Tag Archives: High Plains

Happy Trails, Part 73

The question comes to me almost weekly.

I’ll run into longtime friends or acquaintances and they inevitably ask: How do you like retirement?

My answer is usually the same: If I were doing any better I’d be twins.

One former colleague who now lives in Houston asked me that very question about a year ago. I gave him the answer. His response? “I’ve never met a retired person who doesn’t love being retired.”

There you have it. My friend has said I fit the mold of your standard, run-of-the-mill retired guy.

What my friend also understands is that my journey toward retired contentment — and, yes, the joy it brings — didn’t start out that way. My retirement journey began unhappily. I wasn’t yet ready to call it quits when I did. I resigned my last newspaper job — at the Amarillo Globe-News — in a fit of emotional pain.

The truth is that it didn’t take me long to realize that my former employer actually did me a favor. I sent myself out to pasture. The pain that I felt on my last day of employment dissipated quickly.

I’ve known many people over the years who have gone through circumstances quite similar to what I encountered. They had been reorganized out of jobs, too.

Here is what I rediscovered about myself. I am a highly adaptable creature. I discovered by adaptability when my family and I moved from Oregon to Texas in the spring of 1984 and exposed ourselves to a serious culture shock. We adapted. My wife and I went through another form of culture shock when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in January 1995. We adapted to that change yet again.

My wife and I are going to embark on one more big challenge as we prepare to relocate once more, from the High Plains to North Texas.

My adaptability skills will come into play once again.

The only part of my new life that won’t change — ever! — is a return to the working world. I’ve done my time there.

Retirement really is so very good.

A national weather story is brewing right here

I’ve written before about how the national media report with added fervor on those storms that pound New York and Washington.

Why? It’s a local story to them. They are affected by the rain, the snow, the ice, the cold. In the summer, it’s the heat, man!

Local news goes national

It occurs to me, though, that we have a national story brewing out here in Flyover Country, a good distance from either coast.

We are getting seriously parched on the High Plains of Texas, of Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico. We’re about to set a record for number of consecutive days without measurable precipitation.

We’ve got farmers and ranchers in these parts who rely on rainfall and snowfall to irrigate their land. It’s not coming any time soon. What is going to happen to their crops, meaning the food they supply to the rest of the nation?

I get that we aren’t in the midst of the media conglomerates that cover the weather with intensity when it affects those regions.

However, it’s important nonetheless to the rest of the country if we don’t get some moisture. Immediately!

Here is an example of drought severity

You almost have to squint your eyes to see the water in this picture.

I snapped this shot this morning at MediPark Lake in far west Amarillo. The last time we visited this site — about four months ago — that large expanse of rocky terrain was under about six feet of water.

Not now!

I guess I wanted to share this view just to illustrate a concern I have about the lack of surface water in Amarillo. I believe we’re at the 108-day mark with zero measurable precipitation. The all-time record is approaching quickly and according to my trusty Weather Channel app on my “smart phone,” it looks we’ll break that record in less than a week.

Oh, did I mention that the dry-spell record was set in 1902? There. I just did.

It’s not fun watching the surface water disappear before our eyes. Oh, Medi Park is still full of ducks and Canada geese. Indeed, this morning we witnessed large flights of geese take off and return to what’s left of the lake. I do enjoy watching those birds take flight.

I have no particular point to make with this blog post, other than to alert my Texas Panhandle friends and fellow travelers what they already know: We need to be careful with our water use.

Drought has returned with a vengeance

I guess we can say with supreme confidence that the Texas Panhandle drought has returned.

In a big way!

The TV weather forecasters remind us that we’ve gone 102 days without measurable precipitation. They bemoan the low humidity, the low dew points. They remind us to avoid doing anything stupid that would torch the landscape.

However, the Amarillo Fire Department today did something I consider to be a bit strange. It conducted a “prescribed burn.” Why strange? The wind was howling! It’s going to howl again — with even more vigor — on Thursday. It was the first such controlled burn in decades.

AFD warns us about the danger of lighting fires in dry conditions. The wind has this way of blowing red-hot embers to places far away. Doesn’t the wind do the same thing to fire departments, too?

Well, no harm today. The burn in southeast Amarillo went off without any serious problem.

The drought is something for us to ponder. We also need to act on it. Don’t waste water. Don’t cause any wildfires. Don’t put your family, friends and neighbors at risk.

The return of the drought demonstrates this fundamental truth: Human beings — no matter our technological advances — are powerless against the forces of nature.

Hey, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago when we completed a year with greater-than-normal precipitation? I guess what’s true in politics is true as it regards Mother Nature: A month is an eternity.

Does this heavy wind equal climate change?

Climate change has become a sort of synonym for “global warming.”

When climatologists talk about the warming of Planet Earth, they drop the term “climate change,” as if the conditions are interchangeable.

I’ve been thinking just a bit about that. I am not so sure we can bind them together.

Out here on the High Plains of Texas, we’ve been battered over the course of several days by high wind. It’s been dry, too.

I bring this up because for the past 23 years my wife and I have called the Texas Panhandle home, we have welcomed those reliable “March winds.” This year, March arrived about, oh, two months early.

For much of January we have been battling the wind that is supposed to arrive just in time for spring. The wind brings with it those threatening clouds, the downpours, the occasional hail storms.

This year it’s just the wind. Fifty mph gusts have followed sustained wind of about 20 to 30 mph.

Is it mere coincidence that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2017 was the second-warmest year on record? Has the worldwide warming produced some of the windblown consequence we’re experiencing in early 2018 out here on what I call the Texas Tundra?

And is climate change generally synonymous with global warming? Does one event mean the existence of the other?

I believe the climate is changing. I also believe the planet is getting warmer. I am not yet willing to link the two conditions together.

Your thoughts?

Happy Trails, Part 71

There’s something to be said for living in a recreational vehicle and getting a visual treat such as what we received this evening.

Our retirement has brought us to a new lifestyle. It’s a bit more cramped than what we have experienced. My wife, Toby the Puppy and I are spending our evenings in our fifth wheel. We’re in our second Amarillo, Texas, location.

We vacated the first place right after Christmas; we ventured to North Texas to celebrate the holiday with our granddaughter and her parents, then returned to another RV park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

This view is from our RV picture window. We saw the sun set in the west and set the sky ablaze as it sank below the horizon.

I’ve mentioned already on this blog about how God blessed the Texas Panhandle with a huge sky in exchange for tall timber and mountains.

I won’t rehash those thoughts.

However, our retirement life in this location has treated us to some spectacular days end sights … and some equally glorious beginning of days.

The sunset today was particularly gratifying, when you consider the bone-chilling days we’ve endured in this part of the world. At least we have avoided the terrible snow/ice/sleet that has plagued much of the rest of the nation.

Today was a special day, made that way by the spectacular sight of the sun sinking slowly in the west.

Let’s do this again tomorrow.

Hey, the drought has returned!

Eighty-three days and counting …

It’s been that long since Amarillo has experienced any measurable precipitation. You and I know what that means. The drought has returned to the Texas Panhandle.

Weather forecasters are spending a good bit of time talking about the threat of wildfire. They are right, of course. The grass is plentiful from rain that fell through much of the summer of 2017. It’s now bond dry. It has become prime fuel to ignite killer fires.

It goes without saying: Take great care to avoid torching the land; don’t toss cigarette butts out of your car; avoid dragging metal chains under your vehicle; no outdoor grilling, particularly in the ever-present Panhandle wind.

There’s another concern that troubles yours truly: water waste.

Do not waste water. We have no need to wash our motor vehicles. Check for leaky faucets and sprinkler heads. Indeed, reduce lawn-watering during the winter months when local grass goes dormant.

I remember when we were cheering the rainfall in 2017, which finished with a rain-average surplus over normal. But we’ve gone nearly three months now without any measurable rain or snowfall.

It’s a potentially dangerous period out there. Let’s be so very careful. Shall we?

RV travel presents weather-related headache

You are aware by now that my wife and I have moved into our recreational vehicle.

Our house is empty. It’s been dolled up. It’s about to go on the market. We’re now living full-time in our home on wheels.

We returned from a lovely week downstate, settling for a few days in an RV park in Sherman, Texas. We got to visit with our granddaughter, her big brother, our son and daughter-in-law and our daughter-in-law’s parents.

As great a time as we had, we did experience our first significant weather related conundrum. It got cold in North Texas. As in bitter cold, man!

How cold was it? It was so cold we lost our water for two days.

We did what we were supposed to do. We unhooked our fifth wheel from the water source. We had water in our tanks. Then the temperatures plunged, into the low teens, with wind chills taking the temp into single digits.

The water in our RV froze. We got it to trickle some. Then as the temps inched above freezing we tried to turn the spigot outside. No luck. The water source was frozen, too!

Thanks goodness we stayed at an RV park with working restrooms/showers. We were parked only about 50 feet from the park’s facilities.

Here’s some more weirdness for you. We left Sherman on Tuesday. We arrived in Amarillo later that afternoon. I figured we were jumping from the fridge into the deep freeze. It’s generally much colder in Amarillo than it is downstate.

We arrived at our RV park back home. Then we got some good news. The outside temperature hovered around freezing at 4 p.m., then we were told that we had running water at the site reserved for us.

Ahh, yes. There is good karma, right?

We’ve now prepared for the next serious cold snap. No damage done by the loss of water — and for that we are grateful.

Today was a good day, indeed. The Arctic blast that took temperatures on the High Plains to single digits has dissipated. The sun is shining. The ice has melted. The water is flowing.

Life is good … once again. It’ll get cold again. We are ready for it.

Here is God’s gift to the High Plains

You don’t see any mountainous splendor in this picture.

Instead, you see flat land. You also see a very large sky that seems to be on fire. Those of us who live on the High Plains of Texas got to see this sunset on Black Friday, 2017.

Not a bad way to end the day, if you ask me.

I didn’t take this picture. I did snap a picture of the sunset, but this image comes from a social media acquaintance, Bill Bandy, a fellow Amarillo resident.

I want to share a view with you that I’ve had for as long as my wife and I have lived on the High Plains. It is that God Almighty has a way of paying us back for deciding to put those tall mountains and tall timber in other regions of the country.

My wife and I returned recently from a 4,200-plus-mile journey out west, where we got our full measure of nature’s splendor. The Rockies, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada — along with the endless stands of tall timber we saw in the Pacific Northwest — all provided plenty of stunning landscapes for us to ogle on our journey to Oregon and back.

We don’t have that kind of scenic splendor out here on the Caprock. We do, though, have a sky that won’t quit. I have said before on this blog that whoever hung the “Big Sky” label on Montana never laid eyes on the Texas Panhandle.

The sky is the Almighty’s way of telling us: I get that I didn’t bless you with terrestrial grandeur, but I hope you appreciate the sunsets — and the sunrises — I am able to provide.

Yes, I do. I’m quite sure we all do.

Happy Trails, Part 45

I want to talk about the seasons of the year for a brief moment.

What that has to do with retirement and the happy trail on which my wife and I are embarking will become apparent quite soon.

I’m normally a Spring Man. Spring historically has been my favorite season of the year. It’s the season of renewal after long, cold and occasionally damp winters on the High Plains of Texas, where we have lived for the past 22 years.

The grass miraculously starts turning green. The trees regain their foliage. The rain comes — often in torrents. The playas fill with water. And, yes, the wind blows hard.

This year might bring a different appreciation for another season.

Autumn arrived just a few days ago throughout the northern hemisphere of Planet Earth. We’ve had a good summer on the High Plains. We’ve had unseasonably heavy moisture, which has cut down on our water usage.

This autumn, though, is a season of immense transition for my wife and me. We’re preparing to relocate to points southeast of here. You see, we’ve been telling family members, friends and even people we barely know that we are being pulled in that direction by a 4-year-old girl who just happens to be our granddaughter, Emma. You’ve read about her on this blog.

But first things first. This time of transition is occurring as autumn moves forward. The transition requires considerable preparation for the move that’s pending.

We have lived in our house for nearly 21 years. It’s the longest span of time either of us has ever called a single place “home.” Our 46 years of marriage, moreover, have enabled us — if that’s the right verb — to acquire a lot of possessions. We’ve stuffed them into this house we’ve occupied for more than two decades. We have jettisoned a lot of it already. There’s more to go as we prepare to “downsize” to a more livable arrangement befitting a retired couple looking to spend more time with their granddaughter.

Given that retirement has given us ample time to do all these things, the task at hand now requires us to buckle down and commit to getting it all done before too much more time passes. I consider it a mix between a blessing and a curse in this post-working aspect of one’s life.

I get asked all the time, “Are you now fully retired? Or are you still doing this and that?” I am fully retired. Period. Next question.

That doesn’t mean I have nothing to do. I have plenty of tasks ahead of me. I merely await my marching orders from my much better — and more organized — half.

This transition awaits. Depending on how it all goes in short order, I might find myself a year from now forsaking spring as my favorite season and falling madly in love with autumn.