Commentary

Wed
24
Jun

Settlers distanced area from the Confederacy

It took a horrific mass murder to get politicians to rethink their support of an iconic Confederate symbol, but at least they are rethinking it.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Monday called for the flag to be taken down from the state capitol grounds.

Momentum to move the symbol to its rightful place — a museum — was evident on Monday. Mississippi’s governor said the state needs to consider a new design for its flag, which incorporates the stars and bars.

A petition is being circulated to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from the University of Texas campus in Austin.

The nation’s retail juggernaut, Walmart, said it is pulling all merchandise from its stores that feature the Confederate flag. Sears and K-Mart announced similar measures.

Wed
24
Jun

Droughts followed by rainfall aplenty

It hasn’t been all that long ago that most of Texas was in the throes of one of the worst droughts in history.

Today, depending upon which forecast you watch or listen to, the state has recovered, for the most part, although Gillespie County and parts of the Hill Country are still considered more dry than wet.

It wasn’t that long ago that creeks and stock tanks had dried up, the Pedernales River’s flow had greatly diminished and the water table level was dropping lower each day.

Last summer, homeowners’ lawns were drying up and in the country, ranchers held their breath since many submersible pumps were “bringing up” sand from water wells hundreds of feet deep.

But, as one rancher said, “We’re always one day closer to a good rainfall.”

Turns out, he was right.

Wed
17
Jun

Nation's 239th birthday around the corner

In just a couple of weeks, we’ll be celebrating a BIG birthday. On July 4, America turns 239 years old!

Still young when it comes to comparing our country’s birth to that of many nations around the world, we in the United States have much to be proud of as we reach another chronological milestone.

Without sounding too much like a braggart, America has done much for the world since our inception on July 4, 1776. We were a major power behind winning both world wars fought in the 20th Century. When we came to battle in both conflicts, we supplied the muscle, determination and fortitude to bring about the final victory that allowed the globe to return to its day-to-day business.

Our scientific explorations have been, literally, out of this world. We accomplished a dream that humans have pondered for millennia when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969.

Wed
17
Jun

Gillespie's economy is just peachy

Thanks to good winter and spring rains and a dodge of late spring hail storms, Gillespie County’s peach industry is have a good year and remains the strongest in the state.

Locals and thousands of visitors are crowding into roadside stands and pick-your-own orchards alike to get a taste of this year’s sweet harvest.

This weekend in Stonewall, newcomers and old-timers will gather for the 54th annual Peach JAMboree, marking more than a half century of a festival that showcases a Hill Country delicacy.

In the 1850s, corn and wheat were the major crops in the area, but as farm output grew and diversified, Gillespie County became the largest-volume peach producing county in the state.

By the early 1980s, there were more than two million pounds harvested here in a single season.

Today, Gillespie has more than 1,400 acres invested in peach production, which accounts for 40 percent of the state’s annual crop.

Wed
10
Jun

Fraser served Texas, driven by his ideals

State Senator Troy Fraser said he got into politics after being frustrated with the “overreach of government.” Last week, Fraser bid farewell to a political career that spanned more than a quarter of a century. And he can claim “mission accomplished” in whittling down the size of government.

Fraser championed big industry and Main Street businesses and played a big part of making sure the nation knew Texas was “open for business.” No matter how one looks at it, the low-tax and right-to-work environment, coupled with an oil- and gas-friendly capitol, has helped the Texas economy weather the recession better than any state.

As Fraser grew in seniority, moving from the House, to Senate District 24, to influential committee chairmanships, he used his power to move the state in a conservative direction.

Wed
10
Jun

Who'll watch those are watching us?

Remember that cheesy 1980s song “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates? That tune, unfortunately, went through my head last week when the Senate passed (67-32) and the President signed the “USA Freedom Act” to somewhat limit the bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency on everyone’s phones and computers. 

And it once again posed the question: How far, in a supposedly freedom-loving nation, do we want to go in the name of security?

The issue manages to bring together a diverse coalition of politicos — from stalwart conservatives like our Sen. Ted Cruz, to libertarians like Rand Paul, and liberals like President Obama. (Both Cruz and Cornyn voted for the bill.)

Wed
03
Jun

Record rains replenish aquifers, diminish drought

Record rains.

Figures from the Office of the State Climatologist at Texas A&M University show that the month of May has been the wettest month in the state’s history, averaging 7.54 inches, and besting the previous record of 6.66 inches in June of 2004.

The rains have been welcome. While parts of our state are still in drought stages, most of the state has exited the severe and extreme drought situations that Texas faced in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Of course, the rains came with problems and we continue to support our friends in Wimberley with drives to assist them. (Kudos to Fredericksburg Independent School District, churches and other local organizations for pitching in.)

Wed
03
Jun

Remembering Trong’s great escape

Fifteen years ago, I began my journalism career and worked at the Kelly Air Force Base newspaper.

I wrote for the Kelly Observer, and was among the final wave of writers as the base closed in 2001.

Our job was to write about those who were retiring or continuing their military or civil service careers at other military bases.

I thought about the Kelly Observer again while attending the Texas Center for Community Journalism workshop at Texas Christian University in May.

My editor at the Observer, Greg Ripps, also attended the TCU workshop. Greg, mild mannered as ever, now works in Floresville at the Wilson County News. We talked about old times and remembered some of the more interesting stories we published.

Wed
27
May

Aid roundup for our neighbors to the east

Mother Nature showed her power this week and Central Texans are ailing in her storm’s wake. Rainfall helps refill our aquifers, but rainfall on saturated ground is sent to rivers and creeks, which can cause damage.

Our neighbors and friends in Wimberley, San Marcos and Austin took the brunt of the damage, with the Blanco River rising to record levels and destroying around 350 homes along its banks. There have been several confirmed deaths around Central Texas, a dozen are still missing, many more injured and there will be a huge financial damage toll.

Wed
27
May

Digging for water in the Doss Valley

One morning last week while heading to work, I met one of those large water well drilling rigs heading for the Doss Valley.

And following right behind was another truck loaded down with drill stem and water.

“Hmmm,” I said to myself. “Who in the Doss Valley could be having water well issues or having another well drilled?”

There’s always this concern among ranchers, as everyone trying to make a living “off the land” knows just how critical it can be when the well goes dry.

In our neighborhood northwest of Doss, water is a precious resource and a very deep subject … literally.

For example, the main well on our ranch is 695 feet deep, while others in the neighborhood are well over 900 feet straight down.

And while it might take today’s drillers with their pneumatic rigs two or three days to drill a 700-foot well, it took a couple of months to drill that hole in the ground nearly 100 years ago.

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