Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Malcolm X has a street named in his memory … imagine that

The nation is being flummoxed in recent days with debate over race relations, bullying of ethnic minorities, the slaughter of Latinos and other Americans in two American cities by madmen packing assault weapons.

Then I noticed a picture this morning in the Dallas Morning News. It was of a street sign carrying the name of Malcolm X; it’s in South Dallas, as is the sign posted with this brief blog item.

It struck me immediately that Malcolm X once was known as a fiery African-American radical, a member of the Nation of Islam. He preached for the separation of the races — black and white. He once adhered to the Black Panther mantra of “anything goes” to achieve a goal; and by “anything,” it meant violent means if necessary.

Toward the end of his life, though, Malcolm X mellowed. He moved more toward the Martin Luther King Jr. philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience. He doused the fire in his rhetoric whenever he spoke.

Then in 1965, while delivering a speech in New York City, Malcolm X was gunned down by Nation of Islam devotees who didn’t like his transformation into a more mainstream civil rights leader.

But the sign identifying a street in his memory caught my eye this morning. I lived in two Texas communities prior to moving to Collin County this past year — Beaumont and Amarillo — that have wrestled mightily with naming streets after MLK Jr. Beaumont eventually built a beautiful parkway that cuts through the middle of the city; Amarillo hasn’t done it … yet. That they would even consider naming a thoroughfare after Malcolm X is, to my way of thinking, incomprehensible.

Where am I going with this? I merely want to point out that some communities are able to look way past certain aspects of individuals’ history and recognize their total body of work.

As my wife and I are fairly new to the Dallas area, I was unaware of Malcolm X’s name being memorialized in this manner. I’m glad I saw it and am glad to share these meager thoughts as we grapple with the national trauma brought upon us in a hail of insane gunfire.

Having trouble letting go

I must admit to a peculiar circumstance that I will not define as a “problem.”

It is an unwillingness to let go of affairs occurring in the city where my wife and I used to live. I refer to Amarillo, Texas, way up yonder in the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock … in a place I used to “affectionately” refer to as the Texas Tundra.

We moved away a little more than a year ago, yet I am continuing to devote a bit of High Plains Blogger’s posts to events that occur in the Texas Panhandle’s unofficial “capital” city.

You know what? I am going to keep both eyes and both ears attuned to what’s happening there. Why? The city is undergoing a significant change of personality, if not character. I want to watchdog it. I want to keep my channels of communication open to the community my wife and I called home for 23 years.

The truth is my wife and I lived in Amarillo longer than have lived in any community during our nearly 48 years of married life together. We were married in Portland, Ore., but moved to Beaumont 13 years later; we stayed on the Gulf Coast for not quite 11 years before heading northwest to the other end of this vast state.

I enjoyed some modest success during all those years as a working man. Retirement arrived in 2012. We stayed in our home until late 2017. We moved into our recreational vehicle, then sold our house in March 2018. Our granddaughter’s birth in 2013 and our desire to be near her as she grows up lured us to the Metroplex … but you know about that already.

But Amarillo retains a peculiar hold on my interests.

I am delighted with the progress of the city’s downtown redevelopment. The city’s baseball fans are turning out in droves to watch the Sod Poodles play AA minor-league hardball. Texas Tech University is marching full speed toward opening a school of veterinary medicine at Tech’s Health Sciences Center campus at the western edge of Amarillo. The Texas highway department is going to begin work soon on an extension of Loop 335 along Helium Road. Interstates 40 and 27 are under extensive construction.

I want to keep up with the progress that’s occurring in Amarillo.

I also intend to stay alert to problems that might arise along the way.

So, I intend to declare my intention to devote a good bit of this blog for the foreseeable future on matters affecting a fascinating — albeit at times infuriating — community.

Although we no longer call Amarillo our “home,” the community is not far from my heart.

Empower Texans endorses Trump, but am wondering why

At one level, this is no surprise. Empower Texans, the far-right political action group that often targets “establishment Republicans” for defeat in favor of far-righties, has endorsed Donald J. Trump for re-election as president of the United States.

I want to share the endorsement here. 

It is authored by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of the outfit. He calls the 2020 election a watershed event for Texans and it is utterly critical, he said, for Texans to join the rest of the country in sending Trump back into office for four more years.

It amazes me. I am stunned. Astonished. Perplexed. Baffled. Bumfuzzled.

I always thought of Empower Texans as a rigid ideological organization. It adheres to a doctrine that calls for extreme fiscal restraint. Empower Texans was born out of the TEA Party movement and I figure it has morphed into an ally of the Texas Freedom Caucus, which is part of the larger conservative movement that has taken control of the Republican Party.

Trump, though, doesn’t have an ideology. He tilts at whatever forces are pushing him.

But he kowtows to tyrants. He denigrates our intelligence agencies. He actually invited the Russians to attack our electoral system in 2020 the way they did in 2016. He ridiculous our allies in Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America.

Trump, moreover, has talked about spending a trillion or so dollars to rebuild our nation’s transportation infrastructure, which by itself isn’t a bad thing. The problem, though, is that he cannot work with Democrats to come up with a plan on how to do it, or certainly how to pay for it.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” It only has gotten even swampier since he took office. Oh, yeah … let’s not forget those key aides who have been indicted, pleaded guilty or are actually serving time in the slammer.

Empower Texans has managed to stick its collective political nose into local races around the state, seeking to elect legislators who cotton to its rigid ideology. It has failed even in the most conservative regions of Texas, such as the Panhandle, to elect legislative candidates to its liking. Why? Because local folks don’t like being dictated to by ideologues of any stripe, even far-right-wingers such as Empower Texans.

This group never is going to win me over. Its endorsement of Donald John Trump is no surprise to me, even though I still cannot comprehend why, given the president’s utter lack of moral/political/ideological base.

Nor should it surprise readers of this blog that I believe Empower Texans has made a patently foolish decision to stand with a president who is completely unfit for the office he occupies.

Happy Trails, Part 161: Meeting the neighbors

I am living, breathing, talking proof that rear-entry driveways have helped damage neighborly relations among folks.

How do I know this? We sold our house in Amarillo more than a year ago after living in it for more than two decades. We had it built from the ground up. It had a rear-entry garage that allowed us to drive our vehicle from an alley that ran along the rear of our homes.

We had infrequent exchanges with our neighbors. Why? We hardly ever saw them.

It’s different these days. Our retirement journey has taken us to Princeton. Our new home has a driveway that faces onto the street.

Here’s the benefit we have accrued from this new arrangement: We have gotten acquainted early with several our neighbors on our side of the street and also across the street.

My wife and I know the names of folks living in two residences across the street; we know the names of both our next-door neighbors, as well as the neighbors two and three doors to our east.

I have concluded that with front-entry driveways we have returned to a more neighborly environment than what we experienced for 22 years living in our Amarillo home.

It’s not that our neighbors in Princeton are friendlier than they were in Amarillo. Indeed, we became good friends with several of the families living on our street in Amarillo. It took some time, given the rear-entry garages that prevented a lot of regular face-to-face interaction with them.

Make no mistake that Panhandle residents pride themselves on their friendliness, their sense of community. We would hear about it regularly as we went through our day over many years.

Now, though, our daily routine as we go about our day in the home with our front-entry driveway includes a lot more frequent interaction with our neighbors along our street.

It’s nice to know the folks with whom we share this neighborhood.

Panhandle no longer is a Texas ‘step-child’

There once was a Texas Panhandle state representative who semi-seriously thought the Panhandle should separate itself from the rest of the state because, he groused, state government ignores the region.

That state rep was David Swinford, a Dumas Republican first elected to office in 1990. I asked him about that notion when I first met him in 1995 and he didn’t exactly deny it.

Well, Swinford has retired from the Legislature. And to its credit, the legislative body has restored faith in many in the Panhandle. How? By appropriating enough money — $17 million — to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

This is great news for the region. A lot of folks are taking credit for ensuring the Legislature made this event a reality.

The Texas Tech University System is going to build the vet school, the second one in Texas. The first vet school is run by the Texas A&M University System. Aggieland opposed Tech’s initiative. Tech wasn’t going to be denied. It lined up plenty of political backing in the Panhandle and the South Plains.

Amarillo Matters, a political action committee formed a couple of years ago, is one organization that is taking credit for pushing the Legislature to act. Amarillo Matters said this on its website:

“Not only does the budget include startup funding for the vet school, but it also includes a directive for Texas Tech to move forward developing the school,” Amarillo Matters President Jason Herrick said. “This is great news for Amarillo, the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, and our state as a whole.” The school will help meet the growing need for large animal and rural veterinarians across the state. It will also increase the opportunities for Texas students to further their education without leaving the state.

“Legislative approval of the Texas Tech veterinary school is a watershed event for West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, and all of Texas,” former Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan said. “This culminates years of hard work by literally hundreds of individuals who recognized the unmet demand for rural and large animal veterinarians throughout our state,” Duncan added.

Read the rest of Amarillo Matters’ post here.

Here’s my essential point: State government has not ignored the Panhandle. Yet one hears the occasional gripe from those who think it still does. Let’s lose the attitude, my former Panhandle neighbors. The Panhandle has plenty of legislative clout and it used it effectively for the benefit of the delegation’s constituents.

I also doubt that my friend David Swinford is among the soreheads.

Happy Trails, Part 160: Reaping benefit of ‘choices’

As you know by now our retirement journey has taken us from Amarillo to Princeton in Texas. Our No. 1 priority is to be near our granddaughter. Mission accomplished on that matter.

A lesser priority in my own mind was to be nearer to what one of my sons refers to as “choices.” That is, to be able to partake of entertainment offerings without having to drive great distances to enjoy them.

One of those “choices” presented himself Friday night. Sir Paul McCartney took the stage at a concert venue about 50 miles west of us. So, my other son was able to get a couple of tickets and he invited dear ol’ Dad to join him way up yonder in the nosebleed section of Globe Life Park in Arlington.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me on this point: My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful life in Amarillo, Texas, which was our home for 23 years. We lived there nearly half our married life together. We had a wonderful house built and we made it our home. We enjoyed making it look pretty and presentable.

We also learned a fact of life about living in West Texas: If you need to see anything you need to get in your car and drive … a long way! It’s not that Amarillo and its immediate surroundings aren’t without their charms. Let’s get real. You can grow tired of seeing the same attractions over and over. To be candid, we did tire of it.

Now, though, we have settled into new digs just northeast of Dallas. Therefore, when I had the chance to drive about an hour west to Fort Worth’s front porch to see a top-drawer entertainment act — such as Sir Paul McCartney — why, I jumped at it!

Bear in mind, Sir Paul once belonged to a band, The Beatles, that helped raise me. I do not say that out of any ill will toward my parents or other elder members of my family. He and his mates crafted music that I enjoy to this very day. And I will do so until, well, I am no longer listening to any music … if you get my drift.

We now have “choices.” I intend to partake of more of them as they present themselves. Yes, indeed. Life is good. Especially since I no longer have to drive all day to enjoy them.

Media morphing continues in the Panhandle

There might be something that I am unable to grasp. If so, then I’ll take ownership of my ignorance. Still, I have to wonder out loud what is happening to the editorial voice of a newspaper that once was a major part of my professional life.

The Amarillo Globe-News — where I worked for nearly 18 years before I resigned in August 2012 — has published yet another editorial praising the exploits of a Lubbock-based institution, the Texas Tech University men’s track and field team.

This editorial, like so many other such commentaries published under the Amarillo Globe-News masthead, seems to affirm what I believe is happening to local journalism in Amarillo: It is melding into some form of regional editorial voice.

Check out the editorial here.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to play out, but the signs are pointing toward a continued diminution of local editorial clout within a news outlet — the Globe-News — that once prided itself on being the voice of Amarillo and surrounding communities.

The “regional publisher” resides in Lubbock, as does the “regional director of commentary.” The “regional executive editor” lives in Amarillo. But all three of these fine individuals seek to spend time in the “other” communities they serve. Still, the editorial page, where I was able to leave something of an imprint during my years in Amarillo, appears to be looking way past the needs of the community and is commenting — as it is doing today — on the exploits of young men associated with a top-tier university headquartered 120 miles south of the Panhandle’s unofficial “capital city.”

Is it because the director of commentary is a Tech grad? Or because he once worked at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, which is the other newspaper owned by Gatehouse Media?

I am a bit reluctant to be overly critical of this ongoing emphasis on Lubbock, given that I no longer live in Amarillo. Still, during the 20-plus years I lived in the Panhandle, I was able to discern a clear difference in concerns between the residents of both Amarillo and Lubbock. Each city has unique traits that define it. Their residents have unique concerns that have next to nothing to do with their regional neighbors.

I understand that Amarillo is chock full of Red Raider loyalists and, just maybe, they’re all worked up over the national championship won by Tech’s men’s track team. But … what percentage of them comprise what is left of the Globe-News readership?

OK. I’m done venting on this matter. Maybe I should just let it go. Maybe I should concern myself with what is happening closer to my new home. It’s just that after investing so much emotional capital commenting on the affairs of a community I grew to love, it is hard for me to watch the Globe-News’s editorial influence on its community continue to dwindle.

Wow! That’s all one can say about that storm

This picture came from the Washington Post’s website, which leads me to believe it’s the real thing. It’s no Photoshop product, or the result of some other photographic trickery.

It is a picture of what occurred over Dallas, Texas, yesterday. The storm produced high wind, heavy rain and it knocked over a construction crane in the city’s downtown district.

They call this phenomenon a “microburst.” It was deadly, indeed. One person died when the crane crashed into a building, cutting the structure virtually in two.

I got an inquiry from a friend downstate who asked if had experienced any of that mayhem. I told her “no,” and noted that we got a bit of rain and a little bit of wind in Princeton, which is about 40 or so miles north of Dallas.

I have heard it said about Texas weather — whether it’s on the Gulf Coast or in the Panhandle, where we have lived during our 35 years in Texas — that “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes …” I also have heard it said of the Panhandle that “You can experience all the seasons of the year in just a matter of minutes.”

Let it also be said of North Texas, where we now call home, that meteorological violence can erupt just on the other side of our neighborhood.

Storms such as the one that roared Sunday over downtown Dallas can produce magnificent images … but they aren’t to be trifled with.

Wow!

Another community icon about to vanish

I am heartbroken, but not entirely surprised to hear this bit of news: The Beaumont Enterprise’s parent company is planning to sell the structure and move the newspaper into a more, um, suitable location hits me straight in the gut.

I got word of this decision Thursday through — that is correct — social media, which I suppose tells the story of the Beaumont Enterprise’s decline as the newspaper of record for the Golden Triangle region of Texas.

It is where my Texas journalism career got its start in 1984. It’s where I made tons of friends, learned about Texas’s unique political culture, and learned also that gumbo was far more than what you bought in a can of Campbell’s Soup.

My heart hurts over this news.

Social media have played a part in the Enterprise’s diminishing presence in the community. The paper I joined in 1984 was selling about 75,000 copies daily; its Sunday distribution totaled more than 80,000 copies. We sent papers way up into Deep East Texas and into Southwest Louisiana.

Then came the Internet. I left the Golden Triangle in January 1995 for greater opportunities in the Texas Panhandle. As the Internet began exerting its chokehold on print journalism in Amarillo, it began taking its toll in Beaumont as well.

The Enterprise, which once employed more than 300 individuals has seen its payroll dwindle to fewer than 70 people. Hurricane wind and rain destroyed the newspaper’s presses, forcing the paper to print its editions at the Houston Chronicle, another property owned by the Hearst Corp. The Enterprise’s production department disappeared; its circulation department has been reduced to virtually nothing.

Most tragically (in my view) the news staff has been decimated. I don’t know the exact count of reporters and editors on staff at the Enterprise, but I do know it’s far fewer than it was during the heyday of print journalism.

Hearst Corp. execs say they need to move into a location that is more suited for the Enterprise to compete in the digital age. I totally understand the business aspect of the decision, just as I understand why the Amarillo Globe-News — where I worked for nearly 18 years — has vacated its historic location.

There’s a glimmer of good news, which is that Hearst plans to keep the newspaper in downtown Beaumont, given the Enterprise’s longtime presence there. Publisher Mark Adkins said, “We believe in the community here, and want to continue our long history as a part of downtown,. It is important for us to stay here for those reasons. But it is also important to be able to pass on this building to someone that could use it for further development of downtown.”

However, none of this assuages the grief I feel at this moment reading about the pending departure of the Beaumont Enterprise from a building where I practiced my craft for nearly 11 years.

There’s no nice way to say it. This news really sucks, man.

Happy Trails, Part 157: oh, the joy of anonymity

It takes me a while at times to recognize blessings when they present themselves, but I surely have found one related to our move from the Texas Panhandle to a small — but rapidly growing — community northeast of Dallas.

Forgive me if I sound a bit high-falutin’. It is not my intention, but please bear with me.

The blessing is in the anonymity I am enjoying in Princeton.

I spent many years in two Texas cities — Beaumont and then Amarillo — working in jobs that elevated my visibility. I wrote for newspapers that were essential to the communities they served. My face was in each publication fairly regularly; my name appeared on the pages’ editorial page mastheads daily. Those who read the papers — and they numbered in the tens of thousands in each region — got to know my name; many of them recognized my mug.

Even after I left daily journalism in August 2012 in Amarillo, I would hear from those who would ask, “Hey, aren’t you the guy from the newspaper?” Yes, I would say, although I might say that “the guy in the paper is my evil twin.”

Indeed, when my wife and I were preparing to sell our house in Amarillo, we moved into our fifth wheel, found an RV park on the east side of town. We checked in and the lady who worked the counter that day recognized my name and chortled, “Oh my! You’re famous!” It turned out she is related to a former neighbor of ours . . . but, I digress.

I no longer have those encounters in Princeton. I blend in. My wife and I are just two new folks strolling around our neighborhood with Toby the Puppy.

We go to the grocery store, we make our purchase, we leave. We’re just two folks doing whatever it is we want to do.

And so . . . I welcome this newfound status of being just another face in the crowd. Don’t misunderstand, I occasionally would get a rush over being recognized, especially when someone had a good word to say about the work I did at those earlier stops on our life’s journey. To be sure, not everyone I met in that fashion was complimentary, but that goes with the territory, too.

That was then. Those days are long gone. My life these days is so much better.