Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Clearing the air on GOP

I feel the need to clear the air and disabuse some readers of this blog who might be drawing an incorrect inference … which is that I hate all Republicans.

Not true. Not even close to being true. What I do hate is what has become of the Republican Party, which has morphed into a cult dedicated to the ambition of one man, a former president who has managed to persuade his followers that he has more talent, more know-how and more knowledge than he actually does.

My final stop in my 37-year print journalism career took me to the heart of conservative Republicanism. The Texas Panhandle is as rock-ribbed Republican as any region in America.

As a consequence of my working there, I managed to make many acquaintances and friendships with those who happen to be Republicans. It makes sense, right? Of course it does!

My career ended in the summer of 2012, but my friendships with Republicans lives on. One of my best friends in my post-journalism years turned out to be the late Ernie Houdashell, the Randall County judge. He and I jousted frequently over Asian food about politics. He didn’t change my mind and I didn’t change his. However, I loved that man.

I came to know and respect many GOP politicians. They served in county offices; they were legislators; I came to know those who worked on the grassroots level, active in Potter and Randall County Republican politics. They are fine men and women.

I aim my anger at those who have perverted the Republican Party. The No. 1 GOP pervert, of course, happens to be the 45th POTUS. The New York attorney general today filed a lawsuit against the ex-POTUS and three of his adult children, alleging widespread fiscal fraud. The craven cultists’ reaction? They’re going to accuse AG Letitia James of all manner of misdeeds, malfeasance and mischief.

The perversion has spread throughout Congress, into statehouses, even into county courthouses, city halls and school board conference rooms. Those who continue to foment The Big Lie about the alleged “theft” of the 2020 presidential election will continue to receive my unadulterated scorn and rage.

So will those who continue to throw their blind loyalty to a crook, a liar and a self-aggrandizing narcissist who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them … but only about himself.


A surprising bit of candor

It just flew out of my mouth the moment I heard the question: Do I miss Portland? My answer, which came without the slightest hesitation: No. I do not.

I was wearing an Oregon Ducks ballcap when we walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Frisco, Texas, the other day. The lady at the counter saw the hat, recognized me as a Ducks fan and made some comment about the hat I was wearing. I asked her where she is from; she told me Lynwood, a suburb of Seattle.

We chatted for a moment and I told her I grew up in Portland. I thought for a moment about mentioning how the Ducks have owned the University of Washington Huskies over the past 15 years of the schools’ football rivalry, then thought better of it. Then came the question about missing it and my strangely quick and candid answer.

Portland doesn’t resemble the city I knew as a boy and then as a much younger man. It’s gotten, to my way of thinking, a bit full of itself. Traffic is terrible. Streets are narrow. Real estate prices have rocketed into outer space. The lady mentioned how “quirky” Portland always has been, but that it’s gotten a bit strange in recent years. Quirky, I can handle. That doesn’t bother me. It just no longer feels like “home.”

All of that plus the fact that I am now well into my 70s. I no longer work full time.

Do I miss my family members who still live there or nearby? Yes. Do I miss our many friends? Yes … of course to both questions.

But we moved away in the spring of 1984 to pursue a journalism career that took me many places over the course of many years in Texas. We built a good life, first in Beaumont, then in Amarillo, and now in Princeton, where we settled into what we call our “forever home.”

I long have been amazed at how adaptable I proved to myself I could be when we decided to take a leap of faith some 38 years ago. That was then. I sense I am a good bit less adaptable these days.


Media relevance vanishes

A quick return to a community where my wife and I lived for nearly half of our married life together has produced a series of bittersweet memories.

We came back to Amarillo, Texas, for a quick visit with our son and to acquaint our new Ford pickup with our new travel trailer. We didn’t get out too much to mingle with friends, but we see did a number of them at a Rotary Club luncheon.

I must have heard a dozen references to the job I used to do in Amarillo, which was to edit the opinion pages of a once-vibrant newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News.

That paper, or what’s left of it, has become a non-presence in the community that once relied on it to tell the Texas Panhandle story, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows.

“Man, we sure miss you,” came one greeting. “Why don’t you move back?” another friend said. “I once read the newspaper to know about the community, but I can’t find anything in it that tells me what I want or need to know,” yet another friend said.

Hey, I don’t say this to shore up my own ego. I want to relate to you what I sense is missing in a city of 200,000 residents that once turned to its newspaper of record to report on what is happening around the corner, or at city hall, or at the county courthouse.

I went shopping for a copy of the Globe-News. I couldn’t find one anywhere on sale. Surely, they still peddle the newspaper … somewhere! Don’t they?

It’s always good to see good friends and to catch on their lives. The good feelings are diluted by the bitter feeling that boils up when I realize that such a big part of my professional life no longer matters to the people I enjoyed serving.


Panhandle spoiled us!

My wife and I started a new life with our sons when we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Golden Triangle region of Texas in the spring of 1984.

It was there that we got acquainted with the legendary Texas heat and humidity. We got acclimated — eventually! — and lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before my wife and I (the boys had since gone off to college) relocated again, this time settling in the faraway High Plains of the Panhandle.

It was the Panhandle where we discovered something else about this wonderful place we now call home. It is that the Caprock of West Texas has four distinct seasons … and that the summer, which can get brutally hot, does bring relief on occasion, even during the hottest period of the year.

It spoiled us. We grew accustomed to the lack of humidity in Amarillo, with its 3,676-foot elevation above sea level and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years, which is the longest stint we ever have completed during our nearly 51 years of marriage.

Then we moved to the Metroplex in late 2018. We settled in Princeton, which is about 30 miles northeast of Dallas and, more importantly, is about nine miles NE of our granddaughter, who lives in Allen with her Mommy, Daddy and her two brothers.

It has been in Princeton where we’ve been reacquainted with the Texas humidity that accompanies the heat.

It’s been hot, man! We’ve had more than 30 days this summer of 100-degree-plus days. It’s not the hottest on record. For us, though, it’s been too hot, given that we are still feeling spoiled by all those years up yonder on the Caprock.

This is my way of reminding my bride and me that we’ll just need to suck it up and settle in every year for the Dog Days of summer … and remember what it was like when we first arrived in Texas those many years ago.


Blogging keeps me relevant

Blogging has produced many joys in my post-full-time-newspaper world.

One of them is that it allows me to keep doing what I did with modest success for nearly 37 years: offering opinions on issues of the day.

A corollary to that joy is the notion that it also allows me to cling just a bit to a career that gave me great satisfaction and it perhaps will allow young people coming of age in this era a chance to understand and perhaps even appreciate the craft I pursued.

Whether these young people will be reading blogs or writing them remains to be seen, of course. I hope they do both. I want to remain relevant, even in some small way, to how they search for news and information and, yes, even opinion on issues of importance.

To be crystal clear, I am not yet out of the newswriting game. My full-time career ended just a month short of a decade ago; wow, it seems like just yesterday when my boss told me my services would no longer be sought at what once was the leading newspaper in the Texas Panhandle and one of the leading media outlets in West Texas.

I walked away from that post on the spot and haven’t looked back — too often in the years since.

I took up blogging along with a few part-time, temporary gigs along the way. I have managed to stay fresh and alert writing blogs for Panhandle PBS, for KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo and now for KETR-FM radio at Texas A&M-Commerce and for the Farmersville Times near where my wife and I landed in late 2018.

I even had a month-long stint as an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News! That gig ended at the end of 2021, but at least I can say I wrote for a major metropolitan daily newspaper … if only for a flash in time!

The one constant in all of that has been High Plains Blogger. I decided to keep the name even though I no longer reside on the High Plains of Texas. Hey, it developed a brand … you know? Why mess with it?

So, with that I will keep on blogging. My work might not always remind others of the once-glorious craft I pursued, it surely keeps me energized enough to keep going for as long as I am able.


When will denigration stop?

I cannot help but wonder how a member of Congress can continually denigrate the president of the United States, suggesting the president is mentally unfit for high office and then possibly expect that president to respond to a request — were it to come from the congressman — for help in any fashion.

U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson is a freshman Republican member of the House from the Texas Panhandle. Ever since taking office after winning election in 2020, Jackson has been on a constant Twitter harangue over President Biden’s occasional verbal stumbles.

He doesn’t refer to Joe Biden as “President” Biden. He continually harps on what I believe is a red-herring argument that the POTUS would fail a cognitive test.

Jackson recently declared that the nation needs Donald Trump “more than ever.” No, Ronny, the nation does not need the serial liar and philanderer, the crook, the insurrectionist, the power-hungry narcissist, the a**hole who cannot articulate a single public policy with any degree of intelligence.

Back to my point. There could come a time when the 13th Congressional District of Texas needs immediate federal attention. Natural disasters do strike, you know. How does the congressman, the author of the string of idiotic, moronic and disgraceful Twitter messages ask the president for help?

Moreover, how does the president, who has been on the receiving end of these vile epithets, respond to those requests, were they to come?

I mention Jackson mainly because he represents a region I used to call home. He also has become a bit of a national media star, given his extreme anger aimed at President Biden; Fox News loves having this clown on air expressing himself in such a cavalier fashion … without ever challenging the veracity of the claims he makes.

Hey, I am just asking … for a friend.


Save the message

The building where my full-time journalism career came to an end has changed hands, with a new owner taking possession of an iconic structure that sits on the fringe of downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Globe-News building has been purchased by a company that manufactures lubricants. Strange, I know. However, this blog post isn’t about that change of occupants. Instead, I want to wonder aloud about an aspect of the Globe-News building that I hope the new owners can preserve.

On the Harrison Street side of the building, an inscription is carved into the stone face. It comes from a comment attributed to the late Gene Howe, publisher of the Globe-News. It states: A newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.

Those were words of wisdom that many of us took seriously. Indeed, after I started work at the Globe-News in January 1995 as editorial page editor, I decided to include the message on the editorial page masthead. We strived to meet that standard every day.

The building where I worked for nearly 18 years is vacant. The corporate owners sold the paper some years ago. The new owners then gutted the staff in all departments and moved who remained into an office suite in a downtown building.

The inscription carved into the stone building front, though, needs a permanent home. I did some sniffing around and learned today that there has been some discussion about whether they can remove the slab with the engraving from the building and find a spot for it in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the campus at West Texas A&M University. Whether it’s just idle chatter or something that could result in a serious move remains to be determined.

I found out today from a former colleague that the PPHM already houses many of the print archives, photo negatives, bound volumes and assorted artifacts from the Globe-News’s glory days.

Indeed, I also learned that the new property owners recently uncovered the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service medal the newspaper won in 1961, when the late editor Tommy Thompson uncovered county government corruption. The medal, too, is now in safe keeping!

I intend to continue sniffing around my old haunts. The engraving means a lot to those of who worked inside that old building. It should mean a great deal to the community that benefited from the effort to keep the faith with what those words urged us to do.


Prepared for worst …

My bride and I live by the credo that whenever we prepare for the worst the worst hardly ever arrives.

Thus, when the weather forecasters told us today that the latest round of North Texas spring storms could bring hail stones the size of golf balls or (gulp!) baseballs, we prepared for the arrival of the monstrous storm.

We moved our big ol’ pickup — Big Jake — into our garage. Jake’s rear end stuck out about a foot, given that it’s too big to fit completely into our garage. We covered the exposed portion with two layers of plastic. The wind was howling. We had a bit of rain.

The hail stones? Hah! They never arrived!

Is that an omen? Maybe it is. We won’t take anything for granted as we push our way through the spring, which in North Texas provides a weather-related surprise seemingly every day. It reminds us a bit of the Panhandle, where we lived for more than 20 years before we relocated to the Dallas ‘burbs.

So, we’ll trudge on preparing for the worst whenever the weathermen and women tell us to be alert to Mother Nature’s wrath.


Retrenchment continues

A newspaper that employed me for nearly 18 years and which served as the dominant source of information for the Texas Panhandle and three nearby states has taken quite possibly a step closer to oblivion.

It saddens me greatly.

The Amarillo Globe-News has suspended one day of publication; it no longer publishes a Saturday edition. The end of the Saturday newspaper was effective yesterday. The paper announced it was “combining” Friday and Saturday editions into a Friday newspaper, which is a kinder/gentler way of telling readers that they no longer will receive a Saturday edition of a once-solid newspaper.

Oh … sigh.

I practiced my craft at the Globe-News for nearly 18 years. Then I walked away in August 2012. I haven’t looked back too often. When I have, though, I see things that distress me. The newspaper has changed corporate ownership twice since I departed. Morris Communications sold its entire newspaper holdings to GateHouse Media, which then merged with Gannett Corp.

The retrenchment has commenced in the Panhandle just as it is in communities across the country.

I don’t like what I fear is going to happen eventually to a newspaper that in 1961 earned a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service but which is now devolving into a shadow not just of what it was during those great days but also of what it has become just in the past few years.

The newspaper that once covered communities throughout every county in the Panhandle, into eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and even a sliver of southwestern Kansas now barely covers events inside the city of Amarillo. It now employs a tiny fraction of the staff it once boasted. Advertising revenue has plummeted, along with paid newspaper circulation.

Hey, it’s not unique to that region. It’s just that it hurts me, your friendly blogger, to watch it happen in a place that brought me great joy during the final stage of my print journalism career.

I am not looking forward to what I believe lies ahead for the Amarillo Globe-News.


Doc issues phony diagnoses

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I want to make one more — but certainly not my final — observation about the idiot who represents the Texas Panhandle in the U.S. Congress. Ready? Here goes …

Republican Ronny Jackson is a trained medical doctor who once served as physician to three U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

As a physician, he should know the limits of his knowledge and whether he is capable of diagnosing individuals from the cheap seats. Thus, he is in no position or has any medical or ethical authority to suggest that President Biden needs a “cognitive exam” or that he is “unfit” to serve in office because he lacks the medical snap required.

Jackson has not examined the president. He has not seen Joe Biden’s medical charts. I feel confident in proclaiming that he has no fu**ing clue about the president’s mental acuity.

Therefore, Ronny Jackson — not Joe Biden — is the one who is unfit for the office he occupies representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas. I say that because he has violated — in my view — a basic tenet of medicine, which is that he is speaking way out of turn on something of which he has no direct knowledge.