Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

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.

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.

Rain threatens region still recovering from earlier deluge

REGINA, Saskatchewan — My worry index is off the charts today as I listen to reports of extreme rain and flooding in a part of the world I know pretty well.

My wife and I are away at the moment, vacationing in Canada, but CTV News is all over the story: Rain is inundating the Golden Triangle region of Texas, that southeastern corner of the state that barely two years ago was blasted by the unspeakable wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

I am not going to make this a political blog, other than take note that climatologists have said all along that we can expect this kind of extreme weather as we cope with and combat the effects of climate change. It ain’t a hoax, folks. It’s real and it is affecting lives daily.

The Gulf Coast storm is another example of it.

However, my concern turns now to my friends who live there, folks we got to know during nearly 11 years living in Beaumont. We return when we can. When we do we see the destructive marks that Harvey left behind when the storm blasted ashore in 2017.

My heart breaks for them all. We send them our love and our hope that they find the strength to persevere.