Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Political learning curve about to commence

I met a most interesting gentleman this morning, someone who almost immediately after extending his hand to greet my wife and me invited me to come to Fairview’s town hall to familiarize myself with the community’s political climate.

This fellow is a member of the Fairview Town Council. I am reluctant to give you his name, as he doesn’t know I’m writing about him. Maybe I’ll divulge it later.

Our relocation has been pretty smooth and seamless as we have settled in this community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. My wife and I are registered to vote now in our new community of residence, which removes any chance for us to vote in Randall County, where we lived for 23-plus years.

I wanted to vote in the race for 13th Congressional District. That won’t happen now. We’ll get to vote for a new representative in the 3rd Congressional District, which has been represented since 1991 by U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (pictured), a former Vietnam prisoner of war. Johnson is retiring at the end of the year.

I’ll need to study up on the individuals seeking to succeed Rep. Johnson.

My new friend from Fairview implied that next year’s municipal election will be a contentious affair. He didn’t go into detail; the setting of our meeting this morning made it difficult for him to spend too much time explaining what he implied.

My career took me to Amarillo in January 1995. My job as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News required me to get acquainted in a hurry with the political lay of the land, just as it had required the same of me in Beaumont, when we moved to the Gulf Coast in the spring of 1984.

I have no job requirements these days. However, my instinctive nosiness — which was bred and nurtured by nearly four decades in print journalism — compels me to sniff around at Fairview’s Town Hall.

So, I believe I will seek to satisfy my nosy nature by continuing this relationship with my new acquaintance.

Hey, my retirement doesn’t render me disinterested … you know?

Happy Trails, Part 109: Learning our way around

Our retirement journey has deposited my wife and me — along with Toby the Puppy — into a new community that isn’t entirely foreign to us. It does, however, present enough of a change for us to stop and think about where we are going and, more to the point, how we intend to get there.

We now live in Fairview, Texas. Where is that? It’s a small community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County about 30 miles north of Dallas. Indeed, when I say “Fairview” to our friends in Amarillo, I often get a blank look; some folks claim to know where it is. I have to take them at their word. Most folks know where Allen and McKinney are located.

I believe Fairview’s students attend school in the McKinney Independent School District, as we’ve seen MISD buses cruising up and down the street outside our new digs.

The immediate challenge is to acquaint ourselves with getting to and from certain critical destinations. They include the grocery store, the pharmacy, the home improvement store, the charitable organization where we are donating a whole lot of unwanted items in our continuing effort to downsize.

I’ll stipulate that we aren’t total strangers to our new surroundings. We have been coming here frequently for a number of years, dating back to when our son first moved to the Dallas area to attend college in the early 1990s. He graduated in late 1994 and has never looked back. He got married in 2012 and the following year our granddaughter arrived — who, of course, gave us plenty of incentive to come here frequently.

Now we’re residents. We live about 10 minutes from our granddaughter. We know the way!

Our indoctrination to life in a new community will continue over the next period of time. It took us a while to navigate around Beaumont when we moved there in 1984. Eleven years later, we had to acquaint ourselves with Amarillo. Beaumont has developed significantly since our time there, so we struggle a little when we return to visit friends; I suspect the same thing will happen over time as Amarillo continues its growth and evolution into a place that bears little resemblance to what it is today.

The learning curve, though, isn’t as steep as it was when we relocated to Beaumont and then to Amarillo.

Hey, we’re retired now. We have time to figure it out.

O’Rourke hopes to defy the odds

It looks as though my Golden Triangle friend has it right regarding Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s strategy he hopes will produce a victory over Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

My friend believes O’Rourke’s 254-county strategy is going to shore up his Democratic-leaning urban base in the big cities and will cut into Cruz’s expected victory margin in the rural counties.

O’Rourke making a return to the Panhandle

There you have it. I mean, O’Rourke keeps showing up for town hall meetings in the Texas Panhandle, which arguably is “ground zero” of the Texas Republican political movement.

The Texas Tribune’s analysis of the O’Rourke strategy suggests the El Paso congressman is thinking that way, too.

As the Texas Tribune reports: Over the last 15 months, O’Rourke’s county-by-county driving tour has taken him all over the state, from his hometown of El Paso on the Mexican border to Cooke County in the north, where he held a town hall on Saturday afternoon.

“Here we are in Gainesville, which, as the crow flies, might be the farthest point you can get from El Paso,” he said to laughter from a packed house in the historic Santa Fe train depot.

The tour represents more than just an expansive retail campaign across the largest state in mainland America. It also marks a dramatic deviation from the political playbook employed by the majority of Texas Democrats over the last two decades.

Do I want O’Rourke’s strategy to work? Yes, I do. You know what already.

The Cruz Missile has done damn little for the state since he was elected in 2012, except show Texans how he is able to have his voice heard above the partisan din that erupts on Capitol Hill.

My question of the moment deals with whether O’Rourke will be able to become more of an advocate for the state and less of an advocate for himself.

I have given up on Cruz. O’Rourke at least presents the potential of a different approach to legislating.

Do these symbols speak for a community?

CLARENDON, Texas — We have been traveling through this community for more than two decades en route from Amarillo to the Metroplex … and occasionally beyond.

During a relatively recent span of time, though, I have been struck by the plethora of religious symbols that have sprouted up on both ends of the highway that courses through the Donley County community.

Some of them are crosses, symbols of Jesus’s crucifixion. There are signs, too. They speak about God. There’s a touch of preaching in them; some of the signs speak of the “only path to salvation.” That kind of thing.

I’ve long wondered: Who put these messages out there? Did the city sanction them? I’ve sniffed around only a little bit.

Then I found a link to an Amarillo TV station that rooted out an answer or two.

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: A local resident, Jim Griffin, put the signs up. They are meant to predict consequences far worse than 9/11. They seek to espouse Christian belief.

Not everyone is happy about the signs, or the crosses, or the message some have construed — which is that Clarendon is welcome only to Christians.

Hmm. I don’t buy that. I’ve never felt “evangelized” when I read the signs or look at the crosses.

The signs generally speak of hope and faith. Is there something really wrong with that? I think not.

Yes, it is a curious community feature. I have noticed that all the signs and the crosses are sitting on private property. I haven’t noticed anything on the Clarendon College campus, or at the Donley County Courthouse, or at Clarendon City Hall. There clearly would be a constitutional concern were there to be such messages delivered on public property. That First Amendment prohibition, after all, does prevent government from sanctioning any specific religion.

Not everyone is happy about it. Read the editorial in the Clarendon Enterprise here.

As for non-Christians’ feelings as they motor through Clarendon, I am sensitive to that, too. However, I am unaware of anyone forcing individuals to abide by whatever message the signs convey.

I rarely stop in Clarendon for anything other than gas or perhaps a convenience snack or cold drink. I might feel differently about the crosses and the signs if a convenience store clerk were to start preaching to me.

My response would be: Talk to me on Sunday — in church!

Happy Trails, Part 104: Half in, half out

I am at this moment in the midst of a curious emotional state.

My wife and I have taken up residence in Fairview, Texas, which is tucked neatly between Allen and McKinney, or just about a 30-minute drive north of Dallas.

It’s not entirely that simple. Nor have we completed the move entirely.

Our other “home” is our fifth wheel recreational vehicle, which at this moment is parked in an RV park in Amarillo, the city of our residence for the past 23 years.

We’re in. We’re out. We’re back and forth.

I tell friends in the Texas Panhandle that we have moved. I say so with absolute confidence and, to be candid, supreme pleasure. We had planned for years for the move; or, more to the point, we started planning the moment we learned that our granddaughter was on her way into this world. Our son and daughter-in-law live in Allen, so the deal was done when they told us of their pregnancy.

The RV has served as our home since October, when we vacated the house we built in December 1996. It’s our Panhandle home to this day. Our Fairview home is still a work in progress. You see, we are still trying to stuff many of the contents of our house into our new, and considerably smaller, dwelling in North Texas.

What’s more, we have decided where we’re going to store our RV when we’re no longer living in it. That transition will occur in about three weeks.

I have complete faith that we’ll succeed in this endeavor. The new place will be comfortable. We are looking forward to calling it our full-time residence. At this time, though, we remain tied to our former community as well as to the current one.

Family matters will keep us attached to Amarillo for the foreseeable future. Eventually, we intend fully to make the turn toward Fairview.

I guess you could call this the “long goodbye.”

Happy Trails, Part 101

We’re getting into a sort of countdown mode as we prepare for the next big challenge in our life.

There’s some sort of saying about how you put Amarillo “in your rear view mirror.”

That ain’t gonna happen as we head on down the road toward the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Yes, our big day is just hours away as we execute our relocation strategy, but the Internet is going to keep me connected to Amarillo — where we have lived for 23 years — possibly for “the duration,” if you know what I mean.

I received several heartfelt goodbyes today from friends I have made over the years in the Texas Panhandle. My response to them is the same: We’ll be back; we aren’t gone forever, as we still have family in Amarillo. Yes, we also have family in Collin County, where we’ll declare official residency very soon now.

And our friends know with absolute certainty that a little 5-year-old girl, our granddaughter, is the reason we are making this big move in the first place.

However, that thing called “The Internet” keeps me connected to what’s happening in Amarillo. I’ve noted many times on this blog how delighted I am at the progress that’s occurring in Amarillo. I intend to keep my eyes focused on what I believe is a huge prize that awaits the residents of the city.

Thus, the goodbyes I’ve been getting seem to presume that we are walking away, turning the page, putting Amarillo in our book of memories. Not exactly.

It occurred to me not long ago that the longest stretch of time we spent anywhere was in our southwest Amarillo house we had built in 1996. It now belongs to someone else and my hope is that the new owner puts as much love into the place as my wife and I did.

So, our retirement journey is about to take another turn as we head on down the road.

Happy Trails, Part 99

I get asked occasionally a question that challenges me to come up with a concise answer. One of them came today from a friend who asked: What does it feel like … to be in your particular place right now?

My friend was referring to my impending move from Amarillo to Fairview.

After thinking for a total of about, oh, three seconds, the concise answer came to me: I feel as though I am having an out-of-body experience.

Why? My wife and I have no particular intermediate- or long-term plans waiting to be executed once we make the move. We are free to do whatever we want, or not do something. The “body” I am looking at in this out-of-body state is my former self.

It’s the body that for decades carried me from one job to the next, or from one task to the next one.

The move that’s coming up in a few days will lead us to a life we haven’t yet charted out precisely. All we know for certain is that we have found a dwelling where we intend to stay. The immediate task awaiting us involves unpacking boxes and rediscovering possessions that have been stashed in a warehouse for the past seven months.

We’ve done this before. The most recent time occurred when we took possession of our newly built house in Amarillo; it was just before Christmas 1996 and it provided a joyous experience looking at possessions that had been stored away for nearly two years. That was a memorable Christmas, indeed.

After we unpack the boxes now? Beats me, man.

Therefore, our retirement journey is leading us to that proverbial fork in the road. As Yogi Berra once supposedly said, we plan to “take it” — wherever it leads.

Once we do, I suspect that’s when the out-of-body experience will end and I’ll be whole once again.

Happy Trails, Part 98

I didn’t used to get annoyed or troubled by the Texas Panhandle wind.

Instead, I would joke that the wind was beneficial in at least one critical way: It kept the bugs away. No self-respecting fly, bee, wasp, hornet or dragonfly or gnat would dare try to fly in this wind.

However, I had the luxury of making that joke while living in a structure that was attached to a concrete slab.

That changed in October when my wife, Toby the Puppy and I moved full time into our fifth wheel. We vacated our southwest Amarillo house to prepare it for sale. We got the prep done and then sold it in early March.

Hot diggedy!

The Spring of 2018 — which followed an extraordinarily dry Winter of 2017-18 — has been windier than the dickens. It’s also annoying me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Life in the RV has been good. We’re comfortable in our 28-footer. It’s cozy. But the damn wind howls and causes us to sway in a manner that I find bothersome.

Our RV is fastened and secure. I have no concern about the 30-mph wind picking us up and flying us to, oh, Kansas. I just dislike the wind in a way that I had not during our more than 23 years living in the Texas Panhandle.

The good news? We’re close to making a move into another land-tethered structure. We’ll move about 350 miles down the road to the Metroplex. Yes, it gets windy there, too.

Not like this.

Once we’re settled into our new digs, the wind we’ve been enduring seemingly forever will make me turn to our puppy and say, “Toby, we’re not in Amarillo anymore.”

Rep. O’Rourke proposes debate-a-thon with Sen. Cruz

Six debates? Really? Does Beto O’Rourke really think Ted Cruz is going to agree to that?

Well, the Democratic challenger has pitched a serious offer to the Republican incumbent as the race for Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat starts to heat up.

The most fascinating aspect of O’Rourke’s challenge is that he wants two of those debates to be in Spanish, a language in which O’Rourke is fluent, but which Cruz reportedly is not.

O’Rourke wants to succeed Cruz in the Senate. He wants to take his case across Texas. My hope would be that one of those six debates would occur in the Texas Panhandle. Hey, Amarillo has plenty of suitable venues for such an event: Amarillo Little Theater; Amarillo College; Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts; Civic Center Grand Plaza Ballroom.

The reality is that the Cruz Missile isn’t likely to agree to six debates, even though he is known as a master debater. He once served as Texas solicitor general, which enabled him to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court; I consider that a pretty impressive venue.

O’Rourke’s challenge seems to indicate the seriousness of his effort to unseat Cruz, who is ready for the fight that lies ahead, according to the Texas Tribune: “Sen. Cruz has said he’s looking forward to debates,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement. “We are considering all possibilities in front of us and will be working with potential hosts and the O’Rourke campaign to determine the best platforms available so that Texans from all corners of the state can hear from the candidates directly about their views for Texas’ future.”

The Tribune also reports that a Spanish-language debate is unlikely: Regardless of what the campaigns ultimately agree to, debates in Spanish between the candidates seem unlikely. While O’Rourke is fluent in the language, Cruz is not known as a proficient speaker. 

Recent political polling puts the race as being too close to call. O’Rourke has spent a great deal of time stumping in rural Texas, far from the state’s pockets of progressive voter blocs. Cruz no doubt is gathering up his own war chest of campaign cash and will take the challenger on, face to face.

That all said, I am pulling for O’Rourke to win. I want him to represent this state in the U.S. Senate. He appears at first blush to be far more interested in our needs than in his own ambition.

Six debates between O’Rourke and Cruz? I hope they all occur. I will not bet the mortgage that they will.

You say ‘Miam-ee,’ or is it ‘Miam-uh’?

One of the quirks of living in the Texas Panhandle is the pronunciation of a certain community about 80 or so miles northeast of Amarillo.

My wife and I have lived in the Panhandle for more than 23 years.

I have yet to get used to the pronunciation of a town in Roberts County. It’s spelled “Miami,” which is how one spells the name of the city at the southern tip of Florida. You say it the way you would expect to say it pertaining to Miami, Ohio and perhaps even Miami, Okla.

But you pronounce the Roberts County seat “Miam-uh.”

We’re moving away from the Panhandle. We’re heading for North Texas. I’m unaware of any peculiar names surrounding Fairview that will give us difficulty as we relearn our surroundings.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m just blathering briefly about something of no particular importance.

Miam-ee, or Miam-uh?

Ah, yes. Change awaits. I’m getting ready for it.