Tag Archives: Neches River

Time of My Life, Part 38: Taking on a music legend

It’s not every day you get to cross swords with a music legend when you think you’re trying to say the right thing.

Back when I was working for a living, writing editorials and editing an opinion page, I had the rare honor of running into some serious headwinds over an editorial I wrote regarding a legendary music icon. The idea for the editorial came from a colleague. It developed quickly.

In the late 1980s, I was working as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise on the Gulf Coast of Texas. We got word of a plan to name the Interstate 10 bridge over the Neches River, which separates Jefferson County from Orange County after the late George Jones, the country music icon with deep roots in Southeast Texas; he who was born in Deep East Texas just north of the Golden Triangle.

My colleague and friend insisted that was a bad idea. Why? Because Jones had a terrible history of alcohol abuse. Jones was a serious bad boy, given how he overindulged in adult beverages.

My colleague insisted it would be hypocritical to name a motor vehicle bridge after someone who lived a wild life and abused alcohol all along the way.

So, we published the editorial. We insisted that naming the bridge after Jones would send a terribly ironic message, that it would be a tacit endorsement of this admittedly brilliant country musician’s behavior.

I got push back from many of Ol’ Possum’s fans. After all, he had played many dates over many decades in Southeast Texas. He was one of us, they told me. How can we say such a thing about a fellow who gave so much joy to so many music fans?

The word got out over our objection to naming the bridge after George Jones. One day the phone rang. The caller turned out to be Nancy Jones, Ol’ Possum’s fourth wife, to whom he remained married until his death in 2013.

Nancy Jones and I had a cordial conversation, even though she objected to the Enterprise’s position that naming the bridge after Jones would be a bad public relations move. She wanted me to know that her husband had been sober for many years, that he was not the same man who engaged in that frightful behavior of his younger years.

We held our ground. I thanked Mrs. Jones for the phone call and for her courtesy.

As for whether they named the bridge after George Jones, the state and the adjoining counties thought better of it. Hey, it was worth the fight.

You want a drink, Texas?

This bit of information might not seem like a big deal in this part of Texas, given our decided lack of surface water — but it is.

Environment Texas — an Austin-based environmental awareness group — says the Lone Star State is the second-worst polluter of water of all 50 states, trailing only Indiana.


The Texas Tribune reports: “Texas polluters released about 16.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways in 2012, second only to Indiana, according to a report released Thursday by Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy group based in Austin.”

OK, if you’ve been along the Gulf Coast, seen the Houston Ship Channel, or the Intracoastal Waterway, or perhaps driven along the Neches or Sabine rivers you’ll appreciate the findings released.

To be candid, they give me the heebie-jeebies.

The Tribune reports further: “And in terms of a measurement that compares pollutants according to how toxic they are, Texas is without rival. According to the report, Texas produced 34 million “toxicity-weighted pounds” in 2012 — 30 times more than the next state, and more than double the rest of the country combined. Almost all of that toxicity comes from one source: the Dow Chemical Company plant in Freeport.”

In an odd way, these findings make me even more glad to have left that part of the state for the drier region way up yonder.

I lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years with my wife and sons. My boys boogied away from there to attend college in the early 1990s. My wife and I moved to Amarillo in January 1995 and learned that our water supply comes from deep underground. Our water supply isn’t immune from pollutants, but take it from me, you have to wonder what flows from the many refineries and petrochemical plants into the surface water downstate along those major waterways.

Those plants aren’t the worst polluters. No. 1 is the Pilgrims Pride chicken processing operation in East Texas, according to Environment Texas. According to the Tribune, the plant “dumped 2.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Tankersley River in Northeast Texas, the report says. Most of those toxins were nitrates, chemicals found in fertilizer that can cause infant health problems and oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ in waterways.”

So, a word to the wise is in order. Are we monitoring our Panhandle feed lots carefully enough?