Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Memo to Tech: Keep the vet school moving ahead

If I had a chance to ask the candidates who seek to become the next chancellor of the Texas Tech University System a single question …

It would go like this: Will you ensure that Texas Tech continues to proceed full force with establishing a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo?

Whoever seeks the office that Bob Duncan is vacating with his retirement at the end of this month had better answer it the right way. That would be an emphatic “heck, yeah!”

Duncan, who built a stellar career in law, then in the Texas Legislature and then as Texas Tech’s chancellor, has decided to go on down the road. He turns 65. He wants to scale it back.

The chancellor has done very well for the school where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees. The school’s endowment has grown to more than $1 billion under Duncan’s tenure as chancellor, which speaks to the success he enjoyed as a fundraiser for the university.

Back to my original point.

Duncan has become an articulate champion for Tech’s next great system addition, the vet school in Amarillo. This project, which has the full backing of the Amarillo City Council and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, will be a boon to veterinary medicine in Texas, not to mention to the Texas Panhandle, which will benefit greatly by delivering a top-quality education to students who want to serve their communities.

The vet school holds tremendous promise for large-animal veterinary care. Given the Panhandle’s reliance on livestock and horses, that is — as one might think — a very … big … deal.

The vet school is gaining valuable momentum, much of it pushed forward by Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The next chancellor, whoever he or she is, must carry that momentum forward.

As for Chancellor Duncan, I want to join the chorus of those who thank him for his service to the state, to his beloved university and to the Texas Panhandle.

Godspeed, sir.

What do I miss? The weather!

AMARILLO, Texas — Yep. we’re back where we lived for about a third of our lives on Earth.

Tonight I think I have discovered what I miss the most (sort of) about the Texas Panhandle.

I’ll stipulate up front that we made many friends here before departing for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex earlier this year. I miss them terribly already.

The next thing? Man, it’s gotta be the weather.

We’ve been getting re-accustomed to downstate humidity while we have settled into our new digs in Fairview. It hasn’t been narly the struggle it was when we first moved to Texas in the spring of 1984; we left Oregon for — gulp! — Beaumont, in the Golden Triangle, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.

Then we moved to Amarillo in 1995. It was in January. My blood had thinned out (if that’s possible) during our years way down yonder, so getting used to the Panhandle winter was a project. But we did.

We have returned for a few days while we prepare to depart for Yellowstone National Park and Grand Coulee, Wash.

We’ve had a hot, humid, sticky summer in Fairview. We parked our fifth wheel tonight at an RV park and have enjoyed the cool breeze wafting through our vehicle.

Ahh, yes! The weather. We likely are going to miss the Texas Panhandle’s version of the four seasons.

Why endorse in primaries?

A newspaper editorial endorsement for a political primary election brings to mind a decision I made several years before the end of my own journalism career.

It was that we shouldn’t make such an endorsement unless a primary race was tantamount to election, meaning that there would be no contested two-party primaries for that particular office.

The endorsement that got me thinking about the issue came from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which recommended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in that state’s Republican primary.

Read the endorsement here.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to work for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas and in Oregon City, Ore. We made primary endorsements at those newspapers.

Then I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. After a period of time, I persuaded the publisher that primary endorsements were not nearly as relevant as general-election endorsements. So, why do them, especially when the candidates had another election in the fall?

Amarillo is in the middle of heavily Republican territory. In many instances, particularly in Randall County — which comprises the southern half (roughly) of Amarillo, Democrats damn near never run candidates for local offices. That means the GOP primary means the winner is all but assured of election, barring a surprise and successful write-in campaign.

We elected then to endorse only in those primary races featuring contests in just one party. That meant the Republican Party.

I came to realize that primaries are essentially a political party function. They are run by the political parties. The local party chairs are in charge of managing the ballots and ensuring that all the fees are paid.

If by chance there would be contested primaries in both major parties, we would take a pass on offering a recommendation in the primary; we preferred to wait for the general election campaign to make our recommendation known.

That was then. I now wonder whether newspaper endorsements mean anything any longer. Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided in 2010 to forgo any editorial board interviews with Texas newspapers; he was angry at the way newspapers treated him. The Globe-News that year endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White, as did the vast majority of Texas newspapers. Gov. Perry won big anyway.

Donald Trump got few newspaper endorsements in 2016. You know how that election turned out.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d do it the way I decided to do it. No primary endorsements unless a party’s primary meant virtual election to office.

I also might give serious thought to giving up on the idea of offering endorsements for any race … ever!

I mean … what’s the point?

It’s official: Amarillo is the tightest community in America

A dinner date last night in Plano, Texas, cemented what I’ve long felt from the moment my wife and I moved to Amarillo, Texas, in early 1995.

It is that Amarillo, a city of about 200,000 residents, is the most tightly knit community I’ve ever seen. It might be the tightest community in America.

Here’s what I mean …

We had dinner with four young people, two couples. One of the young men is a former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News. I had met his wife once many years ago. The other couple also hail from Amarillo; they are close to the first couple I just described. The two young women are cousins.

We chatted and laughed through the evening over dinner and beverages. Then one of the young women said, “Since you were with the newspaper, you might know my stepdad.” I asked who that would be. She mentioned his name. My jaw dropped. I slapped my forehead. Her stepdad happens to be a prominent commercial real estate developer.

Of course I know him. I’ve known him fairly well for many years.

This encounter was just one of a countless string them of them my wife and I have had over the years living in Amarillo. We would meet total strangers. Then we would find out that they either are (a) close personal friends with those we know or (b) are related to them.

Then to have this encounter 350 miles away from Amarillo and find out that there really are very few degrees of separation — or so it seems — from anyone in the Texas Panhandle community just affirms what I’ve believed all along.

Everyone in Amarillo seems to know everyone else.

I wonder now if (six degrees of separation from) Kevin Bacon has ever been to Amarillo. Surely he has.

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

Trump’s trade war inflicts casualties on friendly forces

Donald J. Trump keeps insisting that the United States hasn’t declared a trade war against China.

Except that we have.

Here’s the bad news for those who supported Trump’s “America First” political mantra in 2016. The trade war is going to hurt them. It will hurt them bigly.

The Texas Tribune reports that Texas agriculture is being cost in the trade war crossfire between Washington and Beijing.

I lived in the heart of Texas Cotton Country until just a few weeks ago. I am saddened to read what might happen to cotton growers in the Panhandle.

As the Tribune reports: President Donald Trump — and by extension many of the nation’s farmers — is seeing that lesson in action after he launched a bevy of tariffs against China on Friday, prompting the People’s Republic to retaliate with its own tariffs on imports from the United States. Among those American goods are some key Texas exports, including cotton, corn and sorghum. Some of the Chinese goods targeted in Trump’s tariffs are vital parts for Texas’ agriculture industry, such as livestock equipment.

“No question, it’s going to hurt,” said Gene Hall, a spokesperson for the Texas Farm Bureau.

They harvest a lot of cotton and corn in the Panhandle, much of which goes to China. More from the Texas Tribune: Cotton is the state’s 10th largest export. Nearly half of the U.S. cotton exported to China comes from Texas. Soy is a smaller market for Texas, but China is the state’s largest international soy customer. Texas exports about $157 million worth of corn a year, making it the 13th largest exporter of the crop in the country, though U.S. corn exports to China have dropped precipitously over the past few years due to increased regulations on the Chinese side.

Read the entire Texas Tribune story here.

And, yes, I hasten to add that many of the farmers who now are going to suffer from the trade war collateral damage supported Trump’s election in 2016. They rallied to his “America first” rhetoric, apparently not anticipating that a trade war would ensue that would have a direct impact on their ability to make a living.

The 26 counties that comprise the Texas Panhandle voted roughly 80 percent for Trump in 2016. I am wondering at this moment how many of those who live off the land are going to regret their vote for the guy who vowed to “make America great again.”

It’s Sixth ‘Avenue,’ not Sixth ‘Street’

AMARILLO, Texas — My wife, son and I spent some time this afternoon strolling along Historic Route 66, which was decked out with displays, booths, food vendors and classic cars.

We had a good time looking at displays and catching up with old friends.

OK, now for the nit-picking part of this blog.

I want to clear the air on the thoroughfare that is known as Historic Route 66. It happens to be Sixth Avenue.

And yet … I keep hearing locals refer to it as Sixth Street.

I keep asking myself, um … why?

Does “Sixth Street” roll off the tongue more smoothly? Does it sound cooler than “Sixth Avenue,” which is how the city has platted the thoroughfare.

I don’t mean to be a griper. I just want to set the record straight on the street that so many of my Amarillo friends misidentify with no apparent or outward knowledge of the right-of-way to which they are referring.

Hey, my wife and I don’t live here full time any longer.

Please don’t think ill of me. I’m just seeking a bit of home-town accuracy.

I will conclude with this: Sixth Avenue was packed and it looked to me like a lot of folks — a lot of whom likely came from some distance away — were having a wonderful time.

Even in this summer heat!

What was I thinking?

AMARILLO, Texas — I must have been off my rocker, had rocks in my noggin, gone around the bend when I had all those positive thoughts about the Texas Panhandle wind.

Twenty-three years of life on the Caprock have schooled me about the wind. It’s far more of an annoyance than a blessing.

We have returned to the Panhandle for a brief visit. And, oh yes, the wind greeted us — with a vengeance.

There once was a time when I could rationalize the benefit of the wind. Such as:

  • It keeps the bugs away.
  • It cleans the air.
  • It helps reduce the stifling humidity.
  • It provides a relentless, endless source of clean energy.

That’s about it. But I would trot those “benefits” out when someone would gripe about the wind. I now join the gripers. The whiners’ chorus has gained a member, although I remain a huge proponent of wind power as an alternative energy source.

I also understand the threat the wind presents, particularly during the summer months.

The wind exacerbates fire dangers manyfold. It dries out the grassland that has been moisturized by rain or snow. The grass grows, it adds fuel that can ignite easily.

You know how the rest of it goes.

Our new home near Dallas presents some other annoyances, such as the humidity that one doesn’t normally find way up yonder on the Caprock, which sits roughly 3,600 feet above sea level.

But … I look at it this way: My family and I spent nearly 11 years on the Texas Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle. We didn’t exactly enjoy the stifling summers there; we merely adjusted to it.

My memories of that period are still vivid. So I won’t let the relative humidity of the Metroplex get me down.

I also remember the Panhandle wind. Those memories are even more vivid. I no longer enjoy what I used to pass off as a flying bug deterrent.

Amarillo to get new link to Austin

Amarillo is being hooked up more tightly to Austin, via a new air carrier that will provide direct non-stop daily service between the cities in September.

Fascinating, yes? I couldn’t help but think of a former state legislator who once half-joked about splitting the Texas Panhandle from the rest of the state when he first took office in 1991.

State Rep. David Swinford once pitched a notion out loud that the Panhandle was so far removed from the state capital that it should become a separate state. I asked the Dumas Republican lawmaker about that idea when I first arrived in Amarillo in 1995 and he acknowledged that he was semi-serious about it.

The idea never got sufficient traction.

So, here we are, more than two decades later and we get news that Via Airlines is going to begin direct air service between Amarillo and Austin this fall. The in-state air carrier plans one flight out of AMA and one flight back each day, with the hope of expanding service if traffic merits it. Via currently operates a fleet of 50-passenger regional jets.

Via officials along with Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport officials say there’s sufficient interest in getting from the Panhandle to Austin to merit this new service. I guess travelers don’t like flying first to Dallas Love Field via Southwest Airlines, or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport via American Airlines before connecting to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

We’ll see how this goes. It does bode well for the future of the Panhandle and the growing reliance the region has on its air service, which happens to be quite good. AMA already provides direct service to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Now we can add Austin to the list of business and leisure travel destinations.

I also am quite sure that former Rep. Swinford no longer wants to split the Panhandle from the rest of the state.

Shameful sign removed … for real?

Media are reporting something good coming out of something hideous.

Fox News says that ghastly sign that invited “liberals” to “please continue on I-40 until you have left our great state of Texas” has been taken down.

I don’t live in the Texas Panhandle these days, so I’m left to take the media outlet at its word, that the sign is gone. It had been erected in Vega, Texas, just a bit west of Amarillo.

I’m wondering now about the why and by whom. Why did the person who put the sign up decide to remove it? I’ll hold out some glimmer of hope that whoever is responsible for it got shamed into taking it down.

The billboard that contained the sign is owned by Randy Burkett, a former Amarillo City Council member. He served a single term from 2015 to 2017, then decided he wouldn’t seek a second term.

Good deal, yes? Given his ownership of this billboard, I’d say “yes, definitely.”

Such a closed-minded point of view on a well-traveled public interstate highway sends a chilling message to those passing through. Their unmistakeable takeaway is that people with a “liberal” or “progressive” world view are not welcome here.

What the hell kind of message is that to send in a nation that is supposed to welcome all kinds of thought and political expression?

I do hope the message is gone. I also hope it stays gone.

As for who put the sign up and then took it down, may this individual — whoever he or she is — decides to exercise at least a modicum of discretion when expressing a political point of view.