Tag Archives: retirement

Blog streak goes on and on

I feel like bragging for just a moment about this blog I write.

High Plains Blogger has posted musings for the past 357 days. That’s at least one per day for nearly a year.

Why is that worthy of a bit of braggadocio? I guess it’s just because I feel like bragging about it.

The blog once surpassed a year in the number of consecutive days in which a blog item had been posted. Then technical difficulties got in the way. I had to go a full day without posting a blog item while the hosting outfit I hired worked through the problem. They fixed it in short order and so I started a new streak.

I hear occasionally from friends of mine who say they “marvel” at the volume of items I post. Well, that comes from friends. My adversaries don’t offer that kind of comment. That’s OK. I get it.

I am blessed — or cursed, depending on how you might consider it — with an abundance of time. Retirement allows me to vent, to rant, to pontificate, to offer a perspective on this or that. And so … I do.

I am not into writing daily just to keep streaks alive. I have quite a bit to say on a number of topics. The president of the United States, quite clearly, occupies much of my time these days. I’ll stay on his a** for as long as it takes.

Meanwhile the streak goes on.

Happy Trails, Part 182 : COVID shortens our leash

Our retirement journey has been reduced, narrowed, diminished a bit. We aren’t calling a halt to our recreational vehicle travel. We’ve just been placed on a dramatically shortened leash.

Damn you, coronavirus pandemic!

We had intended to spend a good bit of our summer months tooling around several states with our fifth wheel hooked up to our pickup.

Then the pandemic arrived in all its viciousness. It forced state parks to shut down. It has shuttered businesses that cater to folks like my wife and me.

I want to stipulate that we love the home we purchased in Collin County, Texas. We enjoy spending time working in the yard, arranging storage space to make it more usable for two retired folks.

We also enjoy greatly our RV and getting out of Dodge for a spell.

Except that this summer our travel will be restricted. Neither of us wants to push our luck visiting places that might become COVID-19 “hot spots” while we’re in the area.

Our plans now as summer approaches include a number of Texas state park visits. We’ll be spending some time shortly in Atlanta, Texas, at the state park in the northeast corner of Texas. Our new home puts us in close proximity to a number of state parks.

We had sought to get into a few of them closer to the house. We couldn’t get in; it turns out a lot of other Texans have the same idea and those parks were booked to the max.

We found some space at Atlanta State Park, so off we will go.

Retirement remains a whole lot of fun. We are hoping for an end to the health crisis that has limited our time with our precious granddaughter.

It also keeps us on a short leash. The open road awaits. It’s just not as lengthy as we prefer it to be.

Happy Trails, Part 181: On the road again … finally!

LAKE MURRAY STATE PARK, Okla. — It took far longer than we wanted, but we finally pulled our fifth wheel out of storage.

We awoke the vehicle we nicknamed “Sally” from her winter of hibernation and arrived at a wonderful state park near Ardmore. We flushed the anti-freeze out of the plumbing and have enjoyed a brief respite from the housebound life in this era of the coronavirus pandemic.

To be sure, we are keeping our distance from our campsite neighbors. We holler at ’em from some distance, extend greetings and good wishes. We discovered that two of our neighbors right next door, a husband and wife, hail from Frisco, a mere chip shot away from us in Princeton.

Indeed, a key discovery I’ve made during our visit to this marvelous place is the enormous number of Texas license plates on the back of the RVs through the park. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department remains closed to overnight campers, while opening only for day use. I reckon those other Texans skedaddled across the Red River to a state that hasn’t shut down its park system.

The Oklahoma state park system isn’t exactly wide open, though. If you travel into Oklahoma from a state such as, oh, New York or New Jersey — which have huge numbers of COVID-19 infection — then you will be quarantined for two weeks. Fortunately, we ventured just a little way and near as I can tell we’ll be able to hook up and head for the house in the morning.

It is good to get out of the house. It is good to come to a quiet place. It is good to relax and to prepare for the next stint of homebound living. A return to “normal” isn’t in the cards for us just yet, although this brief outing has been quite therapeutic.

Happy Trails, Part 180: Bring on the park!

This blog post might not be of general interest, but those of you who have moved to your “forever home” might appreciate that I am smiling a bit while I write this brief message.

We moved to Princeton, Texas, a little more than a year ago. We settled into a new home in a subdivision that is still under construction. Just a bit south of us — about a block or so away — is a large tract of land that eventually is going to become a park.

Yes, the city is going to build a park. Lots of “green space” will be among the homes that are popping up all around us.

The Princeton City Council recently approved a design contract of $120,550 to start development of the park. Kimley-Horn and Associates will design the park. Get a load of this: It will include hiking and jogging trails, a restroom, a fishing dock and pond, two pavilions and flashing lights at pedestrian crossings.

The J.J. “Book” Wilson Memorial Park came to the city as a gift from a local landowner.

I am unclear when this park will be finished. I never have watched a park being built in real time. This forever home we are purchasing will enable my wife and me — along with our 7-year-old granddaughter — to watch the park come into being.

I happen to believe this is an exciting development in our retired life.

Our retirement journey brought us here for a singular purpose, to be near our granddaughter. She loves to play outdoors when she comes over. I hope she maintains that keen interest while we watch the park being developed.

I do know that her grandmother and I will enjoy the park as we continue to enjoy retired life.

Cabin fever is overpowering

I am making an admission with this blog post. It is that the coronavirus pandemic has afflicted me with a serious case of cabin fever.

The image with this post is of the fifth wheel my wife and I own, along with the pickup. The picture was snapped a year ago while we were parked for a couple of nights at San Angelo State Park.

But … here’s the deal: Texas has closed all its state parks. That means we cannot take our recreational vehicle for a trip to any of them. Nothing is open. The Parks & Wildlife Department shut ’em all down. It’s only temporary.

However, you have to understand something about my wife and me. We are ardent supporters of our state park system. We purchase a state park pass each year to waive our entrance fee into any of the parks throughout our state.

We can’t use it. TP&W has extended the park pass for two months past its expiration date, and we’re grateful for that.

In the meantime we’re stuck at home. That RV is parked about three miles away. Our truck is in our driveway. We don’t even drive the truck much, given that Gov. Greg Abbott and the city of Princeton have closed practically all outdoor activities, most businesses.

Cabin fever is the pits, man. Although it’s surely not nearly as perilous as the fever associated with COVID-19. Accordingly, I am grateful that our family has been spared the disease, although we hear from family members that they’re going stir crazy, too. We feel their pain.

The stay at home directive has shut down anything we can do with the RV. A private RV park is out of the question as well, as nothing in any community we would want to visit is open to visitors.

Do you get my drift? We are ready for the “social distancing” we’re all observing will have the desired effect and will reduce the infection rate sufficiently to allow Gov. Abbott and other officials to give us the “all clear.”

When we hear it, we’re likely to hit the road open as soon as is humanly possible.

Cabin fever is the pits.

Happy Trails, Part 179: The past is vanishing

There once was a time not long after my wife and I embarked on our retirement journey that I would want to cling to the career I left behind. I would want to keep looking back on the fun I had pursuing a craft I loved and remembering the people with whom I worked and laughed.

That was then.

Now, let me be clear about something. I enjoyed many, many wonderful relationships during my 37 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and opinion writer. I have maintained many of those relationships over that span of time. These are wonderful people and I count some of them as my dearest friends on Earth.

But my last stop on my professional journey has left me with terribly mixed feelings. Not about the people with whom I worked, but about the organization I departed.

My departure from journalism was an unhappy one. You know about that already. The Amarillo Globe-News was my employer for far longer than any other newspaper during my career. I worked there for nearly 18 years.

I walked away from that job on Aug. 31, 2012. My wife and I got into our car and drove east on vacation. We spent a couple of weeks seeing dear friends and enjoying the sights of the Shenandoah Valley and all the landscape between the Texas Panhandle and our destination.

I clung for a good while to my relationships at the Globe-News. Then it all started to disappear before my eyes. Longtime colleagues left. They retired, or were “bought out,” or they moved on. The newspaper instituted a no-hire policy. The ranks of the Globe-News dwindled … and dwindled some more.

It wasn’t too many years after my own unceremonious departure that nearly the last of my colleagues had departed. The news staff had been reduced to a tiny fraction of its former size.

The company that owned the Globe-News, Morris Communications, sold its entire group of newspapers to GateHouse Media. Strange, given that Morris used to boast about its longstanding “newspaper tradition” and the “love” it had for the communities it served.

Today, the Globe-News operates out of an office in a bank tower. The building that housed the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper is vacant. One former colleague remains on staff there; he is a sports reporter/editor, the only person covering sports in a region the newspaper used to blanket with coverage.

The executive editor splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock, as does the director of commentary. There are two general assignment reporters, down from more than 40 individuals who used to work there.

I have moved away. I have moved on. I no longer miss the newspaper, because the organization that used to pay me no longer exists.

It’s a weird sort of out-of-body experience I am feeling these days. I am now totally disconnected from the company that once filled me with pride.

However, I have never been happier than I am at this very moment.

Listen up! No politics in church!

I have sought to follow a time-honored credo, which is that I don’t discuss politics or my work while I am in church.

My response usually goes like this when someone would challenge something I wrote in the newspaper where I worked at the time: I came here to talk to God, not to you … about my work; call me in the morning, then we’ll chat.

We have relocated in the past year to a lovely community in Collin County, Texas. We have found a new church where we like to worship each Sunday. It’s a small congregation, but it fulfills our need. Everyone is welcoming, warm, hospitable and the place is full of love.

However … we have run into individuals who like to talk politics with us, or I presume just about anyone who’ll listen. It wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the congregation is a pretty conservative bunch, which is all right with me. That’s their call. I adhere to, um, a different point of view.

Thus, when one of our new friends decides to engage us in a political discussion, I am inclined to nudge them away. I change the subject. I haven’t yet offered up my longstanding retort. Hey, I don’t know them well enough yet. Perhaps over time, they’ll get the hint and I won’t need to drop the verbal hammer on ’em.

If not, I am ready to put them into what I perceive to be their place.

Time of My Life, Part 43: Walking a libel tightrope

Most newspaper editorial pages have sections set aside to allow readers of the newspaper to vent, to complain, to speak their minds either positively or negatively about issues of the day and the individuals who make that news.

They also present editors of those pages at times with vexing problems. They involve that mysterious line that separates harsh commentary from libel.

I experienced many of those episodes during my 37 years in print journalism.

Here’s how it went … most of the time.

Someone would submit a letter for publication on our page. It might be full of anger at, say, a mayor or a city council member; perhaps the target is a county commissioner or a school board member; or, maybe it’s aimed at public figure not necessarily holding a public office, someone like a prominent businessman or woman.

The letter levels accusations that I cannot substantiate. The rhetoric is harsh, man. I call the author of the letter to confirm its source. I question the assertions made in the letter.

The writer of the letter stands by his or her assertion. He or she says it’s true and he can prove it. I ask the letter writer to provide documented proof. The writer can’t deliver the goods. I tell the writer that I am afraid the letter is libelous, which means it makes statements that could bring harm to the individual being criticized.

The letter writer then says something like this: “It’s my letter. Let ’em sue me!” To which I then say, “Actually, once you turn it in to me, it becomes my letter, too. Moreover, I don’t care if they sue you. I do care that they sue me and my employer. Therefore, I cannot publish this letter. I will not publish it. Thanks and have a great day.”

I had that conversation countless times over the years. It presents a stunning example of the responsibility that newspapers editors have when they go through each day dealing with issues that present themselves, sometimes in unexpected fashion.

There were times when I was less than patient with letter writers. I regret those instances. Then again, my patience occasionally was rubbed away when letter writers presumed to know more about the nuts and bolts of my job than I did.

They were wrong. I never did apologize for telling them so.

Happy Trails, Part 177: Furrowed brow has vanished

For starters, I need to beg your forgiveness for putting this mug shot of your friendly blogger on this post. I have a reason for doing so.

I want you to look at something that’s missing from my mug. My brow isn’t furrowed.

Back when I was working for a living, my face often reflected the tension I experienced during my “normal” work day. My Aunt Verna used to scold me affectionately that she worried my forehead between my eyebrows would become permanently wrinkled. I would laugh. So would she.

Truth is, near the end of my working career the tension became more prevalent and it showed quite dramatically in what I suppose one could call those “tension wrinkles” on my forehead.

However, one of the countless joys I now have these days is the lack of tension. It’s reflected in this picture.

I snapped this selfie this morning. I am sitting in my man cave as I write this brief blog post. I did not consciously relax my mug when I took this shot. I noticed the lack of any furrows on my forehead and thought I’d share this picture with you on this blog post and declare that my retirement journey has restored a sense of relaxation.

And so … the journey goes on.

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.