Tag Archives: West Texas

Happy Trails, Part 188: Success at the end of an RV outing


By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Retirement has allowed me to count my blessings, which I do every day and occasionally boast when I score even the mildest of victories.

Here comes the boast.

My wife and I returned today from a 10-day sojourn through Far West Texas. It started in Abilene, where we caught up with a good friend and her husband; we moved on to Monahans and then to the Davis Mountains. We headed back northeast toward Princeton; we spent a night in Mason and then at Meridian State Park.

We arrived in front of our house around noon today. We emptied our RV, had a bite of lunch and then took our fifth wheel back to the storage lot where it “sleeps” between outings.

Then came the moment of triumph.

We rolled onto the parking lot, wheeled the RV around to line it up with our covered stall … and then backed it straight into the storage space — on the first pass! There was no back and forth, no second, third or fourth attempt to line it up.

Is that a big deal? Yeah! It is! It’s a big deal because I have not yet mastered the backup technique required at times when we haul our fifth wheel on an outing. Indeed, we had a back-in site at Davis Mountains State Park. It was awkwardly configured, so I had a bit of a struggle backing it into the site; but we got it parked.

I know that none of this rises to the level of monumental achievement. Except that in the grand scheme of the retirement journey on which my wife and I embarked, it does look significant from my standpoint.

We have had to learn a few lessons hauling our fifth wheel hither and yon. We have made some mistakes; a couple of them have been a bit costly.

Thus, when I score a “win” simply by being able to back our fifth wheel into a spot on a single pass I consider it worth a bit of self-congratulation.

I am hoping for more victories along our journey.

Empower Texans: It’s hitting the fan

The media are beginning to peel back the mystery surrounding a political action group that calls itself Empower Texans.

What are we seeing now? It ain’t pretty, folks.

Empower Texans is pouring lots of money into campaigns around the state. It has targeted a couple of seats in the Panhandle with a reprehensible smear campaign.

The group’s actions have been noticed by the media, which are reporting on them with the kind of gusto one saw during other hot political disputes. Watergate comes to mind. So does the Lewinsky scandal.

Let’s take a gander at Michael Quinn Sullivan, the guy who detests state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and is backing former Midland Mayor Mike Canon’s bid to unseat Seliger.

Sen. Seliger has not hidden his dislike of Sullivan, who runs the ultra-right-wing organization. Sullivan has returned the favor by pouring lots of money into Canon’s campaign. Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe takes particular note of an essay that Amarillo Globe-News columnist Jon Mark Beilue wrote in which he compared Empower Texans to Netflix’s “House of Cards.”

Read Ratcliffe’s essay here. Ratcliffe contends that Empower Texans is subverting democracy by falsifying incumbents’ records, as it has done with Seliger.

Empower Texans also has glommed onto something called the Granny Tax in its effort to unseat state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican.

Price’s challenger, Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield, has campaign contributions from wealthy downstate interests that comprise 61 percent of his total campaign intake. Empower Texans has its mitts on that race, too, having endorsed Brassfield over Price.

Empower Texans has fabricated an issue, contending that Texas House members intended to raise taxes on nursing homes, thus penalizing elderly residents of those facilities. Thus, the “Granny Tax” was born.

It didn’t exist.

Scott Braddock of the Houston Chronicle lays out Empower Texans’ deception here.

We are witnessing a despicable display of demagoguery perpetrated by interests who have zero interest in the Texas Panhandle or in West Texas. They are seeking to unseat individuals who don’t grovel at the feet of powerful interests.

Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Four Price must not fall victim to this kind of defamation.

As Beilue noted in his column: “They (Empower Texans) are using their typical campaign playbook—paint their guy as the conservative choice, and the other guy as basically a Democrat by distorting and taking facts out of context to make them seem soft on abortion and a patsy for big government. Their hope is enough voters are gullible and naïve to believe it all.”

Man, I certainly hope West Texas Republican primary voters are smarter than that.

I tip my hat, moreover, to the Texas political media for revealing this lie to a voting public that needs to see it.

The media ‘regression’ continues

I’ve been trying to process the news I read over the weekend about the newspaper that employed me for nearly 18 years.

I haven’t yet come to grips with all of it and its implications, but what I see does give me some concern about the future of print journalism in two West Texas communities.

GateHouse Media, the company that now owns the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has hired someone who serves as “regional executive editor” of both papers. Her name is Jill Nevels-Haun.

As I read the story announcing her hiring, I read that she will split her duties between Amarillo and Lubbock. She presumably will commute between the cities, which are 120 miles apart; it’s not a long drive, given that you can drive 75 mph along Interstate 27 but the distance is substantial.

What’s more, the communities’ issues are unique. They both have different concerns that weigh on the minds and hearts of residents and officials. Nevels-Haun speaks of her intent to develop new lines of communication between readers and, I presume, both newspapers.

GateHouse purchased the papers in October from Morris Communications Corp., which had owned the G-N and the A-J since 1972. The publishers of the papers, both were Morris holdovers — Lester Simpson in Amarillo and Brandon Hughes in Lubbock — resigned more than a week ago.

I have been informed that GateHouse plans to hire someone to replace the publishers who resigned.

OK, so what’s the concern?

This has the appearance of an inexorable step toward some form of consolidation of both newspapers into a single operation that would seek to cover the entire West Texas region from Amarillo to Lubbock.

Morris already ditched its printing presses at the Globe-News and gave the print job to the Lubbock A-J. Since the GateHouse sale, the Globe-News has abandoned its office structure on Van Buren Street and moved what is left of the newsroom staff into its building on Harrison Street.

The Globe-News is circulating far fewer copies daily than it did just a half-dozen years ago; I will presume the Avalanche-Journal is going through the same precipitous decline. The decline in circulation, by the way, is far from unique to this part of the world; it’s happening all over the country!

I’ve been away from daily journalism now for more than five years. These comments are coming from the proverbial peanut gallery, which prohibits me from commenting in any detail about what I perceive is occurring.

I do sense an inertia that is depriving both communities of the strongest voice possible from newspapers that have been charged with telling those communities’ stories for many decades.

Nevels-Haun offers assurances that she and her employers are committed to strong community journalism. I don’t doubt her sincerity.

It’s just that a single newspaper executive stretching her time — and her attention — between disparate communities is facing an enormous challenge. I cannot overstate the difficulty that awaits.

Thus, I am left to wonder: Will the papers’ corporate owners be willing to invest the capital it needs to deliver on the new editor’s grand promise?

We’ll see about that.

No ‘town hall’ meetings; no surprise

I guess this is one of the least-surprising things I’ve heard since Donald J. Trump became president of the United States.

West Texas’s congressional delegation is coming home for a weeklong recess — but none of them is planning any town hall meetings with constituents.

Why do you suppose they’re forgoing these events? My guess — and that’s all it is — would be that they might not ready to withstand the heat that their colleagues have gotten from their constituents when they have had town meetings back home.

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 1995, says he’ll be accessible to voters. Good. I trust he’ll keep his word while he’s back home.

The issue on voters’ minds happens to be the Affordable Care Act. Congressmen and women have been getting a snoot full from constituents about the ACA and what Congress intends to do if it repeals it. They don’t want to lose their health insurance and, near as I can tell, Republicans lack a replacement plan to insert in place of the ACA if they get around to repealing it.

But our West Texas congressional representatives aren’t going to hear from their constituents in a town hall setting.

I hope, though, that they open and read their mail and their staffers listen to phone calls from concerned citizens.

We aren’t brain dead in this part of the country. Indeed, lawmakers representing deep-red, solidly Republican congressional districts are getting their share of gripes.

I doubt we’re any different here.

Texting-while-driving ban fails in Legislature

Tom Craddick wasn’t my favorite speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He ran the place as though he owned it, not the people who elected its 150 members.

But when he got removed as speaker and became just another legislator from West Texas, well, something happened to him. He developed a keen eye toward what’s actually good for Texans — such as protecting motorists from idiots who simply cannot resist sending text messages while driving a motor vehicle.

To his great credit, the Midland Republican, persuaded his House colleagues to approve a statewide ban on that moronic practice. And to its great shame, the Texas Senate let Craddick’s bill die.


House Bill 80 sailed through the House on a 102-40 vote. Then it fell a vote short of going to a vote before the full Senate. That means we’ll have to wait another two years before Texas joins the vast majority of other states in banning this practice.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard the unenforceability argument. Big deal. Police officers are able to spot motorists doing all kinds of things they shouldn’t be doing. If we’re going to rely on a bogus notion that we cannot enforce no-texting-while-driving laws, then let’s repeal the law that bans motorists from driving with an open container of alcoholic beverage. What the hell: The cops can’t see the open can or bottle of beer unless the motorist actually lifts it to his or her mouth, correct?

I ran into state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, not long ago and he more or less suggested the Senate would drag its feet on this important piece of legislation. I pleaded with him to talk to his Senate colleagues to do the right thing. I have no clue if he did.

Texas stands among a shrinking field of states — I think it’s six of them, all told — that cannot muster the guts to lay down a law that makes it illegal to do what idiots cannot quit doing by themselves.

Will a law, by itself, prevent this behavior? No, but we still execute convicted capital murderers and that hasn’t stopped people from committing those heinous crimes.

One of these days, and I hope it’s soon, Texas legislators will wise up to do what’s right and make it illegal across the state to send text messages while driving.

Thanks, Rep. Craddick, for the valiant effort.


'Gas war' takes on new meaning

Do you remember when the term “gas war” referred to competing service stations at intersections dropping their prices to lure customers away from the station across the street?

I read recently something like that happened in Oklahoma City, dropping the price of gasoline to less than $2 per gallon.

Good deal, right?

Well, the term has taken on a more global meaning. The energy price war is causing serious declines in the price of gasoline in the United States. It dropped to $2.15 per gallon today in Amarillo and it’s likely to drop even more. Heck, it might have dropped another penny or two since I got home today a little after noon.


OPEC recently refused to cut production. The supply of crude oil remains quite high, while demand is declining. Add to that the surging U.S. energy production, which is about to make the United States the world’s largest producer of petroleum in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia as No. 1.

We can thank (or blame) the fracking that’s going on in West Texas and in North Dakota and Montana, which are seeing a huge boom in the production of shale oil.

Although I am acutely aware that the decline in oil makes it more difficult for producers to keep pumping it out of the ground, I also am grateful to be paying a dollar or more less for gasoline than I was paying a year ago. It’s freeing up some disposable income in our house.

Someone will have to tell more once again why this oil price decline somehow is bad news.

Well? Anyone?


Lubbock: We're No. 1

Surveys such as those that rank cities’ boredom quotient need to be taken with a grain of salt or, perhaps, a pile of manure.

A website called Movato Blog has rated Lubbock the most boring city in America.


OK, that snickering and chuckling you might be hearing is coming from Amarillo residents who might tell you they’ve known all along that Lubbock is as boring as the drive between the two cities.

I would caution my fellow Amarillo residents to resist poking too much fun at our southerly neighbors. It might be that the Movato Blog “researchers” never had heard of Amarillo — which might tell us all something about where we rank on people’s attention meter.

My sense is to stick up just a bit for Lubbock. I have some good friends who live there. I do not want to denigrate their city any more than I would them to do the same for mine.

As one good friend said in response to a column by my pal Chip Chandler’s recent piece in the Amarillo Globe-News, in which he called Lubbock the “seventh circle of hell”: “Lubbock gets first-rate concerts, while Amarillo gets first-rate tractor pulls.”


Lubbock did lure a pretty fair musician to play there in a few days. Perhaps you’ve heard of Sir Paul McCartney, who’s opening the U.S. leg of his world tour in Buddy Holly’s birthplace; Sir Paul wants to pay tribute to someone who had such a huge influence on his own pretty fair music career.

But I digress.

Movato said Lubbock’s dining stinks. Its nightlife is just OK. Entertainment venues are lousy.

I would encourage you to scroll through the Top 10 Boring Cities list for yourself. Determine whether you agree with Lubbock’s characterization as a boring place.

Me? I like the city. What’s more, during college football season, you can feast on excellent barbecue outside of Texas Tech’s stadium on game day. Ask any West Texan you know: That ain’t boring.