Tag Archives: Panhandle PBS

Time still flies by

Time does have this way of getting away from most — if not all — of us. Why that observation? Well, it dawned on me earlier today that this is the 10th year since I walked off the last full-time job I ever would have.

It has been a marvelous ride ever since that amazing moment in an equally amazing day.

It was Aug. 31, 2012. My employer informed me the previous day that the job I had performed at the Amarillo Globe-News would go to someone else. I worked as editorial page editor at the Texas newspaper for nearly 18 years. I thought I did a good job. My employer, I was left to presume, thought differently.

So, he informed me that my task would fall to someone else. I went home that day and returned early the next day to clean out my office. The very first item I tossed into the trash can was a stash of business cards with my name on it. Gone! Forever!

I walked away. On the way out I had one final meeting with now former employer. The conversation was an unhappy one. I left the building. I called one of my colleagues on my cell phone. I said “so long” to him and hung up.

Then, while sitting in my car, I cried.

That all occurred nearly a decade ago. You know what? I have gotten over that anger, and the pain of that moment. I have moved on. I am no longer angry. I no longer hurt. I no longer miss the daily grind of meeting deadlines and writing commentary.

I have had a number of part-time jobs in the years since. I write this blog each day. I am getting more proficient at using social media to spread the musings I post. I have written for public television, for commercial TV, for a community newspaper in New Mexico, for a major metropolitan daily newspaper in Dallas, for a public radio station in Commerce, and for a weekly newspaper near the city where my wife and I moved. I also worked for an auto dealer in Amarillo and for six months I worked as a juvenile supervision officer for the Youth Center of the High Plains, a detention center run by Randall County.

I have declared myself to be a highly adaptable human being. My life has provided proof of that declaration. I am damn proud of the career I pursued for nearly 37 years, and I am equally proud of the adjustments I have made, with enormous help and support from my wife of 50 years, sons, daughter-in-law, sisters and their families, in the life I have led for the past decade.

Time is still just flying by. It does that when you’re having so much fun.


Three cheers for public TV

Some readers of this blog might know that I am a big fan of public television. I worked for a time as a freelance blogger for a public TV station in Amarillo — Panhandle PBS, based at Amarillo College — not long after my print journalism career ended.

Whenever I hear the name Ken Burns attached to a public TV special, I perk up instantly and commit to watching whatever Burns assembles for the public air waves.

I just finished binge-watching a four-part special on The Greatest, aka “Muhammad Ali.”

Wow! What a special! What a man Ali became.

Ali died in 2016 at age 74 of complications from the Parkinson’s disease with which he had been diagnosed since 1984.

Burns and his staff of colleagues, producers, editors and writers assembled a fantastic broadcast journey that took viewers through Ali’s childhood in Louisville, Ky., to the 1960 Olympics in Rome, to his professional boxing career, his wins and losses, his exile for following his religious objection to the Vietnam War, his becoming a Muslim, his troubled marriages to four women (and his relentless womanizing along the way), his status as a cultural icon and how he became the Most Famous Man in the World and finally to his death.

You are reading the words of a longtime fan of Muhammad Ali. I cannot watch without crying his 1996 appearance at the Atlanta Olympics when he lit the torch. It was a seminal moment in Ali’s journey from world-class athlete to world-class human being.

Public TV brought all this to viewers. It was a stunning bit of television. Then again, none of us should be surprised that Ken Burns — arguably the world’s foremost documentary filmmaker — could deliver such epic TV programming to our living rooms.

If you get a chance, check out this latest contribution from Ken Burns. You will learn something about The Greatest.


They were sturdy folk

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I have just about finished reading a book it took me far longer than I thought it would take to read.

The book is titled “The Worst Hard Time.” It was written by a stellar New York Times reporter, Timothy Egan, who chronicled in astonishing detail the suffering that came to the Texas Panhandle during the 1930s.

The Dust Bowl plundered the landscape made vulnerable by farming techniques that destroyed the native grasslands that kept the soil in place, preventing wind erosion. The Dust Bowl has been labeled the “worst manmade disaster in U.S. history.”

“The Worst Hard Time” tells story after story of how these sturdy residents of places like Dalhart, Perryton and, yes, Amarillo weathered the astonishing misery of that era. Black Sunday is still thought to be the most nightmarish scenario anyone ever saw, as enormous, towering clouds of dust blew in over the region.

Just how bad was it then? | High Plains Blogger

Children and old people died of “dust pneumonia.” Farmers lost crops. They couldn’t pay their bills. Livestock died by the tens of thousands of head.

Many of them moved away. Many others of them stayed. Their descendants live in Amarillo to this day. I got to know some of those Dust Bowl descendants during my time there. They are a remarkable lot.

For a time after I left the Amarillo Globe-News, I had the privilege of writing a blog for Panhandle PBS, the Amarillo College-affiliated TV station. They paid me to write about public affairs TV programming shown on KACV-TV in the Panhandle.

In March 2016, PBS broadcast a special called “The Dust Bowl,” which was put together by noted historian/documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. I wrote a blog post that talked about its airing.

‘Dust Bowl’ returns just as Panhandle dries out (panhandlepbs.org)

I do hope that PBS will show “The Dust Bowl” again. I want to witness the accounts of those individuals whose stories I read about in “The Worst Hard Time.”

Yes, it was a hard time. The worst of it was unimaginable to those of us who never lived through it.

Timothy Egan’s book only deepens my pride in my former neighbors and fellow travelers.

Time of My Life, Part 51: A new beginning

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I understand that Scripture tells us about new doors opening when one slams shut.

It happened to me in 2012. A career in print journalism came to a screeching halt in August of that year. I was adrift for just a little while.

Then a friend from Panhandle PBS got in touch with me. Linda Pitner was general manager of the public TV station — affiliated with Amarillo College — at the time. She wanted to know if I would like to write a blog for the stations’ web site.

Would I? Of course I would! With that, a career that came to an end got restarted in an entirely new form at Panhandle PBS. I was doing things for public TV that my former employer at the Amarillo Globe-News didn’t think I could do. I had joined the world of online journalism.

I have to say that I had a serious blast writing that blog and doing the kind of video blogs — such as the one I attached to this brief post. The gig didn’t last an overly long time. Panhandle PBS brought in a new GM eventually and he decided that my services no longer fit the direction he wanted to take the station.

We parted company. That didn’t end my blogging time.

A local CBS affiliate GM asked me the same thing Pitner did: Would I like to write for KFDA-NewsChannel 10? Of course I would, I told Brent McClure. So, he hired me as a freelancer to write features for the website. I would write them and then the on-air news anchors would introduce the features in a brief segment during the evening newscasts. They would assemble video presentations to complement the text I had submitted to the website.

That, too, was a seriously good time for this longtime print guy. The KFDA gig, though, came to an end when budget constraints kicked in. No worries for me.

My wife and I gravitated from Amarillo to the Metroplex in 2018. The fun continues.

Another friend of mine — who is news director at KETR-FM public radio — gave me a shout. Mark Haslett and I worked together at the Globe-News for a time; prior to that he was an executive at High Plains Public Radio in Amarillo, so we knew each other pretty well.

Haslett asked if I would — you guessed it — write a blog for KETR, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. Why, yes! I would! So I have been writing a blog for KETR and once again am having the time of my life.

That’s not the end of it. When we settled in Princeton, just east of McKinney and just a bit northeast of our granddaughter in Allen, I put a feeler out to the publisher of the Princeton Herald. Did they need a freelance reporter? The publisher, Sonia Duggan, said “yes.” So … she and I agreed that I could write for the Farmersville Times, which is another weekly newspaper in a group of weeklies Duggan owns with her husband, Chad Engbrock.

Therefore, I have come full circle. I am now covering city council and school board meetings for a weekly newspaper, along with banging out the occasional feature article.

It’s where and how it all began for this old man.

And I am still having the time of my life.

Beginning a new gig

I am proud to announce that I am starting with yet another blank slate. So . . . I believe I will announce it.

Beginning next week I will be given the opportunity to share some thoughts, musings (some might call it spewage) with readers of a website associated with a university in Commerce, Texas.

Texas A&M University/Commerce operates a public radio station on its campus. KETR-FM is its call sign. The station’s website is going to include an essay from yours truly. It will be the first of what I hope is many such essays.

KETR news director Mark Haslett, a friend of mine from Amarillo who moved to Commerce some years ago, is giving me considerable latitude to write about whatever moves me in the moment.

This is an exciting new opportunity for me. You see, even though I have retired from full-time journalism, I continue to have this itch to string sentences together. I cannot stop commenting on issues of the day and the individuals who give them life.

So that’s what I will do for KETR-FM.

This isn’t my first post-newspaper gig. I wrote for a time for Panhandle PBS, contributing features for its website; Panhandle PBS is associated with Amarillo College and is the public TV station that serves the Texas Panhandle. Then along came KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, which offered me an opportunity initially to write features about issues that had been previously reported; they called it “Whatever Happened To . . . ”

Both of those gigs ended after a time, giving more opportunities to concentrate on this blog, which I have enjoyed writing for about a decade.

Now comes this latest venture.

Given that my wife and I have now settled in Princeton, we live in an area covered by KETR-FM. My goal over time is to learn enough about this part of Collin County to contribute essays on local happenings, growth trends, possible problem areas associated with the growth that is accelerating rapidly in this part of the Metroplex.

Until then I have been given plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll take my friend Mark Haslett up on his offer.

Here we go.

Happy Trails, Part 140: Retirement journey takes surprising turn

COMMERCE, Texas — Life is a journey that is full of surprises. Some of them sadden us. The one that has just presented itself to my wife and me, however, fills me with excitement.

We came to this college town today to discuss an opportunity that fell out of the sky. We met with Mark Haslett, a friend and former colleague of mine. We worked briefly together at the Amarillo Globe-News, but I knew him before that, when he was news director at High Plains Public Radio in Amarillo.

He now is news director at KETR-FM, the public radio station headquartered on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce.

What’s the surprise? Haslett has asked if I would be interested in writing for the station’s web site. The potential assignment that awaits me is quite similar to the first part-time freelance gig I scored shortly after quitting my post at the Globe-News; I wrote blogs for Panhandle PBS for a time.

This project is still a work in progress. Haslett and I haven’t yet set a start date. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that it’s not far off at all. Yes, we still have some more details to work out.

My wife and I — along with Toby the Puppy — are getting ready to move into a new home in Princeton, in eastern Collin County, which Haslett told us over lunch today is in the KETR-FM coverage area. He prefers that I write about issues pertinent to Collin County and the area surrounding Princeton, which is a growing community in what — for the time being — sits in one of the few remaining rural areas of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

OK, so here we are. Retirement remains a wonderful life for my wife and me. It does present some opportunities that we cannot foresee. This is one of them.

I don’t yet know where this particular journey will take us. I am grateful that my friend believes I have something of value to contribute to his listenership at KETR. There also might be some radio air time to discuss this new project and where we intend for it to go..

Meanwhile, I’ll be able to write about whatever moves me as we get settled in at our new digs in Princeton.

And so . . . the journey continues.

ISIS is still out there … somewhere

The Islamic State has faded in recent weeks from the front end of Americans’ consciousness, or so it seems.

There was a time when terror attacks throughout the Middle East were occurring and ISIS was claiming responsibility for its latest heinous act. It seems that the terrorists have gone a bit quieter of late. I know it’s foolish to presume they aren’t plotting and conniving ways to inflict damage to innocent people.

Do you remember during Barack Obama’s second presidential term how it became somewhat fashionable to refer to ISIS by a name deemed to be detrimental? Secretary of State John Kerry often would refer to the terrorists as Daesch, which reportedly is deemed in the world of Islamic terrorists as a derogatory reference.

Kerry would use the term to get under Daesch’s skin, rankle them, get ’em to make a foolish mistake.

Then we might hear about a drone strike, or some military action that wiped out an ISIS leader, or a Daesch leader, if you prefer.

I wrote about the terrorist group while I was blogging for Panhandle PBS.

ISIS kicks up recruitment activities

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency by proclaiming that “I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.” Well, he really doesn’t.

However, for the time being, ISIS — or Daesch — continues to feel the heat of the world’s greatest military machine. As we mark the 17th year since the 9/11 assault on this country, let’s keep these monsters at the top of our minds, even if they aren’t making news.

NFL has enough on its plate

As if the National Football League didn’t have enough on its plate with which to contend.

The NFL has just issued an edict ordering its players to stand for the national anthem when it’s played prior to football games.

There is another issue on the NFL’s plate. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

I got to write about it while working part time for Panhandle PBS. My task in those days was to write blogs pertaining to public service programming. “Frontline” did a landmark special on CTE in 2015 and I was privileged to offer some perspective on it.

Here is what I wrote in September 2015 for Panhandle PBS.

I mention this now because the NFL is back in the news. The topic this time — players who “take a knee” to protest police brutality against African-Americans — is unpleasant. It’s not nearly as grim and grievous as the “other big issue” that plagues the NFL to this day.

CTE is taking lives. The league is trying to do better at protecting these highly paid athletes/entertainers. It’s a full-time job for the NFL. I am wondering how in the world the league is going to focus on players who launch their protests by “taking a knee.”

Quite sure ‘Dust Bowl’ won’t return

One of the things I learned about the Dust Bowl was it was manly caused by human fallibility and ignorance.

I also learned that the Dust Bowl was centered right here on the High Plains of Texas and Oklahoma.

As dry as it has been in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles since this past autumn, I will rely on the knowledge that we have learned how to prevent a recurrence of the hideous tragedy that befell the region in the 1930s.

Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary film, “The Dust Bowl,” which aired on PBS in 2015, reminded us that the event was the worst “manmade ecological disaster” in U.S. history. How did it occur?

Human beings settled on the High Plains and began plowing up natural grassland, turning it into cultivated farm land. Many farmers relied on rainfall to irrigate their crops; they were “dry land farmers.”

They plowed up hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, which Mother Nature put there to act as protection against wind erosion. The grass held the soil together, preventing it from blowing away in the stiff wind that howls frequently across the High Plains.

Well, then something drastic happened. It stopped raining. The region became gripped by a killer drought. Then the wind blew as it always does. What happened next has become the stuff of legend throughout the High Plains.

The dirt blew in sinister, black clouds across the vast landscape. People breathed in the dirt. They contracted “dust pneumonia.” Many of them died; the most vulnerable were the very old and the very young; obviously, the very sickly also fell victim. Many others who didn’t die vacated their farms and ranches.

Other survivors, though, stayed and powered through the misery.

The nation learned a lot from that terrible time. One of the lessons dealt with tilling the land. Farmers started by letting the grass grow back where Mother Nature intended for it to grow. They improved their tilling techniques to minimize wind erosion.

The rain would return eventually. The High Plains would rebuild. The dust settled.

We’re now gripped by another drought. The U.S. and Texas departments of agriculture consider the region to be in “severe drought” mode.

Here’s a glimmer of hope: No one really believes we are going to experience a chapter-and-verse repeat of what occurred on the High Plains more than eight decades ago. The region’s ignorance about Mother Nature’s way has long gone.

However, we’ve got those damn fires with which we must contend.

Looking more like Dust Bowl

This is what the Dust Bowl looked like?

Dust Bowl, anyone?

What you see here is a picture I snapped this evening looking west from where we are living. The wind is howling. The weather apps on my cell phone and my wife’s cell phone tell us it’ll keep howling through the night and into the next day.

This picture frightens me a bit.

I am not going to equate what we’re seeing here in 2018 to what Texas Panhandle witnessed in the 1930s, when hideously ignorant farming practices coupled with a severe drought created the nation’s worst-ever man-made environmental disaster.

Ken Burns’s documentary, “The Dust Bowl,” told that story in a gripping series that aired on Panhandle PBS a couple years ago. Elderly residents who lived through the Dust Bowl as children recalled watching their siblings and young friends die of “dust pneumonia.” They talked about how they either fled the High Plains or remained to rebuild their lives destroyed by Mother Nature’s merciless wrath.

Are we heading for another catastrophe? No. I don’t intend to suggest such a thing.

The picture I have posted with this blog item, though, intends to illustrate that we are getting a touch — perhaps only a smidgen — of what this region’s ancestors endured during a much darker time.

We all are ready for some rain.