrity. None of what we have witnessed in these terrible and troubling times will shake my belief in the honor of those I have known.

The intense scrutiny that has come upon these individuals — and the agencies that employ them — is likely deserved, based on what we have witnessed. I do not intend to impugn anyone’s integrity. I do intend to endorse the call for even greater accountability and transparency of those who work in arguably the most dangerous profession imaginable.

They have my gratitude for honoring the oath they take. I just want to ensure that they continue to earn it.

It’s official: I will ignore the return to ‘business as usual’

I am in dire need of a haircut. I miss cutting into a medium-rare steak at a nice restaurant. I want to return to the gym and to my daily workout regimen.

All of that is going to wait for the foreseeable future, no matter what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares as he seeks to reopen the state for business.

He said hair salons are back in business. Gyms will reopen in a few days. Restaurants have been open for a few days now, although the governor ordered ’em to operate at 25 percent of capacity.

Fine. Go for it, y’all. I am staying away. I do not like seeing the news about infection and death rates continuing to climb in Texas, and in North Texas, where I live along with some members of my family. The picture isn’t any prettier in the Panhandle, where the rest of my family and many of our friends reside.

I haven’t checked in on the Golden Triangle, where my wife and I still have many dear friends.

From what I have read, polling suggests most Texans and other Americans believe as I do, that governors are acting too hastily to reopen their states. They are putting too much emphasis on the economy and not enough of it on the health of the people they represent.

Gov. Abbott has moved too quickly to suit my sensibilities. I am glad he had the good sense to close Texas public school classrooms for the rest of the academic year.

And what in the world is going on with our Texas public universities? They want to return to in-person classwork this fall. I’m OK with that … but Texas A&M, the University of Texas and Texas Tech University systems plan to play football. Are they going to play those games in empty stadiums? Yeah … good luck with that.

You may count me as one Texas resident who wants to see a substantial and recurring decline in the infection and death rates before I make my return to what we used to think of as “normal.”

Hey, maybe I can make a fashionably late entrance.

For now? I am out.

Ready for the best season of the year

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

You hear it on occasion: This is my favorite time of the year. My favorite season of the year. Most folks I know keep saying it’s the autumn.

Why? They’ve been through a grueling, boiling-hot summer. The cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from the heat.

That’s not for me. My favorite time of the year is about to arrive. I love the spring. In Texas, spring produces an unusual and often unpredictable series of events.

We have spent 36 winters in Texas. We came initially to the Golden Triangle on the Gulf Coast. Winter in Southeast Texas occasionally was, well, rather un-winterlike. We spent our first Christmas in Beaumont — in 1984 — lounging around in shorts and t-shirts.

Nearly 11 years later we gravitated to the opposite end of the state, settling for 23 years in the Panhandle. The winter there was, shall I say, more like winter in most regions of the world. It got cold … damn cold at times! We had winters with heavy blankets of snow. We also had one hideously dry winter that didn’t produce a single drop of precipitation.

We have moved to the Metroplex. This is our second winter here. It’s been a bit chilly, although not as cold as it often gets up yonder on the Caprock.

Spring is about to arrive. The grass will snap out of its dormancy. The leaves will produce buds. It’s a time of renewal. A time of rebirth. A time that will give way to the fruits and flowers of the season.

Spring in the Panhandle occasionally produces some explosive weather. The wind howls. The storm clouds swirl. It rains hard, man. It would hail on us.

The Metroplex occasionally produces that kind of frightening weather. However, I look forward yet again to the time of year when we spring forward and emerge from our winter doldrum.

It’s my favorite time.

Facing an electoral quandary

I have been “chatting” via social media with a longtime friend who has told me of her intention to vote in the Republican Party primary next month. She lives in the Golden Triangle of Texas and tells me she must vote in the GOP primary because of the plethora of local races that mean much to her.

I get that. I also have told her that I intend to vote in the Democratic primary because I have not yet built the familiarity my friend has with her community.

She’s lived in Orange County for decades. I have lived in Collin County for a little more than a year. I am not proud to acknowledge that my familiarity with local contests isn’t yet up to speed. However, I must go where my instincts lead me.

They are leading me to cast my ballot for races involving national and statewide contests.

We’re going to cast our votes for president on March 3. Super Tuesday’s lineup of primary states includes Texas and its big prize of delegates to both parties’ nominating conventions.

I am not going to restate the obvious, which involves my vote for president, or simply that I will never cast a ballot for the current POTUS. My chore now is to examine the Democratic field for the candidate of my choice.

My inclination is to support Joseph R. Biden Jr. However, it is not clear at this writing whether he’ll be a viable candidate when the Texas primary rolls around. He must win in South Carolina. The former VP is losing African-American support that he says is his “firewall” to protect his candidacy from total collapse.

Then we have the U.S. Senate race and the U.S. House contest. Yes, the impeachment battle plays a factor in my vote. GOP Sen. John Cornyn, whom I actually like personally, has been a profound disappointment to me with his vote to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. What’s more, my first-term congressman, Republican Van Taylor, also disappointed me when he voted against impeaching Trump of those high crimes and misdemeanors.

My attention is focused, therefore, on the bigger stage.

I will need to live through another election cycle to familiarize myself with local issues and candidates sufficiently to cast my vote with any semblance of intelligence. Hey, given that I live in a county that’s even more Republican-leaning than my friend’s home county in the Golden Triangle, I understand the need to get up to speed.

I will do so in due course.

Happy Trails, Part 176: Rediscovering anonymity

Ahh, anonymity is grand.

It is one of the joys I have discovered on this retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked.

We relocated more than a year ago to Collin County, Texas, after spending 23 years in Amarillo and nearly 11 years before that in Beaumont. I don’t want to oversell or overstate anything, so I will take care when I write these next few words.

The craft I pursued in the Golden Triangle and then in the Texas Panhandle — as opinion page editor for two once-fairly significant newspapers — gave me a bit of an elevated profile. I was able to write editorials for both newspapers as well as publish signed columns with my name and mug shot along with the written essays. Readers would see my face on the pages and then would greet me with, “Oh, you’re the guy in the newspaper!” 

I went through that little ritual for more than three decades in vastly different regions of Texas.

We now live far from either place. I do write for a couple of weekly newspapers these days — the Princeton Herald and the Farmersville Times. It’s a freelance gig that I sought out. The publisher of the papers has been kind enough to put me to work — but on my terms!

I now blend into the scenery. No one recognizes me on sight. I’m unsure whether my name will remain anonymous, given the exposure it will get by appearing on top of news features I hope to write for the Herald and the Times.

One more point I want to make. In Beaumont and in Amarillo, I occasionally found myself discussing politics and public policy in the most unusual locations. I would encounter friends and acquaintances who seemed to presume that since I wrote about politics at work, that I live and breathe it when I am off the clock. They are mistaken.

I once vowed that I would not discuss work in some places, such as at church. More than once I have told folks in the pew next to me that “I came here to talk to God, not to talk about politics with you or anyone else.”

So far, so good here in Princeton. Anonymity is a joy I intend to cherish for as long as humanly possible.

Happy Trails, Part 175: Adaptability accentuated

The longer we live as retired folks, the more I realize just how adaptable I am.

I’ve told you already about how I discovered my adaptability gene when we moved in early 1984 from the community where I was born, was reared, where I came of age, where I got married and where my sons came into this world. We moved from Portland, Ore., to the Golden Triangle of Texas. Talk about culture shock, not to mention humidity shock!

We settled in just fine there.

Then we relocated to Amarillo a mere 11 years later. Once again, we settled in. We sank our roots deeply into the Caprock soil.

Then retirement arrived, albeit a bit unexpectedly. I learned quickly to welcome it. I discovered almost immediately that separation anxiety from work is greatly overrated.

We love telling people that “we’re retired.” We have learned that weekends no longer exist, that every day is a proverbial Saturday.

My wife and I both worked hard at our jobs for many years. We effectively retired the same year.

After living in the Panhandle for more than two decades, we relocated to the Metroplex. Adaptability anyone? We’ve got it in spades, man! We sold our house, we moved into our fifth wheel RV, lived in the “house on wheels” for a few months, then headed down the road, where we found our forever home in Collin County.

I mention all of this because the longer we live here, the longer we go about our days as retired folks, the more comfortable we both feel with this life we have embraced tightly.

At this point in our journey through life, I suspect strongly that our adaptability will start to exhibit some limitation. Neither of us, for example, is going back to work full time.

However, as we look back on our lengthy and fun-filled journey — and speaking only for myself — I am amazed at the adaptable nature I have been able to show … much to my pleasant surprise!

Still wondering: Do we really need constables?

I want to soften my criticism of Texas constables, but only just a little.

You see, I have made the acquaintance of one of Collin County’s four constables. His name is Shane Thomas, who serves as Precinct 1 constable. He is based in McKinney, the Collin County seat.

I have railed, ranted and vented my anger at constables since, oh, just about the time I arrived in Texas more than 35 years ago. I’ve seen the office at its worst, first in Jefferson County way down yonder in Beaumont, and then in the Texas Panhandle.

Then we moved to Collin County, which has functioning constables who actually do work for the county.

Thomas has five deputy constables who report to him. He was asked recently at a Rotary Club meeting, “Who is your boss?” His answer: “You are. I answer to you. The voter.”

So I am not going to bash Constable Thomas the way I have bashed the office while working as a journalist in the Golden Triangle and the Panhandle.

I still wonder, though: Why do we need to have another layer of law enforcement when we have sheriff’s departments that are capable of doing the work that constables do? We elect sheriffs, who then hire deputies. They have budgets that are set by commissioners courts, which also must budget money for constables. I cannot stop thinking that the serving of civil papers, warrants and providing justice of the peace court security could be done by sheriff’s deputies, who also serve as patrol officers in the unincorporated regions of Texas’ 254 counties.

The existence of constables offices seems to my mind to be superfluous and, well, wasteful. It’s like an add-on police force.

I get that the JPs and the constables have powerful lobbies in Austin that are able to persuade legislators to keep their hands off the office.

If all the constables in Texas are as productive as Collin County’s Precinct 1 constable, then I won’t raise too much of a ruckus to get rid of them.

So very thankful for news out of Golden Triangle

I have been watching the news out of Mid-Jefferson County, Texas, with great interest and keen anticipation.

A refinery in Port Neches exploded and caught fire this week. My wife and I have many friends in that part of Texas, owing to the time we lived in nearby Beaumont for nearly 11 years.

I am grateful beyond measure that no one died in that horrific blast and inferno. My jaw has dropped when I watched video of the explosion that propelled large pieces of debris into the air. I am stunned not only that no one died, but that only a handful of folks suffered what officials have called “minor” injuries caused by flying glass.

The best news is that firefighters have controlled the blaze, giving me a chance to offer high praise yet again for the first responders who have this uncanny ability — not to mention willingness — to thrust themselves into harm’s way.

I hear reports now about the plant that exploded being in violation of Environmental Protection Agency safety standards. That issue needs maximum attention, to be sure, if there will be any chance of that plant being brought back into full operation.

Until then I am merely going to offer a word of thanks and expression of relief that our friends are safe.