Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

That wasn’t much fun

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We moved from what I have called The Texas Tundra to what I thought was something of a Banana Belt.

Silly me.

Rolling blackouts? Never experienced ’em in the Panhandle in our 23 years living there. I am sure some folks have experienced the joy of going without power for, oh, an hour or two to save energy.

However, the blackout from which we have just emerged wasn’t the “rolling” kind. It turns out that the power grid that serves the state of Texas isn’t equipped to handle zero-degree temperatures with extended regions of the vast state enduring wind chills in the neighborhood of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

We don’t have water just yet. The power went out at the Princeton water treatment plant, too. I have been advised by a neighbor in the know that the water will be flowing “in a few hours.”

I realize this might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for a lot of us. The wind chill factors have been punishing to say the least.

Our power went out late Sunday. It came back on for a time in wee hours Monday, then we went dark again. We awoke Monday to no electricity, but we had water. The temperature was about 15 degrees and heading south in a hurry.

We turned in early Monday night because the house was dark, we couldn’t read. So we figured, “What the hey?” We woke up this morning still with no lights.

Oh, and the temperature registered zero … degrees. 

The water went out during the night. We got up once or twice, turned on the faucets to let it drip. It did for a time. Then it stopped.

We hope we have powered through this crisis. It’s still early. The power came on and we did what we were advised to do: We unplugged all the unnecessary appliances, such as the toaster, blender, can opener, digital clock, the reclining living room couch.

Pray for us the rest of the way, will ya?

Meanwhile, I need to do a little research to determine whether our city fathers and mothers did all they could do to prepare for this event.

Winter blast is coming

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You have read blog posts from me over the years about the retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked.

Well, this weekend that journey is going to provide us with a blast from the past. You see, we moved to the Metroplex a couple of years ago from the Texas Panhandle hoping — among many things — to escape the vicious winter weather that occasionally clobbers the High Plains region of Texas.

They’re telling us we’re going to get a good bit of snow. It will accumulate. The temperature is going to drop from an already frigid 20-something degrees to something a bit below — gulp! — zero degrees Fahrenheit.

I gotta tell ya, I didn’t count on this.

It’s not that we expected to move to the tropics when we relocated from southwest Amarillo, Texas, to Princeton, just a bit northeast of Dallas and, more to the point, only a handful of miles from our granddaughter in Allen.

It’s been said of the Panhandle that one could experience all four seasons in a single day. It’s true! We experienced it a time or two during our 23 years up yonder and, boy howdy, it got really cold.

I will give props to Panhandle motorists on one point. They know how to drive in the snow, in the wind. That’s not quite the case in the Metroplex, or so I have been told.

We’re just going to lie low for a few days waiting for the nasty weather to blow on by.

Our retirement journey has been a joy for both of us, even in this pandemic era through which we all are living. Now we have to cope with Mother Nature’s winter wrath.

Life is good … eh?

Is right-wing wackiness returning?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The phone rang the other morning, so I answered it and it was someone I used to know a long time ago back when we both worked in the Texas Panhandle.

My friend worked for a prominent Amarillo politician and called to pick my (already picked-over) brain about the state of politics and the media that cover it in Panhandle.

She offered a chilling summation of what she believes is occurring there: a resurgence of the conspiracy theory, far-right-wing wackiness of the Republican Party. Bear mind, too, that the individual with whom I spoke worked for a doctrinaire, conservative Republican. She is concerned that the nut jobs who once belonged to the John Birch Society and hung signs calling for the United States to pull out of the United Nations are gaining traction once again in the Texas Panhandle.

Well …

After talking to my friend, who is an astute political observer, I am beginning to worry about the state of political play in the place I called home for more than 23 years.

Indeed, the region’s congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, is retiring in just a few days. He will be succeeded by Ronny Jackson, the retired U.S. Navy admiral, one-time White House physician and current Donald Trump acolyte who adheres to the idiocy that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the 2020 election from his man Trump.

Therein lies the apparent heart of what should concern true-blue Republicans who sit in power throughout the Panhandle. The Party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan has now become the Party of Donald Trump. Are you … kidding me?

Are they going to continue to allow their party to be hijacked by the likes of those who swill the Kool-Aid offered by the carnival barker/con man/charlatan Donald Trump?

If they do, then by golly we might be in even more trouble than my friend fears is headed this way.

In the middle of the fight

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I moved two years ago from a remote region of Texas into the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex … and this election season is giving us a lesson in the difference between the region.

It lies in the volume of political ads we get plastered on our TV sets throughout any given day.

The Metroplex straddles multiple congressional and Texas legislative districts. The region’s TV stations broadcast far and wide, which means the candidates running for office must use the stations to broadcast their message.

We have no fewer than eight congressional districts being contested here. I have lost count of the legislative districts. When we watch our evening programming and they break for “commercials,” we can watch at least five, maybe six, political ads in that span of time. Next break? More of the same, quite often with the same ads!

Compare that with our TV viewing in the Texas Panhandle. Amarillo is in the midst of the 13th Congressional District. The region has four legislative districts. Here, though, is the rub: The legislative districts rarely feature two-party contests, with Republicans vs. Democrats. It’s usually just a GOP walk-over. So, we get none of the local pressure.

Of course, too, we have a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in 2020. GOP Sen. John Cornyn is fighting hard against Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar and the two of them are going hammer-and-tong against each other over the air.

Then we have the presidential race. Joe Biden is running ahead of Donald Trump and the tone and tenor of their respective ads reflect their relative standing in the polling.

Trump has gone all negative. Biden? He is telling us about his compassion and his pledge to be a president for “all Americans,” including those who don’t vote for him. I know that in most cases “negativity works,” but in this instance I am drawn more to the positive nature of the former VP’s TV ad spots.

What does all this mean? It means I am waiting anxiously for an end to this maelstrom. By all means I am hoping that the contest at the top of the ballot ends correctly … if you get my drift!

When will GOP pols abandon Trump?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

First, I must acknowledge the obvious, which is that I am far from the political action, as I am sitting in the peanut gallery with a lot of other Americans.

You know that already. My full-time journalism career ended more than eight years ago. However, I have remained friends with many politicians and political observers in Texas.

Which brings me to this point: I am wondering when the Texas Republican Party political apparatus ever is going to turn its back on Donald Trump.

The president appears headed to defeat. I won’t say it’s done deal. It is looking that way.

I am acquainted with a number of GOP pols in the Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before gravitating to the Metroplex. Truth be told, I consider a number of those pols to be friends. One of them, a fellow I have known for more than 25 years, has told me privately that Trump must be defeated, that he has been a disaster as president.

He hasn’t said a word publicly, at least nothing that I have heard.

Trump has built a cult of personality across the land. The GOP no longer is a party of principle. It is a party that centers on an individual who, ironically, had zero political cred prior to his become a presidential candidate in 2015. Trump had no public service on his record. He had never sought any public office prior to seeking the Big One.

Indeed, the Republican Party is strong in the Texas Panhandle. So I keep wondering why the GOP political hierarchy continues to stand with Trump. It might be that the Trump “base” that comprise such a large portion of the Republican voting public has threatened reprisal against any pol who dares to speak out against their guy.

I keep reading reports about Capitol Hill Republicans beginning to put distance between themselves and the president. Why? Because Trump has few personal friendships, or longstanding political alliances with members of the GOP caucus in Congress. Still, they remain quiet.

It’s a puzzle to me. Yes, I am far these days from the hustle and the tussle of politics. I do retain a keen interest in it all.

Eight days from Election Day gives these pols some time to collect themselves, muster up some courage and tell us publicly what they likely are thinking in private … which is that Donald Trump is a loser.

Get ready for a blowhard

Based on what I have witnessed from afar and from my extensive knowledge of the man who has represented the 13th Congressional District of Texas since 1995, voters in that part of the world are about to get a whole new brand of congressman.

Dr. Ronny Jackson is the odds-on favorite to succeed Mac Thornberry as the Republican representative for the sprawling West Texas congressional district.

My knowledge of Jackson is limited. I acknowledge the obvious, given that I no longer live in the district. I know that he was born in Levelland, went into the Navy, achieved the rank of rear admiral, became a physician and has served as White House doctor for three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

He moved into the13th District when Thornberry announced he wouldn’t seek another term.

What is the difference that will occur? It will arrive in the vocal, more media-hungry style of the new guy. He is going to become a right-wing blowhard, the type of individual who generally annoys the daylights out of me. 

He has popped off, for instance, about mask wearing in light of the global pandemic. He has been dismissive of masks as protection against the killer virus. It’s the kind of baloney we hear from right-wing talking heads and various politicians such as, oh, Rep. Louie Gohmert, the East Texas loon who tested positive for the virus after making a public show of his refusal to wear a mask; Louie is singing a different tune these days.

Thornberry has served the13th District for 25 years. He won election in 1994 as part of the GOP Contract With America Brigade led by fire-breathing Rep. New Gingrich. Thornberry, though, became a quiet back bencher for much of his time in the House. He voted according to the Gingrich world view. He didn’t say much about anything publicly.

Rep. Thornberry was able to parlay his loyal service into the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee, where he served for a couple of terms before Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 election; he now serves — again, quietly — as the panel’s ranking member.

And so, Thornberry will leave at the end of the year. Jackson figures to win election over the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb. I will lay down a bet that Jackson will preen and pose for as long as he can, although some of that might be dictated by whether Donald Trump is still president after Election Day.

Whatever. A new day in congressional representation awaits my friends and former neighbors up yonder in the Texas Panhandle.

Time of My Life, Part 49: Those were the days

Social media occasionally allow us a look into the past, giving us a chance to reminisce on how it used to be and even think wistfully about what we are missing.

So it happened today when a friend and former colleague posted a faux newspaper page saluting his departure from his job and the start of a new adventure. My friend left the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise in the late 1980s and the posting of the page on Facebook has elicited a lot of comment from our colleagues and friends about this fellow and about the special feelings we all felt toward each other.

It reminds me of a series of special relationships I was able to cultivate during my career in print journalism. My journalism journey took me to four newspapers: two in Oregon and two in Texas. The first job was at the Oregon Journal, the now-defunct evening paper in Portland. My second job took me to the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier. Job No. 3 transported me to Beaumont. The fourth post was in Amarillo, Texas.

Throughout much of that journey, I was able to make lasting friendships that have survived the tumult, turmoil and occasionally the tempest of an industry that has undergone — and is undergoing — so much change.

I cherish those friendships perhaps more than I have expressed to those with whom I have worked, played, laughed and occasionally cried.

I mentioned to the friend who displayed the “fake” page the special camaraderie we enjoyed in Beaumont. It truly was a remarkable, talented group of professionals. Moreover, many of them had huge hearts that they opened up to me, who was then brand new to Texas and who had much to learn about the state and the community I would serve as editorial page editor of the newspaper. Moreover, I had left my family in Oregon when I took the job; they would join me later that year and we’ve never looked back. Many of my colleagues knew I was lonesome for my wife and young sons and they took me in, invited me to social gatherings and brought me into their fold.

That all made my transition to Texas that much easier.

Then again, the relationships I developed in Oregon City, Beaumont and Amarillo aren’t unique in an industry that used to comprise individuals from disparate backgrounds. They came together to work for an organization, seeking to do the best job they could do, to keep faith with the readers they served.

The newspaper industry, as we know, has been torn asunder in recent times. The Enterprise-Courier is gone; the Beaumont Enterprise staff has been decimated, as has the staff at the Amarillo Globe-News. We’ve all moved on, some to retirement, some to pursue — as the saying goes — “other interests.”

The Facebook post reminded me of how it used to be. I shall cling tightly to those memories. Those truly were the good ol’ days.

Happy Trails, Part 183: Sweat triggers early Texas memories

ATLANTA STATE PARK, Texas – A jaunt to this lush Piney Woods forest with our fifth wheel in tow triggered some memories for me.

Our family’s Texas journey began not terribly far from this corner of the massive state. I took a job in Beaumont, which is a bit — about 335 miles — due south along the Texas-Louisiana border, in March 1984. My family joined me in the Golden Triangle later that summer.

We learned quickly to become climatized to the intense heat and humidity in Southeast Texas. Our boys graduated from high school in the early 1990s. In January 1995, I took another job way up yonder in Amarillo. My wife and I moved there and spent the next 23 years enjoying gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and getting acclimated to the distinctly different weather patterns presented along the High Plains. We can attest to the truth of the saying that one can see all four seasons of the year in a single day in Amarillo.

The journey made its final stop in 2018 when we moved to Collin County.

I tend to reminisce when we return to regions with which we have some familiarity. I did so when we pulled into Atlanta State Park.

It’s the tall pines jutting out of the thicket of broad-leaf trees and assorted greenery. Then we had the downpour, followed by rising steam and, oh yeah … the humidity!

We have lived in Texas for most of our lives; that would be 36 years for me, as I am 70 … while my wife is a bit younger than I am. We’ve enjoyed the warm Gulf of Mexico water, the Big Thicket and jaunts to cities such as Houston and New Orleans; we took our belongings to the Panhandle, where we marveled at Palo Duro Canyon and watched a tornado develop less than a mile from our house in the southwest corner of Amarillo. We now are getting used to our new digs in Princeton and enjoying additional time with our precious granddaughter.

This retirement sojourn, though, does take us back to sweaty regions that remind me of what we endured way back when we were much younger and decided to pursue a new life in a part of the world we barely knew.

I remember it as if it just happened.

Cops under even more scrutiny

I never thought it possible that law enforcement officers would be put under the glare of national scrutiny in the manner that is now occurring all across the nation.

It has happened. It is happening right now.

During nearly four decades in journalism, I have covered law enforcement officers in two states. Those I have known professionally have been stand-up men and women. They have been devoted to the oaths they took to protect and serve the communities where they work and live.

Some of those officers became personal friends and I have sought to keep those relationships separate from the work I did as a reporter and later as an editor. I’ve always have told them: Don’t mess up.

We have entered a whole new era. Police have been seen via social media conducting themselves badly with regard to certain citizens who they swore to protect. These incidents have revealed an ugly and terrible racial divide.

Accordingly, the men and women who risk their lives each day simply by reporting for work are now being scrutinized in a way none of them possibly ever expected.

I live near a law enforcement officer. He works unusual hours and I often go several days without ever seeing him. I now intend, once I get the chance, to visit with him and to elicit — I hope — a candid response to what he is feeling as he interacts with the public he serves.

I long have believed the cops I have known back in Oregon, in the Golden Triangle region of Texas, in the Texas Panhandle and even now in North Texas (where my wife and I plan to spend the rest of our lives) to be men and women of high integrity. None of what we have witnessed in these terrible and troubling times will shake my belief in the honor of those I have known.

The intense scrutiny that has come upon these individuals — and the agencies that employ them — is likely deserved, based on what we have witnessed. I do not intend to impugn anyone’s integrity. I do intend to endorse the call for even greater accountability and transparency of those who work in arguably the most dangerous profession imaginable.

They have my gratitude for honoring the oath they take. I just want to ensure that they continue to earn it.

Journalism takes another step toward irrelevance

It pains me to acknowledge this, but based on what I have just learned, daily print journalism — I am talking about newspapers — has taken another big step toward a dark hole of irrelevance.

The Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s largest newspaper, has announced it no longer will publish editorials. You know, those are the opinion pieces that represent the newspaper’s view on issues of the day.

Here is part of a letter that Journal executive editor Alan Rosenberg wrote to readers:

It’s a decision that we don’t make lightly. But it’s been coming for a long time…

[After the partisan newspapers of the 19th century,] most newspapers abandoned partisanship in their news pages, but kept the idea that they should speak out, in their editorials, on what they perceived as the best interests of their community and country.

But in doing so, they inadvertently undermined readers’ perception of a newspaper’s core mission: to report the news fairly. Our goal in news stories is always to learn, and reflect, the facts of a situation, then report them without bias. Reporters’ opinions, if they have them, have no place in our stories.

But when the newspaper itself expresses opinions on those same subjects, it causes understandable confusion. Readers wonder: Can reporters really do their work without trying to reflect the views expressed in their employers’ name? Can they cast a skeptical eye on a politician their paper has endorsed, or a generous eye on one it has opposed?

The answer is a definite “yes” — but my email since I became executive editor shows that many just don’t buy it.

The Providence Journal is owned by Gannett Corp. What we have here is a display in gutlessness. It is a shameful capitulation to the forces that are slowly but inexorably making daily newspapers irrelevant in the lives of thinking Americans.

I spent the vast bulk of my 36 years in journalism writing editorials and editing opinion pages. We once were committed to providing leadership to communities that used to look for some semblance of guidance from their newspapers. Sure, we had that argument with readers that Rosenberg mentioned about whether news coverage was influenced by newspapers’ editorial policy.

This news out of Providence, R.I., saddens me terribly. It well might get even worse for readers of the last newspaper where I worked on my professional journey, the Amarillo Globe-News. Gannett owns the Globe-News and Gannett has become a cost-cutting master in this era of declining subscribership and advertising.

I hate saying it … but I fear the end of daily journalism in Amarillo, Texas, might be at hand.