Tag Archives: Texas Gulf Coast

Time of My Life, Part 32: In the company of media greatness

The name of a one-time Texas media giant came up today during a discussion I had with a dear friend of mine and it prompts me to look back on an extraordinary meeting I had with this individual back when I wrote editorials and edited the opinion page of the Beaumont Enterprise in Southeast Texas.

You remember the great Molly Ivins, I’m sure. She died of cancer in 2007. She was just 62 years of age.

Ivins was an unreconstructed liberal. And she was damn proud of it! She is the originator of at least two quintessential quips regarding politicians she railed against regularly: She was fond of referring to Texas Gov. George W. Bush as “Shrub”; then she hung the label of “Gov. Goodhair” on Bush’s successor as governor, Rick Perry.

Those legendary nicknames came after I had left Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle. But one afternoon in the Beaumont Enterprise newsroom brought me up close and personal with Molly Ivins.

She had come to Beaumont from Austin to cover the state of politics in the Gulf Coast community. She wanted to watch the Beaumont City Council in action. Ivins was not impressed, as I recall, with the quality of Beaumont’s municipal leadership, let alone its governing body.

I recall one column she wrote at the time in which she ridiculed the late Councilman Andrew P. Cokinos, the youngest of four brothers, all of whom had been players on the Beaumont political stage. She wondered about the middle initial “P.” that all the brothers used. She knew the “P” stood for “Pete,” and poked fun at them in general, and at Andrew in particular.

She wandered into our newsroom one afternoon. My memory is shaky at times, so I cannot recall the precise date of that meeting. I believe it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

She held court in the newsroom for well more than an hour. She regaled the journalists gathered around her with story after story of the characters she encountered during her years as a Texas journalist.

She got away somehow with crafting copy that no one else could. She wrote with biting humor, but lurking just below her trademark sarcasm one could find a serious theme to her commentary, as she was a serious journalist, although political conservatives (chiefly Republicans) usually found a way to belittle her.

However, in those days when newspapers actually mattered greatly, when they were relevant to telling communities’ stories, Molly Ivins was a giant among Texas journalists.

To be candid, I always envied her writing skill and more than once I lamented under my breath, “Damn, I wish I could write like that.” I was glad I was able to tell Molly Ivins that very thing to her face that day in Beaumont, Texas.

Happy Trails, Part 154: Why didn’t we come here before?

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am kicking myself in the backside.

My wife and I lived in the Golden Triangle for nearly 11 years before we relocated way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle. That 24 years ago.

Today we arrived at a Texas state park jewel about 40 miles from where we used to live. Sea Rim State Park is a marvelous place to sit, relax, listen to the sounds of the surf and to just veg out.

That’s what we’re doing this evening as we settle in for a couple of nights on the Texas Gulf Coast.

I am not much of a beach guy. But we did visit the coast a few times during the Gulf Coast segment of our long journey through life together. We would drive to Galveston, entering the island community from the ferry that left the other side of Boliver Pass. Or . . . we would head the other direction from Sabine Pass, toward Holly Beach, La., which I used to consider was one of the coast’s hidden treasures.

Sea Rim is a wonderful state park, and part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife network of parks. We have spent a number of nights at many of those parks as we’ve continued on our retirement journey.

Sea Rim is a small-ish park, as far as Texas state parks go. I understand it has sustained considerable hurricane damage in recent years. Monstrous storms named Rita, Ike and Harvey all inflicted serious damage to Sea Rim, in that order.

But the park is clean. It’s tidy. This weekend it’s busy. I heard that the state’s Beach Clean-Up Day will occur Saturday. I’ll have more on that later.

I regret not coming here before now. Better late than never.

Climate change will bring more storms

A report came to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk that delivers a stern message without actually saying the words it needs to say.

The Gulf Coast is going to experience more severe storms with increasing frequency, the report states. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. However, the report doesn’t use the words “climate change” to explain what is patently obvious.

Gov. Abbott won’t accept climate change as a contributing factor, but the report does contain some stern and dire warnings.

According to the Austin American-Statesman: “The enormous toll on individuals, businesses and public infrastructure should provide a wake-up call underlining the urgent need to ‘future proof’ the Gulf Coast — and indeed all of Texas — against future disasters,” according to “Eye of the Storm,’ the report released Thursday by . . . Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas.”

But as the American-Statesman notes, “future proof” has become Abbott’s favorite term as it relates to what the state is experiencing.

Earlier reports note that storms as savage and sweeping as Hurricane Harvey are going to pound the coast with increasing frequency and savagery. Again, our climate is changing. Sea levels along the coast are rising. The rising levels put our fragile coastal wetlands in peril. Other reports note the shrinking Arctic and Antarctic ice caps that could cause sea levels to increase by more than four feet by 2100.

Also, according to the American-Statesman: “The current scientific consensus points to increasing amounts of intense rainfall coupled with the likelihood of more intense hurricanes,” the report states.

The president of the United States says climate change is a “hoax.” I believe he is wrong to say such a thing knowing that he is making a false declaration.

As for the Texas governor, it is long past time for him to climb aboard the climate change wagon. The evidence is there, even if a thorough report doesn’t say it in so many words.

Happy Trails, Part 132: Feeling more like ‘home’

I took Toby the Puppy for a walk this afternoon. Then it dawned on me as I looked at our surroundings.

Collin County is feeling more like “home” to me. I believe it is for my wife, too. Toby the Puppy? He’s fine no matter where he is, as long as we’re with him.

It’s more of a sense than anything else. You know already that we’re getting more comfortable navigating our way around the Metroplex. The sense today is that our neighborhood is feeling more like we belong here.

Now, we aren’t likely to stay in our particular neighborhood forever. My wife and I are moving toward purchasing a new home; at the moment, we are renting an apartment. We like our residence just fine, but we have this desire to sink our roots a little more deeply into our new surroundings.

It helps satisfy my own sense of belonging to feel more acclimated to our new surroundings.

I discovered in 1984 that I am a highly adaptable creature. We moved from Oregon to the Texas Gulf Coast that spring. I had spent my entire life in Portland — except for two years in the Army, which took me to the East Coast and eventually to Southeast Asia.

Oregon was “home” for me. Then opportunity called and we settled in Southeast Texas. That was our home for nearly 11 years. More opportunity called and we pulled up stakes and settled in Amarillo, which became our home for more than 23 years.

Our life in Beaumont became the new normal. Then it shifted to the Texas Panhandle.

Now it is reconstituting in Collin County, just a bit north of Dallas. Most importantly, we’re now just a few minutes away from our precious granddaughter.

As I look around our new digs, though, my comfort level is more satisfied believing that I am feeling at home.

National Climate Assessment: Harvey wasn’t a one-time event

Get ready, my fellow Texans. It’s quite likely, according to the National Climate Assessment, that Hurricane Harvey wasn’t a one-time catastrophe; there might more of them perhaps in the near future.

Hurricane Harvey delivered in the late summer of 2017 a one-two punch never seen before along the Gulf Coast. It roared in as a monstrous hurricane at Corpus Christi and Rockport, delivering huge storm surges off the Gulf of Mexico along with heavy wind.

It backed out over the water, then meandered up the coast and came in — again! — as a tropical storm. The second hit delivered 50 inches of rain over Houston and the Golden Triangle, putting vast stretches of the upper Texas coast under water.

Well, the National Climate Assessment says we can expect more of the same, or perhaps even worse. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. And, yes, the assessment delivered by the federal government is in direct contradiction to the half-baked pronouncements delivered by the president of the United States, Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump.

Trump says climate change is a “hoax.” He doesn’t accept the scientific community’s findings about the changing climate and the warming of the planet.

What’s more, scientists are concluding that human activity is a significant contributor to these changes.

According to the Texas TribuneThe White House downplayed the findings of the report, saying in a statement that it was “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

But the report makes a compelling case for the reality of disastrous climate change impacts — in large part because they are already occurring. The report highlights Hurricane Harvey, wildfires in California and other recent extreme weather events, describing them as consistent with what might be expected as the planet warms. It also details the crippling impact a multi-year drought had on Texas agriculture from 2010 to 2015, thanks not only to less direct rainfall but to the reduction of water released to farmers for irrigation.

Who are you going to believe, a politician — Trump — with no background in science, let alone public service or scientists who make their living studying and determining these things?

I’m going to stand with the scientists.

Happy Trails, Part 110: Put away … already!

I am married to Wonder Woman.

No, she doesn’t spin around and morph into a super heroine dressed in some goofy red-white-and-blue costume.

But … she’s a wonder nevertheless.

This woman with whom I have shared my life for 47 years has managed to find places to put possessions we had stuffed into a 2,150-square-foot house in Amarillo into a “luxury apartment” that is just a little more than half that size in Fairview.

Now, is every single thing precisely where we intend to keep it? Probably not. We’re likely to discard some of these possessions. However, as you look through our new digs you get the sense that it’s actually assembled in a livable fashion.

I credit Wonder Woman for this. She is the master of packing and unpacking. She is systematic in her approach. She takes time to survey the situation, then attacks it with gusto.

Wonder Woman is reluctant to take too much credit for this skill she exhibits. She credits it to the number of times she moved as a much younger person. She learned this packing-unpacking skill at a young age, she’ll tell you. So it becomes sort of second nature for her.

Me? I’m not wired that way. Although I do consider myself to be more adaptable than I thought I might have been. Our move from Oregon to Texas in 1984, when we both were in our 30s, required me to activate that adaptability wiring. It worked. I was able to acclimate myself nicely to life along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Then again, I left the proverbial “heavy lifting” to Wonder Woman, who arrived  in Beaumont a few months after I landed there. She got there at the same time the mover arrived with our possessions. And, yes, she was able to store our worldly goods into an apartment where we lived for a time until we decided to purchase a home.

We repeated this process nearly 11 years later when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo. Same story, a new verse. Wonder Woman did what she knows how to do.

We’re retired these days. You know that already about us. Her skill at unpacking, though, remains unrivaled.

I am grateful beyond measure. I am one lucky fellow.

Happy Trails, Part 105: Bring on the thunder!

Years ago, when my wife and I committed to moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, we expressed the hope we might get to revive one of the memories we had when we lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Today, it happened.

My wife and I are huge fans of thunderstorms. We love the sound of thunder. We just heard a huge clap of it right overhead. Directly!

Our conclusion is that the relative humidity of the Metroplex atmosphere — compared to the dryness of the Texas Panhandle air — is going to produce the kind of explosive weather we enjoyed/endured while we lived in Beaumont.

There was one storm in particular in Beaumont that I recall. It was a doozy. What did my wife and I do? We hauled our lawn chairs to spots under our carport and sat there, just listening to the thunder and watching the lightning streak across the sky.

I know what you’re thinking: Are those people nuts?

Actually, we’re quite sane. It doesn’t take much to please either of us. Mother Nature’s tempestuous is one of the joys of life we enjoy.

Sure, we had some beauts blown in over us in Amarillo. We had to replace the roof on our house just three years after we built it because of baseball-size hail that pummeled us. And, yep, the lightning was damn loud that day, too!

We are hoping for more of that kind of thrill — perverse though it sounds — as we settle into our new digs just north of Dallas … although the hail can stay away!

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.

Another ‘first’ occurs on this journey

MELISSA, Texas — Life is full of firsts, isn’t that correct. First born. First kiss. First traffic ticket.

How about this? First recreational vehicle setup in the middle of a ferocious North Texas thunder and hailstorm.

Yep, my wife and I cleared that “first” with mixed results.

Our day started out calmly and peacefully as we pulled out of our RV campsite just north of Beaumont, where we had visited with some of our many good friends. We hooked our RV up to our truck, shoved off and headed north to this community just north of Dallas.

We arrived under a darkening sky. We need to navigate our way through some road construction, pulled into the RV park where we had reservations.

Then it happened. The sky opened up. And it poured torrents of rain. The thunder roared. The lightning flashed.

Before we got out of our truck after we pulled into our reserved space, the hail began pelting — no, pummeling — our vehicles. The hailstones were size of agate marbles, man! They beat the daylights out of us.

I sought to unhook the truck from the fifth wheel, plug in the water line and hook up the electricity.

We fled inside the RV. We decided to wait it out. The hail didn’t stop. The noise was deafening. We had to shout at each other to be heard over the roar. Toby the Puppy was frightened. Heck, I was scared. So was my wife. We wanted it to end, I’m tellin’ ya.

The hail then began to subside. Aha! I’ll take another pass outside at finishing the setup.

That was a mistake! I stepped outside. The hail returned in full pummel mode. It beat on my noggin. I lowered my head to keep my face from getting pounded by the hail … and then I walked smack into the tempered-steel fifth wheel hitch on the front of our RV.

I cut my face in two places: on the bridge of my nose and on my forehead. Yes, it bled! My wife was horrified. She pulled me inside the RV, applied an ice pack wrapped in a dish cloth.

The end of this tale? Well, the hail stopped. We finished setting up. The blood stopped coming out of the cuts on my face.

OK, there’s a glimmer of good news. Our pickup didn’t suffer any hail damage; nor did the fifth wheel.

We know this is only a first-time event. It won’t be an only-time happening. Hey, we live in Texas, where the weather is spectacularly unpredictable.

Our journey will continue.

Blogging ‘payoff’ comes in many forms

VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK, Texas — We’re about to shove off soon for points north of our former haunts along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We have too many friends left unseen on this return, but we’ll vow to get caught up with them on our next visit — which we hope will be sooner rather than later. Many of them read this blog.

This visit has produced an unexpected — but quite welcome — acknowledgement of my new calling as a full-time blogger.

Some of the friends with whom we got caught up told me how they have learned a bit about Amarillo and Texas Panhandle politics from the blog posts I have filed for all these years.

How does it get any better than that? To my way of thinking, it really doesn’t.

I don’t write this blog to obtain notoriety. I merely write it because it gives me pleasure. I like ranting. I get a kick out of raving on occasion. I don’t mind hurling a criticism at those in power. I cannot resist the temptation to “afflict the comfortable,” although I do not really believe this blog “comforts the afflicted.”

However, to be told by friends that High Plains Blogger has provided a bit of an education about a region of Texas that is far away from the Gulf Coast makes me smile — and gives me more than enough reason to keep going for as long as I am able.