Columns

Record Your Story For Posterity at Story Corps

For 14 years, StoryCorps has collected the oral histories of ordinary people across the country — recording a wide swath of Americans from all walks of life. It has published five books. Its recordings are housed in the Smithsonian Institution. As its core principals state, StoryCorps treats participants, no matter their background, with dignity, care and respect. Red River Radio listeners enjoy the segments, just before my modest pieces air on Friday mornings on Red River Radio (redriverradio.org, or 89.9 FM in the Longview area, 88.9 in the Lufkin-Nacogdoches area. As a journalist for more...

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Nosebleed Leads to Emergency Landing

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — The palm trees outside the emergency room were well-lit by the parking lot lights at 1:30 a.m., while an orange harvest half-moon hung over the downtown skyline. I was waiting for a cab in the sultry Florida night. The airliner on which I had been a passenger had long left the tarmac, after it touched down to discharge me more than three hours earlier. Some of its passengers likely missed their connections thanks to me. Everyone went without refreshments. I feel badly about that, but it could not be helped. A massive nosebleed erupted about an hour into the flight. I stayed...

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Frozen At The Briscoe Center

AUSTIN — This is my first trip to the Briscoe Center for American History on the UT campus since its renovation, the first phase of which was completed last spring. I walked in, eager to peruse some newspaper microfilm after admiring the new gallery. After signing in, I entered the reading room. I noticed that the three employees behind the counter, who retrieve materials from the mysterious bowels of this accclaimed repository, were dressed as if a blizzard was imminent. They wore hoodies or thick sweaters, gloves without tips to allow typing, and winter hats. It was 96 degrees outside, 60 degrees...

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The World Is Scary Enough

Halloween is more than five weeks away. Already, store aisles are set aside for candy and other treats, costumes and yard art. That seems premature, when it is still hot enough to take a plunge in the pool. I am a grinch when it comes to Halloween. I always declined to participate when the office workers donned costumes for the holiday, spending the day dealing with customers while dressed as a witch with a green face, or a bloodied victim of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Not much work got done on Halloween. I told colleagues my uniform was pretending to be a newspaper publisher. Like all holidays,...

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Sunday Mornings With the Puzzlemaster

A highlight of early Sunday morning while walking with Sam the Dog is listening to the “Sunday Puzzle” on National Public Radio. I listen to Red River Radio, of course, (89.9 FM in Longview, 88.9 in Lufkin/Nacogdoches), since they have been kind enough to air my commentaries every Friday morning for nearly five years. You can also listen at redriverradio.org. Red River Radio is a jewel. If you are not listening you are missing out on fine non-commercial programming and real news. That concludes our shameless self-promotion. Now back to our regular programming. Will Shortz is both the NPR Puzzlemaster...

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Friends Band Together To Reopen Brewpub

HOUSTON — The traffic was light driving in on Sunday morning. South of Henderson, I stopped in Mount Enterprise for a pit stop and some iced tea and noticed all the gas pump handles were covered. I had heard of spot fuel outages in Dallas and Austin. I was heading to north Houston to help my daughter Mere and son-in-law Matt make repairs after Hurricane Harvey to City Acre Brewing — their brewpub/restaurant. From Henderson to Corrigan — nearly 90 miles — not a single convenience store had gasoline. I finally found a working pump (cash only) in that small town and filled up, since I had no idea...

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In The Aftermath of Harvey

On September 9, 1921, the remnants of a hurricane first swept through Tampico, Mexico, and then came into South Texas. It stalled when it hit a low-pressure system and dumped a record amount of rainfall from San Antonio to Williamson County, which is just north of Austin. The tiny community of Thrall, 25 miles east of Round Rock, sustained 39.7 inches of rain in 36 hours. More than 150 people died in Williamson County alone during that deluge. That rainfall record stood for nearly a century, until this week. It is not quite official, but there is little doubt a new record was set in the Houston...

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A Murder of Crows, a Wake of Vultures

I was watching a television show recently when a character referred to a “murder of crows.” That is the archaic term for what most folks would call a flock. I decided to research the origin of the term, which dates back to the 15th century, according to a word ancestry site. Originally, it was murther of crowes, the former being the middle English term that evolved into murder. Why a group of black-feathered scavengers came to be know by this homicidal appellation is less clear. The most-likely theory revolves around the eating habits of crows, which would often swoop down upon a corpse-strewn...

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Making New Friends at Fenway

  It is late August, and the Boston Red Sox are leading the American League Eastern Division. My hopes are rising. I can’t help it. It is in my DNA. Three weeks ago, we sat five rows behind home plate at the shrine — Fenway Park — thanks to my generous Beautiful Mystery Companion, who bought us premium seats as an early birthday present. “If we’re going to Fenway, we might as well sit close,” she said. I like the way she thinks. We were close enough to see the sweat on the home plate umpire’s brow when he removed his mask. The umpire was a large man loaded down with protective...

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A 60,000 Square-Foot Summer ‘Cottage’

“Any fool can make a fortune; it takes a man of brains to hold onto it.” “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt   NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND — CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s great-grandfather lived large, mostly because Cornelius Vanderbilt the First built an empire centered on steamships and steam engines. He was personally worth $100 million at the time of his death in 1877, back when that amount provided a lot of power. His son, Billy, managed to double the family fortune. Cornelius Vanderbilt II (nicknamed “Deuce” by me) and his brother William proceeded to start spending the late...

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