We all know that nothing compares to sun-ripened strawberries, home-grown in your own backyard. Well, spring has sprung, so it’s ripe time to begin planning your future crop.

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In recent years, the maternal death rate in the state of Texas has skyrocketed. Now, investigators have determined that the high rate of maternal deaths in the Lone Star State was actually due to inaccurate reporting on death certificates.

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A federal judge in Texas has ruled that workers in the Lone Star State cannot be discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. As the online political journal The Hill reports, Houston-based judge Lee Rosenthal ruled that all workers in Texas are protected from such discrimination.

Lynn Phipps has finally made it back to her hometown of Canyon, Texas—and she brought her partner, Joe DeLeon. Thankfully, they've also brought along their guitars, banjo, harmonicas, and vocal harmonies (though they seem to have forgotten their guitar picks). 

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Oklahoma schools are closed again today for an eighth straight school day, as teachers continue to protest low teacher pay and skimpy funding. CNN reported yesterday that the teacher movement is “gaining momentum.”

One group of teachers walked the 100 miles from Tulsa to the capitol in Oklahoma City, to draw attention to their plight.

Thank you, the world. I can die now.

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Mac Thornberry, the U.S. Congressman who represents most of the Texas Panhandle, came out this week in favor of a new round of airstrikes against Syria. Thornberry serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

As POLITICO reports, Thornberry approved of the idea of sending missiles into Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for poison gas attacks the Syrian leader committed this weekend. Thornberry also encouraged U.S. allies to help with the retaliation.

This weekend, Amarillo residents gathered to rally against child abuse and neglect. As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, last year Child Protective Services completed almost 7,000 cases in the Texas Panhandle.

Four out of five of those cases centered on children who were victims of neglectful supervision. To draw attention to the issue, dozens of child welfare advocates gathered at the Amarillo Activity Youth Center Saturday for the Amarillo Child Abuse Prevention Rally.

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The state of Oklahoma has had a crazy few days.

First, the most powerful Oklahoman in the Federal Government, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, faced mounting outrage over his use of taxpayer dollars to pay for first-class flights and a 24-hour security detail. The secretary also rented a private room from an energy lobbyist in the nation’s capital, for far below market value.

And then there were the state’s teachers, who walked out of schools across Oklahoma in protest of low pay and ten years’ worth of poor funding for education.

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and the task has fallen to me to wrap up this spring’s book club, in which we engaged with three books dedicated to various aspects of World War I. Let’s take a look back at the three books we read this spring, and see what kinds of connections and lessons we might take from them. All three books are of interest, as they manage to view the complications of the Great War from various unexpected distances and angles.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

Joel’s a saver to the point that he will continue to wear shoes until they are not much more than a few strips of worn leather clinging to a sole.  I’m as budget-conscious as the next person, but when the bottoms of Joel’s work shoes are slicker than snot on a doorknob, as a friend of mine used to say, the hospital bills when he falls off a roof he’s shingling outweigh the cost of a new pair of shoes.  Besides, I’m not a fan of seeing his big hairy hammer-toes any more than I have to.

Amarillo Opera

Amarillo Opera will have one final showing this evening of its spring offering, Man of La Mancha. The opera company is thrilled to have Nacogdoches native Ron Raines in the title role. Raines has established himself as a force on Broadway, while also performing with such venerable institutions as San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Santa Fe Opera.

Luke Clayton

Last week, Luke "ran out of time" telling about a recent night air rifle hunt he enjoyed on his buddy Jeff Rice's ranch in east Texas. This week, Luke recaps the hunt and goes into a bit more detail describing just how he and his buddies harvested the porkers after dark.

Two Views of a Son at the Front

Apr 6, 2018
Morton / Wikipedia Commons

I’m Lynne Hewes of Cimarron, KS.  Edith Wharton’s WWI novel, A Son at the Front, is packed full of those messages literature teachers call themes or lessons about life.  When we read the book, we learn about the role of art in society, the tragedies of divorce, the importance of standing up for what we believe in, the differences between young people and adults, and more than a little about the horrors of war—even though Wharton never actually takes us to the “front.”

Kay Ledbetter

A brewing trade war between the United States and China is making Texas cattle ranchers nervous about potential tariffs on their beef exports.

From The Texas Tribune:

Longtime cattle rancher Jason Peeler gets uneasy when he hears about a looming trade war between the United States and China, and he says he's not the only one. 

“We are nervous — we’re really nervous,” Peeler said.

Our Turn At This Earth: Indelible Infamy

Apr 5, 2018
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It “…was the worst blow ever struck at any tribe in the whole plains region, and this blow fell upon friendly Indians.” That is how one survivor, George Bent, begins his description of the massacre that took place on November 29, 1864 in southeastern Colorado. Bent was the son of Owl Woman, whose father was a prominent Cheyenne chief, and William Bent, a famous fur trader of the era. Thanks in part to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which opened to the public in 2007, many more people know about that shameful day in settlement history than in my childhood.

We’ve finally reached that hopeful time of year. It’s the time when winter loosens its icy hold on the High Plains and the first signs of spring burgeon up from the frozen ground, dotting the naked foliage with the budding promise of warmer times to come.

Next week experts from across the High Plains will meet to discuss how to protect one of the region’s most valuable resources – the Ogallala Aquifer.

Garden City is hosting the Ogallala Aquifer Summit on Monday and Tuesday at the Clarion Inn. The summit brings together decision makers including producers, policy makers, conservationists, and tribal leaders from across the High Plains.

Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services

Kansas is no longer considering Dighton as the site for its new sexual predator reintegration facility.

As the Hutchinson News reports, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, was considering putting the facility in the former Diamond View Estates assisted-living home.

What About The Grieving Parents?

Apr 4, 2018
Harris & Ewing, 1919 / Library of Congress

A society at war tends to privilege the widow and the orphan over the grieving parent. Over the course of nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, those on the “homefront” have grown accustomed to seeing video clips of crisp-uniformed service members handing folded flags to tear-stricken spouses or their eldest children.

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Unserved rural areas in Colorado will soon have access to high-speed internet, thanks to the passage of a law Monday that will commit $100 million over five years for rural high-speed internet infrastructure.

As The Denver Business Journal reports, the law signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper Monday, redirects money used to subsidize rural local phone service and uses it for grants to companies proposing to build broadband infrastructure in unincorporated areas and small towns.

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Public schools across the state of Oklahoma shut down yesterday, as teachers protested years of spending cuts and low wages.

As The Washington Post reports, thousands of Educators gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol and waved flags and Banners, while chanting and carrying signs that read: “Don’t make me use my TEACHER voice,” and “STRAIGHT OUTTA SUPPLIES.”

West Texas A&M University will welcome Brandon Stanton tonight, as part of its distinguished lecture series.

Stanton is known as the founder of the "Humans of New York" photoblog, which tells the stories of everyday New Yorkers, and has now expanded into a worldwide phenomenon. Stanton has traveled the globe, telling the stories of everyday citizens.

In a phone interview last week, Stanton said that he isn't interested in the opinions of his subjects, political or otherwise, but rather the core humanity beneath those opinions.

U S Army Center of Military History / Library of Congress

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’m the discussion leader for this month’s Radio Readers Book Club read: A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton. The novel concerns an upper-crust American portrait painter in Paris during World War I, who unexpectedly finds his son drafted and sent to the front.

As you might expect, this is not a happy novel. Yet, it is a quiet and contemplative one. Wharton wrote in a realistic style that has largely been lost in American literature, with an intense focus on observations and manners, and on the smallest mechanisms of thought and gesture. In this way, Wharton is like her friend Henry James, though she avoids the endlessly labyrinthine deep-dives into consciousness that can be found in James’s late novels.

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The City of Amarillo is following through on its threat to sue a local landowner for allowing a homeless encampment to reside on his property. As The Texas Observer reports, Amarillo officials announced last week that they would take Melvin McEwen to court over the homeless tent village.

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Deep inside a West Texas mountain lies a clock.

The mechanical timepiece, which rests inside a peak of the Sierra Diablo mountain range along the Texas-Mexico border, is 50 stories high. It ticks once per year.

The clock has a century hand that advances once every century, and every thousand years a cuckoo emerges from the clock to mark the passing of another millennium.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I don’t like to cook.  I’m so glad there are people in the world that view cooking as an art because I do love to eat.  My husband, given the opportunity, would enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.  Joel loves to peruse cookbooks and magazines, and about every few months, he grandly announces that he’s going to start making one new recipe per week.  Not only that, he says going to eat healthier.  I guess along with the butter and syrup, he’s going to start putting fruit on his pancakes.

Luke Clayton

Just a few days ago, Texas adopted a regulation that allows airguns for hunting big game this coming fall/winter. For the past seven years, Luke has been shooting and hunting hogs/exotics with air rifles.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Opponents of Senate Bill 4 have asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a decision that allowed most of the controversial immigration enforcement law to go into effect. The case could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This from The Texas Tribune

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The Oklahoma Senate passed three bills that will help fund a teacher pay raise in Oklahoma.

As KOSU reports, the legislation increases teacher salaries an average of $6,000, and if signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, it will be the first teacher pay raise in a decade.

Included in the legislation is an increase in taxes on oil and gas production, cigarettes and motor fuel and a bill that limits itemized deductions for Oklahoma taxpayers.