2014

When Henry Fox Entered the Henhouse

One of my primary responsibilities as a publisher is to sell newspapers. That might appear blindingly obvious to most folks. But on innumerable occasions throughout my four decades in this business, readers upset with a story will say, accusingly, “You’re just trying to sell newspapers.” That always struck me as parallel with telling a car dealer, “You’re just trying to sell cars.” Well, duh. Now that doesn’t mean we will publish anything. We have standards for libel, good taste, obscenity and relevance. But I can assure you that without fear or favor we are going to publish the news...

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Memories of Christmas Past

It’s coming on Christmas They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer. And singing songs of joy and peace. Oh I wish I had a river, I could skate away on. — Joni Mitchell   It is indeed coming on Christmas, ready or not. The other day at Rotary, the Vivian Fowler Elementary School Children’s Choir serenaded the group with Christmas songs. They sang flawlessly and enthusiastically. One little girl in particular danced and gestured with each song, smiling the entire performance. The magic of Christmas really is for children, and listening to them...

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Six-man Football in Zephyr

ZEPHYR, TEXAS — As sunset approached, the sky streaked with pastels of orange and blue, and a full moon beginning to rise, the six-man football state championship got underway at Bulldog Field. Zephyr is in Brown County, on the edge of West Texas, in goat country. Seemingly out of nowhere, the stadium lights appeared after our 306-mile drive, which included a couple wrong turns when the GPS tricked me. We pulled into a gravel parking lot, dust filling the air. Zephyr means “gentle, mild breeze,” and wind was ruffling the American flag near the concession stand. The place felt like the football...

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A Miracle on I-35: Little Traffic

AUSTIN — We escaped to our favorite Texas big city for the Thanksgiving holiday, to sit in the stands to shiver and watch the Longhorns get slaughtered by TCU — and relax in a condo rented through AirBnB. I had never tried this service, in which owners of private property — condos, houses, even a spare bedroom — list them online for rent. In this case, the owner travels a lot and rents his ultra-hip loft condo on East Sixth Street, which sits practically in the shade of the freeway from Hades — otherwise known as I-35. It was an outstanding location and has made me a confirmed fan of using...

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Some Events You Don’t Get Over

A year has passed since our family became engulfed in a horrific tragedy. My father-in-law, Harris Teel, was stabbed in the heart two days before Thanksgiving while sitting in a waiting room at the Good Shepherd day surgery center in Longview. Nurse Gail Sandidge died on the scene, and three others were wounded. Mr. Teel — who was 82 and in good health at the time — died nine days later. A suspect awaits a capital murder trial, another ordeal this family will have to face. My wife and her three brothers lost their father; our daughter and her cousins lost their Papa. The one thing I am more...

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New Ride Has Fancy Gadgets

I bought a new vehicle several weeks ago, here in Mount Pleasant, another small SUV similar to the Ford Escape hybrid I have driven for nearly eight years. It has 190,000 miles on it but still looks and runs like a new vehicle. I loved that scamp, but it was time to hand it down to our daughter Abbie, who passed her driving test with flying colors and is now legally running around town. It is passing strange to see her head out of the driveway on her way to school in my car. The first time it happened, I thought someone was stealing it but then remembered she had her license. I changed make...

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Leaves That Are Green Turn to Brown

Sam and I walked in the early morning darkness the other day after the first blue Norther blew through. I was bundled up against the wind, Sam frisky and tugging against the leash, clearly enjoying the drop in temperatures. Leaves skittered across the pavement, which made a naturally skittish dog occasionally flinch. Even after more than two years of affection and living the good life, Sam still bears psychic scars. He was clearly mistreated before my Beautiful Mystery Companion found him lying up the hill in the street in 2012, with matted smelly fur and a look of resignation in his eyes. He had given...

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My Short Career as a Home Inspector

Several times a week, I get emails from the Texas Real Estate Inspectors Association offering various continuing education courses at convenient locations. I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe to these missives. Sometimes it’s just easier to hit the delete key. Besides, it serves as a reminder of my ill-fated attempt to change careers in late middle age, when it looked like this newspaper gig wasn’t panning out anymore. Two-and-a-half years ago, I was unemployed and loath to move from Longview, since my Beautiful Mystery Companion had a good job as a professor and our daughter was happy in school....

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Covering Elections Changes With Technology

Another Election Day approaches. Voters who did not cast early ballots will go to the polls to decide a number of contested state and local races, as well as two important propositions concerning Northeast Texas Community College, a valuable regional resource. Once again, after a hiatus of a decade or so, I’ll be working to get out a paper once the polls close and the results are known. This will be fun. I covered my first election as a journalist — and not just as the photographer — down in San Augustine, which is deep Behind the Pine Curtain. I was 26 and fresh out of graduate school...

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A Little Girl Grows Up

We met six-and-a-half years ago at Pizza King in Longview on a spring Saturday afternoon. She had a cheese pizza. Mine was veggie, extra jalapeños. Her blond hair and cherubic face with flawless skin captured my heart. As we sat down, she held one of the Harry Potter novels in her arms like a shield. She was 10 and eyed me warily. Who is this funny little man coming into my life, she no doubt wondered. Abbie is the daughter of the woman who would become my wife, aka My Beautiful Mystery Companion. Now she is my daughter as well, and I am blessed. On Saturday, Abbie turns 17, which seems...

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