Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Happy Trails, Part 145: Yes, we like this better

I cannot believe this question stumped me for a moment . . . but, it did.

My wife and I were closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas, when we hit a quiet spell in the process. The title clerk asked a simple question: Do you like it better here than Amarillo? 

That’s a direct question, yes? Of course it is! However, there are some hidden complexities in it.

I froze for just a bit. I rolled it around in my head, trying to figure out the best way to answer it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Amarillo is a lovely city. It is growing. It has about 200,000 residents, which makes it a significant community. We made many friends there and we’ll miss seeing them. The major difference between there and here is that despite the size of Amarillo, it’s out there all by itself. In order to get anywhere in the Texas Panhandle, to see or do anything in a place other than Amarillo, you’ve got drive a long way. 

That is not nearly the situation in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Here, we are surrounded by, well . . . damn near everything!

We live in Fairview at the moment. Princeton will be our home in short order. Princeton is not far from McKinney, Allen, Plano, Frisco, Richardson, Carrollton and Dallas. If we want to drive just a little bit farther, we can find things to do and see in Grapevine, Arlington, Keller and Fort Worth.

It’s a fairly significant leap to move from a metro area comprising about 500,000 residents to a metro area that is home to more than 7 million folks. Thus, one can get lost in the crowd here, unlike in Amarillo, where one can see the same folks almost weekly just when you go about your day.

Of course, I didn’t factor into my answer the most significant reason why we like it “better” here than Amarillo. That would be our granddaughter, Emma, who is the primary reason we moved from there to here in the first place.

Thus, do we like it better here than we did in the place where we used to live? Yep. Absolutely!

Happy Trails, Part 144: The move-in will commence

PRINCETON, Texas — Pardon me for showing you this picture once again. I just have to divulge that we’ve signed on many dotted lines. We did so late this morning as we “closed” on the purchase of our “forever home.”

So what happens now?

The move-in will commence. However, given that we’re now retired and given also that we have a bit of time left before our tenancy in our apartment expires, we’re going to take just a bit of time to make this move.

But . . . not too much time.

We’ve got some muscle signed up to help us. Our sons are here. Both of ’em. So we’re going to employ them for as long as we can. We’ll be moving smaller items in our vehicles over the course of the next several days.

This move is a bit different from any we’ve done before. For example, the most recent relocation before this one occurred in March 2018. We vacated our house in Amarillo and moved into our fifth wheel. We emptied the house of all its furnishings, putting them in storage. We painted the place. We replaced some fixtures, seeking to “modernize” them.

Then we accepted an offer. We intended to close a bit later than we did, but the buyer wanted in right away. We had to expedite the move before we shoved off on an RV trip we had planned. We got a little frazzled as we signed the house away.

I don’t expect any frazzling to occur with this move. We have decided to be deliberate, systematic, highly choreographed.

But today was a huge day in our retirement journey. We intended to make our apartment our “forever home.” It didn’t work out that way.

Now, however, we believe we have found the end of our rainbow.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Happy Trails, Part 143: ‘Forever’ comes into view

PRINCETON, Texas — This picture reveals to you where my wife, Toby the Puppy and I plan to live . . . hopefully for the duration, if you get my drift.

The “Sold” sign means we are in the process of purchasing it. Our retirement journey is taking a gigantic step forward this week. We will “close” on our house purchase in Princeton, about 6 miles or so east of McKinney in Collin County. We’ll lay down some cash, sign a large stack of papers, accept our “smart house” keys and we’ll be on our way.

My wife plans to start immediately laying down shelf liners in the kitchen. We’ll start moving the next day. We’ll take our time, but we won’t dawdle.

Yes, dear reader, this is our final stop.

What fascinates me as I think about it is that Princeton was one of the towns we considered when we first started pondering our move from the Texas Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The thought process came right about the time our son and daughter-in-law informed us that “You are going to be grandparents.”

That was more than six years ago. It took some time for us to make this move, but we did.

I already have told you about how we came upon his dwelling.

I only want to affirm once more the idea that even old folks — such as me — are able to adapt to new surroundings. I long thought of myself as a staid fellow, resistant to change. Then career opportunity knocked in 1984 and we moved our young family from a suburban community near Portland, Ore., to Beaumont, Texas. We stayed in Beaumont for nearly 11 years; our sons graduated from high school and were finishing up their college educations when my wife and I packed up again and moved from the Golden Triangle to the Texas Panhandle. We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years. The arrival of our granddaughter in March 2013 precipitated the move that is about to conclude in very short order in the house you see pictured with this blog post.

This is going to be a huge week for us.

I await it with great joy and excitement. Retirement is no time for complacency.

Hereford Brand gets new life! How about that?

If there’s a media god in heaven somewhere, he or she is smiling down on the Texas Panhandle journalism community at this moment.

Jeff and Angela Blackmon have stepped forward to take over the daily operation of the Hereford Brand, a small community publication that was slated for the scrap heap effective today.

It ain’t happening. The Brand is still alive and presumably kicking.

This is happy news. I hope it is cause for long-term happiness among those who want community journalism to survive and one should hope flourish in this changing media climate.

The Brand’s former owners announced this past weekend that they planned to shutter the 118-year-old publication. Its final day was supposed to be today. Jeff Blackmon, who I understand is the former sports editor of the newspaper, and his wife stepped up. The news story I saw this morning said they will honor all the paper’s advertising and circulation commitments.

I presume they’ll also honor the paper’s commitment to the community by telling its story and by chronicling the happenings of the folks who comprise the Deaf Smith County region.

The peril remains, however, for small-town newspapers everywhere just like the Hereford Brand. Immense pressure is being brought to bear by the Internet, by cable TV, by other sources of “information” and commentary. Community newspapers are losing their relevance in people’s lives.

And yet . . .

When news such as what broke in Hereford, a community about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo, that its paper was about to vanish forever, you could hear plenty of wailing about the demise of the paper and expressions of sadness over its impending demise.

The community is now going to be given a chance to demonstrate its commitment to a century-plus-old tradition.

Here’s hoping for a much longer life for the Hereford Brand.

Good luck, Jeff and Angela Blackmon.

Time of My Life, Part 17: Revealing a little secret

I want to reveal a little secret about newspaper editorials, particularly those that “endorse” political candidates or issues.

I lost count a long time ago of the number of editorial endorsement interviews I conducted. Despite all the high-minded talk we used to offer about our motivations, our intent was to persuade readers to buy into whatever opinion we expressed.

I wrote editorials for three newspapers in my career that spanned more than 37 years. One in Oregon and two in Texas. I interviewed likely hundreds of candidates for public office. We always used to say on our opinion pages that our intent never was to persuade readers to adopt our view. To be candid, that was baloney!

Part of the fun I had writing editorials was helping lead the community we served. Whether Oregon City, Ore., or in Beaumont or Amarillo, Texas, we sought to provide a beacon for the community to follow. By definition, therefore, our intent was to persuade readers of our newspaper to accept that what we said was the truth as we saw it. If you did, then you would follow our lead.

Isn’t that a simple concept? Sure it is! It’s also one we avoided confronting head-on while we published editorials endorsing candidates or supporting issues that were placed on ballots.

I never was naïve to think that readers of our newspapers would be malleable creatures whose minds could be changed by what they read in the newspaper. But by golly, we never stopped trying to change minds.

We used to say publicly on our pages that we recognized and accepted that our readers were intelligent enough to make up their own mind and were able to cobble together rational reasons for the point of view they held. I’ll stand by that principle even though I no longer write for newspapers, but write only for myself.

I was having the time of my professional life interviewing those individuals, who came to us in search of our editorial endorsement or, if you’ll pardon the term, our blessing.

However, when you hear an opinion writer say with a straight face that he or she doesn’t intend to change anyone’s mind with an editorial, well . . . just try to stifle your laughter.

Repeating the same cliche I’ve been hearing

Good grief. I am now repeating the cliché I keep hearing from family and friends when the discussion turns to the fate and cloudy future of print media.

I have talked about the slow and inexorable demise of quality journalism at one of the newspapers where I once worked, the Amarillo Globe-News.

Then I get the response: It’s happening everywhere!

I guess they intend to make me feel better. It has the opposite effect. That response seems to diminish the agony my former colleagues and I felt while we watched the newspaper decline ever so slowly and steadily.

Now comes news of the death of a community newspaper, the Hereford Brand. Wouldn’t you know it? I am now saying the very thing I’ve been hearing: What’s occurring in Hereford is happening in small towns all across the United States of America.

It sickens me, man.

The social media have helped render newspapers — the products of quality journalism — increasingly irrelevant in people’s daily lives.

Who needs a newspaper when people have those phones in their pockets, or hitched to their belt, or tucked in their purses? They have 24/7 access to cable news shows, Internet sources and any manner of other outlets. They are bombarded with opinion, much of it unqualified. They form their world view on the basis of what pours into those phones or into their laptop or desk top computers.

The Brand will close up officially on Wednesday. Its publisher said declining circulation and advertising revenues have brought about this inevitable outcome.

And by golly, it ain’t unique to Hereford or Deaf Smith County or the Texas Panhandle. It’s happening in communities all across the land.

What’s more, every single one of them is poorer because of this relentless trend.

I am saddened beyond measure and I hate with a passion that I am being forced to acknowledge the sad truth that it’s happening everywhere.

Keep our eyes on Texas Tech vet school progress

I have spoken already on this blog about some of the damage that can be done to West Texans who depend on their state senator to look after projects that provide direct benefit to their part of the state.

I want to discuss briefly one specific project: the Texas Tech University System’s plan to build a school of veterinary medicine at its medical school campus in Amarillo.

Why mention it? Because a veteran legislator, Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, has been yanked out of the chairman’s seat on the Higher Education Committee. Seliger lost the chairmanship he has occupied for several legislative sessions.

The loss of that seat could cost the Panhandle dearly. My sincere and adamant hope is that it does not endanger the veterinary medicine school that Tech wants to build in Amarillo.

The Tech Board of Regents has signed on. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has committed tens of millions of dollars to it. The Panhandle community supports the vet school, which would be the second such college in Texas; the only other vet school is run by Texas A&M University, which quite naturally has been pushing back against Tech’s plans to build the school.

The school of veterinary medicine will provide a direct boost to Amarillo and the Panhandle. Tech has established a need for such a school, which could cater to large-animal veterinary care in a region known for its livestock.

Does the Seliger removal from the Higher Ed chairmanship put the vet school in dire peril? It must not! However, there is the possibility that the Panhandle’s lack of a voice on the Higher Ed panel could work against the forward momentum that is building for the completion of the project.

Lt. Gov. Patrick has done some damage to the Panhandle with his apparent vendetta against the region’s senior state senator. Let us all keep our eyes and ears open to the legislative maneuvering as it involves the Texas Tech school of veterinary medicine.

Hey, Dan Patrick: Senators work for us, not you

I have to weigh in one more time — although quite possibly not the final time — on the growing Texas Senate feud between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Kel Seilger, an Amarillo Republican.

The way I see it, Patrick is acting as if he employs the 31 members of the state’s upper legislative chamber. That ain’t the case, fella. They work for us. They work chiefly for the people who they represent in their respective Senate districts as well as for those who live in other parts of the state, given that they enact laws that affect all Texans.

The lieutenant governor stripped Seliger, a seasoned veteran of the Legislature, of all his committee assignments. Why? According to Seliger it is because the two men have different world views and legislative priorities; Patrick claims he did it because Seliger reportedly has a potty mouth and made some “lewd comments” to a female Patrick staffer.

Either excuse seems to point to a dictatorial streak being exhibited by Lt. Gov. Patrick.

The Dallas Morning News this morning published a lengthy feature on Seliger and the reputation he enjoys among his Senate colleagues. I’ll attach it to this blog post. Spoiler alert: The reporter, Lauren McGaughy, called yours truly for comments on Seliger, and she included some of them in this piece.

Here it is.

My point here is that Seliger answers to West Texans first and to the rest of the state second. Patrick place on the senator’s pecking order priority list is a very distant third.

I already have stated my pro-Seliger bias in this dust-up. The Texas Panhandle — where I used to live — and the rest of Seliger’s vast Senate District 31 have been disserved mightily by Patrick’s petulance. He referred to Seliger in an earlier DMN piece as a “corrosive force” in the Senate. The comments given to the Morning News by senators in both political parties paint a vastly different picture of the man with whom they have worked and served our great state.

I will continue to stand by my friend, Sen. Seliger.

Regional commentary: it’s spreading!

I am so sorry to report that Amarillo and Lubbock aren’t the only two communities in America where newspaper editorial policy is suffering from the urge to combine resources under a combined “regional” approach to commentary.

A friend sent me a link telling me that Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina are combining their editorial pages, that they’ll be supervised by a regional editor who will oversee editorial policies in both communities.

Here is the link.

Oh, my goodness! The deterioration of editorial autonomy is deepening.

GateHouse Media, which owns the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal recently announced hiring a guy who will serve as a “regional director of commentary.” He’ll live in Lubbock and then commute to Amarillo on occasion during the week, I suppose to try to read the pulse of the community.

The early returns aren’t too promising. The Texas Panhandle no longer has a newspaper that provides leadership on local issues; nor does the South Plains region.

As to what is happening in North Carolina, I predict a similar fate befalling those Charlotte and Raleigh. McClatchy Newspapers runs the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News  & Observer. Those cities also are even more diverse and disparate than Amarillo and Lubbock. They both are cosmopolitan cities; they are highly sophisticated. Raleigh is part of that Research Triangle region that brims with high-tech expertise; Charlotte is the state’s largest city and is a bustling financial center.

The release I read about the N.C.-merger reads, in part: The move is the latest in a series of changes that combine McClatchy’s North Carolina operations. Presumably, this will mean the board will focus more on statewide news and less on local news specific to Charlotte or Raleigh.

There you have it . . . more than likely. Both communities’ newspaper editorial pages are likely going to look away from those issues of specific interest or concern to them individually.

Oh, the demise of newspaper editorial leadership continues. It is painful for this former opinion writer/editor to watch.

Time of My Life, Part 12: Whom or whether to ‘endorse’

We have entered an era of enhanced distrust or mistrust of the media. That wasn’t always the case and I was proud to practice a craft that the public held in much higher regard than it does now.

We weren’t universally adored and admired, but come election time we had politicians lining up — quite literally — waiting for a chance to be interviewed by those of us who comprised an “editorial board.” They sought our “endorsement” for the campaign they were waging for whatever public office was on the line.

It’s a bit different these days. Politicians are forgoing those meetings with editorial boards. The most memorable “snub” occurred in 2010 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided he wouldn’t speak to any editorial boards in the state. He said he preferred to take his re-election message “directly to the people.” We got the message. What did we do? The Amarillo Globe-News decided to invite his Democratic Party challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White, to talk to us. White accepted. He came to Amarillo and sat down for an hour or so talking about issues affecting his campaign and the state.

The paper then recommended White for election as governor. We were far from alone. However, judging from the response we got from our readers, you would have thought we had just endorsed Satan himself. The anger was palpable based on the mail we got from our heavily Republican-leaning readership.

It didn’t matter. Gov. Perry was re-elected in a breeze. And he established a trend for others to follow:

Ernst follows Perry model: Who needs editorial boards?

One of the more fascinating after effects of these editorial endorsement interviews — particularly with candidates running for local offices — was that every election cycle proved to be a learning experience for me. I always learned something at some level about the community where I lived that I didn’t know. Whether it was in Oregon City, Ore., or Beaumont or Amarillo in Texas, I learned something new about the community.

I was able to interview candidates who were invested deeply in their communities and they would share their often heartfelt experiences growing up there. I tried to take something new away from those encounters. Did I learn all there was to know about Clackamas County, Ore., or the Golden Triangle or the High Plains region? No. However, I did know a lot more about all those areas when I left them than I knew going in.

I was privileged to meet a future president of the United States, U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House, movers and shakers of all stripes, men and women who wanted to serve on city councils, or county commissions, they sought legislative office, various statewide public offices, school boards . . . you name it, we met ’em.

It always was a privilege to get to know these individuals, even those who weren’t serious in their quest. Believe me, we encountered our share of those as well.

They were willing to subject themselves to the grilling we provided them. They withstood our sometimes-difficult questions. There is something good to be said about them, too — and the process in which we all took part.