Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Happy Trails, Part 71

There’s something to be said for living in a recreational vehicle and getting a visual treat such as what we received this evening.

Our retirement has brought us to a new lifestyle. It’s a bit more cramped than what we have experienced. My wife, Toby the Puppy and I are spending our evenings in our fifth wheel. We’re in our second Amarillo, Texas, location.

We vacated the first place right after Christmas; we ventured to North Texas to celebrate the holiday with our granddaughter and her parents, then returned to another RV park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

This view is from our RV picture window. We saw the sun set in the west and set the sky ablaze as it sank below the horizon.

I’ve mentioned already on this blog about how God blessed the Texas Panhandle with a huge sky in exchange for tall timber and mountains.

I won’t rehash those thoughts.

However, our retirement life in this location has treated us to some spectacular days end sights … and some equally glorious beginning of days.

The sunset today was particularly gratifying, when you consider the bone-chilling days we’ve endured in this part of the world. At least we have avoided the terrible snow/ice/sleet that has plagued much of the rest of the nation.

Today was a special day, made that way by the spectacular sight of the sun sinking slowly in the west.

Let’s do this again tomorrow.

Happy Trails, Part 70

Our retirement journey has hit a bump in the road.

Don’t worry. It’s not serious. It’s not a dealbreaker. There’s an “end game.”

As I write these few words, my wife and I are hunkered down with Toby the Puppy in our fifth wheel waiting out a winter blast that’s plowing through Amarillo, Texas.

The temperature is plummeting through the day. The sun will set — although we won’t see it through the cloud cover — and the temp will bottom out at around 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then it’ll climb back to something more, um, tolerable.

We knew the moment we moved into this fifth wheel full time that we were set to experience a bit of the downside of this new lifestyle we have adopted.

The winter blast we’re experiencing at this moment is one of them.

We’ve taken measures to protect our plumbing. We’ve also taken measures to ensure we have plenty of heat.

As for Toby the Puppy, he seems to have gotten over his case of cabin fever I told you about a few blog posts ago. He knows it’s cold out there and, given that he’s among the smartest — if not the smartest — pooches ever, he is not about to ask his mother and me to go outside until it becomes an absolute imperative … if you know what I mean and I am sure you do.

So, the journey continues. We’re just not going anywhere — until it warms up a bit.

It was 20 years ago … Oprah won a big victory

Now that we’re all agog over Oprah Winfrey and whether she’ll run for president of the United States — which I hope doesn’t happen — let’s flash back for a moment when the media mogul came to the Texas Panhandle for an extended stay.

Oprah had gotten herself sued by Texas cattlemen over remarks she and others made on her TV talk show. She had an animal rights activist on her show in the spring of 1996 talking about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, aka Mad Cow Disease, suggesting that improperly cooked beef could lead to the potentially fatal disease.

That’s it, Oprah blurted. She said the discussion “has just stopped me cold from eating another burger. I’m stopped.”

The cattlemen, led by legendary Panhandle cattle baron Paul Engler, were furious. So was then-Texas Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry. Engler ended up suing Winfrey. He took her to federal court right here in Amarillo, Texas.

Oprah decided to move her TV show here, too. She rented the Amarillo Little Theater, had it redone to suit her show’s format. She played to packed houses every night after sitting in a courtroom all day — for weeks on end!

The Texas Tribune reports that the community was “split” about the trial and the reason for the lawsuit. Some folks thought the remarks on TV were out of line, according to the Tribune. Others applauded Oprah, given her high public standing in the community at large.

My recollection at the time was that Amarillo opened its arms to Winfrey and her staff. Her show was immensely popular among those who wanted to see it in person at the ALT. I heard stories about how phone lines choked up and damn near croaked with heavy call loads from people looking for tickets. I heard one anecdotal story about how someone called his or her family in the Dakotas, who then called the ALT for ticket information — because the the local caller couldn’t get a call through to the theater office.

Well, Oprah won a victory. The federal court jury dismissed the lawsuit. She stood in front of the courthouse in early 1998  in downtown Amarillo and cheered her hard-won — and deserved — courthouse victory.

Oprah Winfrey likely would have rather spent her time elsewhere than in Amarillo two decades ago defending herself in a lawsuit brought by some cranky cattlemen. My recollection, though, is that she was treated like the TV royalty she was at the time.

She won many more friends than foes here. Those were the days …

A new trio forms a ‘Three Amigos’ team

I was fond years ago of referring to three Republican Texas state representatives as the “Three Amigos.”

They were Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo, David Swinford of Dumas and Warren Chisum of Pampa. Two of them — Swinford and Chisum — have retired from the Texas Legislature; only Smithee remains in public life. Indeed, Smithee is one of the longest-tenured members of the Texas House of Representatives, having served there since 1985; that’s 33 years.

Well, here’s the thing: Smithee has two new members of a trio of legislators with whom he has teamed up.

Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Four Price, both Amarillo Republicans, have joined their pal Smithee in creating a formidable team of “amigos” to represent the Panhandle’s interests.

I suppose I could include state Rep. Ken King, a Canadian Republican — but that would create a sort of “Fearsome Foursome” for the Panhandle. I cannot speak with any authority on the job he’s doing; King was elected after I left the working world.

So, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick with the newly constituted Three Amigos, all of whom I know quite well.

They’re all dedicated to their public service.

Smithee has been setting his legal practice aside for more than three decades during legislative sessions. He serves as chair of the House Insurance Committee and my experience with him has been always on the up-and-up. What I always appreciated about Smithee is his willingness to provide direct answers to direct questions. There’s no flim-flam or obtuseness where Smithee is concerned.

Price has emerged as star in the House and is now being discussed openly as a possible candidate for speaker of that body when the 2019 Legislature convenes. He has championed mental health reform and has learned quickly the unique language of legislators.

Seliger, too, emerged as a quick study in legislative-speak after he took office in 2004, succeeding the late Republican Teel Bivins, who had received an ambassadorial appointment from President George W. Bush.

And just this past week, Seliger and Price sent out mailers that were paid for by the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund. Both men’s flyers say they are “getting conservative results for Texans.” They both said, “John … we know it isn’t easy to stand up to special interest groups. Tell (them) to stand strong and keep up the good work.”

Tag-team campaigning? Sure looks like it to me.

All three men have been endorsed by Amarillo Matters, a local political action group with a mission to help shape the community’s agenda for the future.

The Three Amigos have opponents this year. Seliger and Price are facing primary challengers; Smithee has a Democratic foe awaiting him this fall.

The Three Amigos aren’t the same trio that I once knew. They are just as effective, though, in fighting for the region they represent.

Hey, the drought has returned!

Eighty-three days and counting …

It’s been that long since Amarillo has experienced any measurable precipitation. You and I know what that means. The drought has returned to the Texas Panhandle.

Weather forecasters are spending a good bit of time talking about the threat of wildfire. They are right, of course. The grass is plentiful from rain that fell through much of the summer of 2017. It’s now bond dry. It has become prime fuel to ignite killer fires.

It goes without saying: Take great care to avoid torching the land; don’t toss cigarette butts out of your car; avoid dragging metal chains under your vehicle; no outdoor grilling, particularly in the ever-present Panhandle wind.

There’s another concern that troubles yours truly: water waste.

Do not waste water. We have no need to wash our motor vehicles. Check for leaky faucets and sprinkler heads. Indeed, reduce lawn-watering during the winter months when local grass goes dormant.

I remember when we were cheering the rainfall in 2017, which finished with a rain-average surplus over normal. But we’ve gone nearly three months now without any measurable rain or snowfall.

It’s a potentially dangerous period out there. Let’s be so very careful. Shall we?

RV travel presents weather-related headache

You are aware by now that my wife and I have moved into our recreational vehicle.

Our house is empty. It’s been dolled up. It’s about to go on the market. We’re now living full-time in our home on wheels.

We returned from a lovely week downstate, settling for a few days in an RV park in Sherman, Texas. We got to visit with our granddaughter, her big brother, our son and daughter-in-law and our daughter-in-law’s parents.

As great a time as we had, we did experience our first significant weather related conundrum. It got cold in North Texas. As in bitter cold, man!

How cold was it? It was so cold we lost our water for two days.

We did what we were supposed to do. We unhooked our fifth wheel from the water source. We had water in our tanks. Then the temperatures plunged, into the low teens, with wind chills taking the temp into single digits.

The water in our RV froze. We got it to trickle some. Then as the temps inched above freezing we tried to turn the spigot outside. No luck. The water source was frozen, too!

Thanks goodness we stayed at an RV park with working restrooms/showers. We were parked only about 50 feet from the park’s facilities.

Here’s some more weirdness for you. We left Sherman on Tuesday. We arrived in Amarillo later that afternoon. I figured we were jumping from the fridge into the deep freeze. It’s generally much colder in Amarillo than it is downstate.

We arrived at our RV park back home. Then we got some good news. The outside temperature hovered around freezing at 4 p.m., then we were told that we had running water at the site reserved for us.

Ahh, yes. There is good karma, right?

We’ve now prepared for the next serious cold snap. No damage done by the loss of water — and for that we are grateful.

Today was a good day, indeed. The Arctic blast that took temperatures on the High Plains to single digits has dissipated. The sun is shining. The ice has melted. The water is flowing.

Life is good … once again. It’ll get cold again. We are ready for it.

Happy Trails, Part 67

Rarely have I looked forward to new years with quite the level of anxiousness that I am looking toward 2018.

My wife and I are retired. You know that already.

We are preparing to relocate. You know that, too.

We have spent the week between Christmas and New Year in North Texas. We’ve played with our granddaughter, visited with our sons, our daughter-in-law, her parents and one of our grandsons. It’s been a glorious holiday.

We’ll return in our now-permanent home, which we are hauling behind our 3/4-ton pickup, back to Amarillo to prepare for the next big challenge in our life together.

Our house is going on the market. We keep hearing from those who say they’re “in the know” that the house will sell quickly. Truth be told, I don’t want to hear that. My interest only lies in the actual sale.

Most of our worldly possessions are stashed away in a storage bin. The rest of it we’ve jammed into our fifth wheel RV. We’ll live in it for as long as it takes to sell the house and then find a suitable dwelling to call “home” nearer to our precious granddaughter.

I’ve already said I’m “anxious” as the new year commences. By that, though, I don’t mean to infer that I am impatient. This RV lifestyle has been quite fun. We do intend to take our time looking for just the right place once we sell the house we’ve owned for 21 years.

The beauty of RV living is that we can take it all with us. We tire of one place? Fine. No sweat. We’ll pack it all up and go … somewhere else.

So it might proceed as we get farther into 2018.

It’s a bit of a leap of faith. However, my faith is strong that we are ready to take it.

‘Conservative Republicans’ are selling their wares

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Driving around this North Texas county revealed to me something I never appreciated until now.

It is that Republicans who call themselves “conservative Republicans” must mean they are seriously committed to their ideology.

You see, it’s always been understood that Republicans are more conservative than Democrats.

As we enter the 2018 midterm election season, I noticed a number of campaign lawn signs touting a candidate’s conservative credentials.

Now, when I see the words “conservative” and “Republican” displayed in that sequence, I conclude that the individual is seriously Republican.

I know that this suburban Dallas county tilts heavily toward the GOP. Indeed, all of North Texas leans in that direction, with the notable exception of Dallas County, which voted twice for Barack Obama and then for Hillary Clinton in the past three presidential elections.

I thought today of how campaign signage is displayed in Potter and Randall counties. There, in the Panhandle — the symbolic birthplace of modern Texas Republicanism — one doesn’t even see candidates displaying their party affiliation. In Amarillo — which straddles the counties’ common border — it’s simply understood that candidates are running in the Republican Party primary.

The differences in the campaign characteristics of both regions seemed to jump out at me. In Amarillo, the candidates don’t boast about their conservatism. Here? Boy, howdy! They shout it, man!

Happy Trails, Part 65

SHERMAN, Texas — Our retirement journey has entered a new phase.

It’s in a place they call “North Texas.” Why is that, given that Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle are much farther north than this community about 38 miles north of the reason we intend to move to this part of Texas permanently? I refer, of course, to our lovely granddaughter Emma.

That’s another blog post.

This time I want to comment briefly on our intentions relating to Sherman.

We pulled our fifth wheel here from Amarillo. We’re going to spend a few days here visiting with Emma, her brothers, her parents, and we hope other members of our extended in-law family.

The house we have vacated back in Amarillo is undergoing an extreme interior makeover at the moment. The fellows who are performing that makeover have told us “The house will look so good you won’t want to leave.” Umm. No chance of that, pal.

Among the tasks we’ll complete while visiting North Texas will be to do a little recon of some of the communities scattered between Sherman and the north Dallas suburbs. We have identified some of them already. We now intend to take a closer look at them to see which of them are the most physically attractive, offer the most potential real estate opportunities, provide the most amenities.

Our house in Amarillo will be finished upon our return in a few days.

Then … we hope for the best. And the “best” means we sell the place and then relocate to North Texas to continue our search in earnest for the place where we continue our last, great adventure.

Happy Trails, Part 63

I am going to miss many aspects about living in West Texas.

My friends; the big sky and the fabulous sunrises and sunsets; Palo Duro Canyon; the distinctly different seasons of the year.

I won’t miss one aspect of life on the High Plains: the distance one must travel to get anywhere.

Our 23 years on the High Plains has acclimated my wife and me to this reality. It is that you don’t measure travel in miles; you measure it in the time it takes you to get somewhere. If it’s only an hour’s drive, no sweat. Even a two-hour drive is tolerable. Three hours? Eh, it’s still doable.

It took me a while to get used to that element of West Texas life. But I did. It’s no longer a big deal for either of us — and I’m presuming this of my wife — to “commute” 30 or 40 miles in a morning. Hey, it’s still less than an hour behind the wheel!

We moved to the High Plains from the Golden Triangle, where any destination of note was much closer to home. Ninety minutes to Houston; four hours to New Orleans; five hours to Dallas-Fort Worth; 30 minutes to the beach.

Soon (I hope) we’ll be relocating to points southeast of the High Plains. We’ll be settling somewhere in the Metroplex. Our precise destination is yet to be determined.

I’m not yet sure how long it will take me to re-acclimate to travel in a region where destinations aren’t spread so far apart. I suspect it won’t take long. I figure it’s always easier to fall back on what we once knew than to venture into a strange — and largely unknown — way of life.

If only we could take our friends, the canyon and that gorgeous sky with us.