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Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke Clayton
April 16, 2024


Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke ClaytonThere was a time back when I was in my twenties and thirties that I thought I would be hanging…
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April 13, 2024

Close-to-home fun

Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
As an outdoors writer for the past 39 years, I’ve become accustomed to “gallavanting” around the country fishing, hunting and collecting material for my articles. Lately though, I’ve been sticking pretty close to home. Kenneth Shephard with a good “eater…


MASH, Maude, and Kung Fu all turn 50

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Danny Tyree ColumnTyrades By Danny Tyree

I didn’t watch all of them from the very beginning, but several significant TV shows debuted in the fall of 1972.

“The Bob Newhart Show” starred Bob Newhart (who turned 93 on September 5) as psychologist Bob Hartley. Bob’s trademark stammer didn’t seem all that noticeable to me. I was just starting junior high school and being at a loss for words was par for the course around the ninth-grade girls. I imagined lying face-down on Bob’s couch to hide the zits. If Bob had added a P.E. climbing rope in his office, I’ll bet all his patients would have plunged out the window.

“M*A*S*H,” of course, followed the doctors and support staff of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. The comedy-drama could genuinely surprise us (as with Corporal Radar O’Reilly announcing the death of Col. Henry Blake). If “M*A*S*H” had been created in the 2020s, we would instead steel ourselves for the predictable, with a dazed Radar muttering, “My teddy bear just announced that he’s a lesbian.”

The “M*A*S*H” producers scrupulously turned off the laugh track during surgery scenes. Our hypothetical “M*A*S*H” of 2022? They would doubtless instead have guest-star Joe Biden pop in to remind the audience, “Not a joke.”

“M*A*S*H” ranked #46 in the Nielsen ratings for its inaugural season and was nearly canceled. When it bowed out 11 years later, the finale became the most watched U.S. television broadcast in history at that time, with 106 million viewers. TV programmers still haven’t learned patience. Most shows come on and off faster than one of Klinger’s gowns.

“Maude” gave us both Bea Arthur (as “that uncompromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizin’ right on Maude”) and Rue McClanahan (as her confidante Vivian Harmon) more than a decade before their “Golden Girls” misadventures. During the fourth season, I ran home from my afterschool job every Monday night to catch “Maude” (and its lead-in, “All in the Family,” featuring Maude’s cousin, Edith Bunker).

“Maude” was a ratings powerhouse for most of its network run, but I read in Norman Lear’s autobiography that local station program directors balked at the syndicated reruns, using a crude term for a domineering woman. I can just imagine Maude sternly announcing, “God will get you for that, local station program directors.”

“The Waltons” became a nostalgic Thursday night destination for entire families, but that was then. Nowadays, the familiar “Good night, John-Boy” would be replaced with “Be sure to turn off your back-lit electronic devices half an hour before bedtime, John-Boy.”

ABC’s wildly popular “Kung Fu” starred David Carradine as Shaolin priest and martial arts expert Kwai Chang Caine. The show could truly have used a “Grasshopper, don’t try this at home” disclaimer. No telling how many pulled muscles, bruised jaws and broken vases came out of kids imitating the action.

“The Streets of San Francisco” (pairing Hollywood veteran Karl Malden with a young Michael Douglas) was a worthy addition to the Quinn Martin Productions stable. Mercifully, it came and went before the current trend of police procedural “franchises,” or we would have “The Streets of San Francisco: Dirt Roads of Podunk.”

The TV networks are breathlessly hyping their new shows, but will anyone remember them this fondly in 2072?

Maybe, just maybe. And maybe by then I will finally be rid of this wedgie. *Sigh* Good old school days.

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It was the hubris that killed her

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Sara Lee, a woman you are likely to have never heard of, died at age 30 October 6, 2022. She was a wrestler who won the sixth season of the reality show “WWE Tough Enough.” 

There has been no known cause of death issued at the time I am writing. Her last Instagram noted that she had been suffering from a bad sinus infection but was feeling better and able to go back to the gym.

The internet, I’m sure to your great surprise, is filled with limitless experts knowledgeable in all specialties of medicine and crystal ball gazing, that jumped into the comments sections of every story featuring Lee’s death to express with certainty her “true” cause of death. It was, they insisted, the Covid Vaccine.

“People don’t normally die that young, and we are only seeing these deaths since millions got the vaccine,” they with complete unlimited hubris insisted. Unaware, apparently, that they do.

A lot of people die each year between the ages of 24-35. According to the statistics group statista, in theUnited States, 177 men per one hundred thousand population and 78.9 women die each year of various causes. These numbers are from 1999 which eliminates Covid or Covid vaccines as a factor. As of January 2022, the population of the U.S. is 332 million. Despite the internet expert’s confidence in their remote diagnosis of Lee’s cause of death and insistence that death among young adults isn’t a thing, a lot of young people die every year in the U.S.

In fact, most of us probably have known someone who died much too soon. I knew a guy who died from a heart attack at age 41. His father had died from a heart attack at age 41. Not to mention people I’ve known who died at a young age from accidents, violence, and drug abuse.

I think these internet prognosticators are driven to insist without facts that Lee died because of the Covid vaccine for a couple of reasons. 

First, blaming Covid and the Covid vaccines cements their membership in a particular political movement. To be a part of the club, you must believe that Biden didn’t win the 2020 election, he is not really in the Whitehouse, having died in 2019, but has been replaced by the actor James Woods and when you see him at the Whitehouse, it’s on a greenscreen soundstage in California. That Trump is still the President, yet the U.S. is being run by a deep state cabal of Jewish billionaires. That Donald Trump is the Messiah, the Son of Man who is sent by God to kick off the Apocalypse and reign for 1,000 years of peace and prosperity. Oh, yeah, and that the Covid vaccine Trump has taken credit for developing, was in fact developed to kill off all of humanity.

Secondly, people just don’t like complexity or uncertainty. They can’t accept that awful things happen to people randomly, that they have no personal control over anything, and life is dangerous. So, if a 30-year-old apparently healthy woman dies, they have to have something concrete to blame. “Well, young people don’t usually die, so it MUST be the Covid vaccine that killed her.” (See my first reason above.)

If we are to survive as a country, heck, as a species, we have got to put away these years of magical thinking, put to death the Invisible Pink Unicorn we seem to believe is running the Universe, and accept the world (and truth) as it is. From my observations over the last decade, I don’t hold much hope in that. Hubris aside.

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Committee focused on economic development

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Trent AshbyOn the misty morning of October 2nd, 1835, fighting broke out at Gonzales between Mexican soldiers and Texas militiamen, signifying the start of the War for Texas Independence. 

When the Mexican commander received word that Texas settlers refused to surrender a small cannon, he dispatched 100 soldiers to retrieve it. There were around 140 Texan rebels ready for action in Gonzales, and they flew a makeshift flag reading “Come And Take it.” And thus, the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired.

The famous flag from that Gonzales clash has become a hallmark of Texas pride, with the “Come And Take It” message enduring today, nearly 200 years later, as a testament to the strength and bravery of the Texas spirit. 

With that bit of Texas history, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges:

House Interim Charge: International Relations & Economic Development

The committee of focus this week is the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development. With nine sitting members, this Committee is responsible for matters involving trade relations between other states, nations, and the federal government. Additionally, the Committee has jurisdiction over economic and industrial development, efforts to support small businesses, and job creation programs. The Committee also has purview over several state agencies, including the Office of State-Federal Relations, the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, and the Texas Workforce Commission.

Like most House committees, this Committee will conduct active oversight of relevant legislation passed by the 87th Legislature and ensure the policies are being implemented as intended. To touch on a few, HB 3767 established the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative as a permanent collaborative effort between the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative aims to build a strong Texas workforce and ensure that Texans are prepared for jobs in the industries that power the state’s economy both today and into the future. Additionally, the Committee has been tasked to monitor several bills related to supporting child-care workers who play a vital role for families with working parents but often lack adequate compensation and opportunities for career growth.

Following the pandemic, the Committee has been tasked with several charges associated with the state’s economic recovery. These charges include examining the economic impact of inflation, monitoring current economic development incentive programs and opportunities to enhance job creation, evaluating labor shortages and unemployment numbers, and identifying initiatives to expand opportunities to help meet labor demands. The Committee will also examine the state’s ongoing efforts to attract businesses in the technology and innovation sector, such as semiconductors. The production and manufacturing of semiconductors has become an essential component of our state and national economy over the last decade. Attracting capital investments allows semiconductors to elevate Texas as a hub for semiconductor manufacturing activity to rival chip production in foreign countries like China. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

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One Toke Over the Line

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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If you’re as ancient as I am you may remember “One Toke Over the Line,” a popular song released in 1970 by Michael Brewer and Tome Shipley.

“One toke over the line, sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line."

Now, toke was hippie code for marijuana, so of course everyone assumed that’s what the song was talking about. But Brewer and Shipley wouldn’t say that was what they were writing about. In fact, Shipley said that “if you listen to the lyrics of that song, ‘one toke’ was just a metaphor. It’s a song about excess. Too much of anything will kill you.”

I’ve been watching a lot of coverage of the destruction Hurricane Ian caused in Florida. Its almost Cat. 5 windspeeds and subsequent surge of ocean pushed along by those winds resulted in a level of damage I’ve never seen from a hurricane, and I’ve seen a lot of them in my 72 years. The incredible destructive power of these monster storms has increased significantly over the years.

I grew up in Nederland, Tx. We were close enough to the coast that every time a hurricane threatened our area, we were warned to evacuate. The first hurricane I was old enough to remember was Audrey. I was seven years old at the time, in 1957. The storm ultimately unleashed its fury on the Southern Louisiana coast, becoming one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in history, killing at least 416 people. My dad took the family to Cameron to look at the damage after the storm. The beach that had been covered with hundreds of beach cabins before Audrey, was wiped clean. There was no evidence anything had been there. Audrey was a Category 3 hurricane.

We were warned in Nederland to evacuate, and we went where we always did when a hurricane threated the gulf coast, Woodville. My grandparents lived in Woodville, and hurricanes never made it that far north. Until 2005 and Hurricane Rita. Tyler County suffered extensive dame from the storm.

Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and a few years later Ike changed everything. Something was clearly different. Subsequent storms over the last 17 years have become more frequent and deadlier. This is the result of climate change, which is now affecting all of us, all over the world. We’ve stepped one toke over the line, off the precipice. And there doesn’t appear to be any way back.

There are two common reactions from those who find the idea of climate change uninviting. The first is to acknowledge that climate has changed, but humans had nothing to do with it. The second is to deny climate change exists. The first is open to debate, the second is being stubbornly obtuse. In fact, the climate doesn’t care what you or I believe. We see evidence that climate has changed significantly every day. And the future consequences of not planning for a very different tomorrow are catastrophic.

Average temperatures will get higher and higher, more and more coastal areas will be flooded, areas where significant populations live. Choosing to build large cities in the desert have already resulted in huge decreases in water supply to big swaths of the country, with consequences to both people and agriculture. Because it seems likely we are too late to slow down these changes, we must begin planning on how to move millions of people when where they currently live become uninhabitable.

I wish I was optimistic that we will we take those actions before disaster forces our hand, but efforts to deal with climate change over the last 40 years have been met with resistance from business and government and many individuals who want to live on the coast or in the desert, with all three working hard to slow down those trying to make a difference.

It should be obvious that our excesses are going to kill us, just like the song writers warned. Maybe we should put that toke down and make some plans for the future.

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Committee looks at public education

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Trent AshbyCAPITOL UPDATE by Rep. Trent Ashby

With the start of the Fall season right around the corner, we welcome the return of cooler weather and a few of my favorite traditions. 

Whether attending a local county fair, cheering on the hometown football team under the Friday night lights, or making your way back out to the field for an afternoon dove hunt, I hope you and your family will take advantage of this special season and give thanks to God for the opportunity to live in a state where we cherish the blessings that make the fall season in Texas so special. 

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges. 

House Interim Charge: 

Public Education

Our next interim committee to examine is the House Committee on Public Education. This 13-member committee has jurisdiction over the programming, financing, and overall supervision of our public schools in Texas. Additionally, this committee has purview over several agencies, including the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency. With an extensive list of interim charges, the House Committee on Public Education has been hard at work examining the relevant legislation passed during the most recent legislative session and evaluating the impact these policies will have on teachers and students. 

Throughout the interim, committee members have been charged with identifying ways to improve the role that parents play in their child’s education. One specific area is having the committee examine ways to enhance collaboration between school board members, administrators, and parents.  As a former school board member, I know how valuable parental engagement can be in formulating decisions on what’s best for our students.  I look forward to reviewing the recommendations from the members of this committee on this topic. 

While there are several charges related to the effects of the pandemic, perhaps the most pressing issue the House Committee on Public Education will examine is the current teacher shortage. Speaker Phelan has asked members of the Committee to evaluate the current teacher workforce and study practices to improve the recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators. Given the impact our teachers have on educating our future workforce and leaders, I believe the Legislature should make supporting our educators, who work tirelessly to serve our students, a top priority during the upcoming session. As I often say, “if we don’t get public education right, nothing else matters.” 

Additionally, the committee will examine the learning loss associated with the pandemic and monitor the implementation of state and local plans to address student achievement gaps. Importantly, the Committee will also consider how the policies enacted last session to address learning loss are working. Members will identify best practices that strike a balance to provide additional support to students without overburdening classroom teachers. And, last but certainly not least, members will evaluate student mental health, including the availability and workload of mental health professionals across the state and their role in the public school system. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. 

Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my official Facebook page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

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