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Posts published in April 2009

San Jacinto Festival in spite of storm

Texian troops storm the Mexican lines during a reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto. The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, near Lynchburg, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texas Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen minutes. Hundreds of Mexican soldiers were killed or captured, while only nine Texians died.

Relay for Life tops $500K despite Friday night storm

BAYTOWN — The Bay Area Relay for Life, a time to celebrate those who fought the good fight against cancer and to remember those who have lost the battle had another opponent this past weekend: the weather.

With dark clouds hovering, the Relay’s opening ceremony began shortly after 6 p.m. with a butterfly release and opening lap by survivors. Survivors, both young and old alike, each wearing a medal around their necks, walked the track to cheers, claps and yells of support. Within hours, however, thunderstorms came through literally “raining on the parade” of the thousands of walkers on the track. More than 150 teams participated this year.

As team members walked the track they cold not miss colored bags lining the track, each with a candle inside and bearing the name in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of a person lost to cancer. More than 4,000 of the luminary were sold this year, topping the $70,000 goal the relay committee had set.

At 9 p.m. the candles were supposed to be lit. Mother Nature had other plans. Organizers decided that the weather was too bad to continue and shut down the event, rather than wait until 8 a.m. the following morning as planned. Event organizers say that this is the first time in the Bay Area Relay For Life’s 12-year history than the luminary ceremony had to be canceled.

The shortened event also hurt teams who planned to continue their fundraising throughout the event, whether it be Cedar Bayou United Methodist Church’s crawfish boil or Grace United Methodist’s raffle for a basket of “tunes” and two handmade crochet throws.

An estimated $570,000 was turned in on the day of the relay, about $200,000 short of the committee’s goal. However, more funds are expected to be turned in over the next week. Allison Selensky, of Grace UMC, said they continued to sell raffle tickets at the church on Sunday in order to raise more funds for the relay.

The Bay Area Relay for Life has been the top fundraising relay in Texas for the past eight years. Organizers say they will just have to wait and see if it will be nine in a row or not. The rain also caused some trouble for volunteers leaving the event site. Those who arrived early to set up their camps on Friday parked in a grassy field. The rain, however, turned the field into a mud pit that forced many cars to become stuck and left over night.

Where’s the dog treat, asks Maggie

A few years back I mentioned my spoiled Old English Sheep Dog, Maggie, in this column. When in Texas we walk together around Sea Palms, Perdido, Challenger and then back on Sea Palms. We made that trip approximately 180 times (that seems a lot) from January 1 to April 4 of this year. We usually go twice daily. One of my sons remarked that is good for both of us.

Maggie is 7, and when she was about a year old our bank began putting doggie treats in the tube one gets when cashing checks, etc., at the drive-through. That has always worked well with her and she crunches away as we drive away. Recently our newspaper deliverer began putting a doggie treat with the newspaper. Maggie now loves getting the newspaper.

That gives us our first problem. Our mailbox and newspaper box hang from the same pole. Since I get a treat from one side why not the other? We go through this now every time I get the mail. Then there are turnpike and bridge tollbooths. To Maggie they look just like the booths at the bank so why no doggie treats?

Then the second problem! At our bank the drive-through lanes are on one side of the building and the parking lot is on the other. She has learned that if I turn into the bank and make a left she is going to get a treat. However, if I turn to the right, park, and go into the bank no treat will be forthcoming. She grouses a bit as we pull out.

This takes me back over ten years ago when we owned a large (145 lb.) Belgium Bouvier named Abbaye. She was big enough that she usually received a couple of treats and looked forward to them. One day the teller said, “We are out of doggie treats today, sorry.” I knew I was in trouble.

When the container came back and no treats came forth she got mad, barked at me, and the teller, and groused the three miles back home. I got most of the blame for that and we were not friends on the way home. She reacted the same as Maggie at tollbooths. I don’t think she ever put the parking lot bit together but then she wasn’t in the car nearly as much as I now haul Maggie around. I got the same reaction out of her at bridge and turnpike tollbooths.

Strange as it might seem, I have offered the same treats to the dogs as home and they sometimes turn them down. Go figure! Don’t talk to me about dumb dogs.

Newport Paving

I mentioned a column or so back that some streets in Newport are receiving new pavement. Those that were underway then seem to be finished and I don’t believe any others are underway. Could be wrong as I haven’t been on every street in Newport.

New pavement always feels good to drive over and that is true on South Diamondhead. Nice and smooth!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

The lifeblood of our all-volunteer army


The United States Army is the finest in the world. Throughout our country’s history, these brave men and women have demonstrated unparalleled patriotism, valor, and resolve. I join my fellow Texans in saluting the often unsung efforts of the American Soldier.

The Army’s achievements would not be possible without the efforts of its Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Corps. These Soldiers — ranging in rank from Corporal to Command Sergeant Major and responsible for the “nuts and bolts” of daily training and operations in the Army at home and overseas — are truly the backbone of the Army. Oftentimes, commissioned officers are the public face of the Army, but NCOs work behind the scenes to get things done. Whether it’s the drill sergeant training new Soldiers, the squad leader caring for young Soldiers and their families, or the platoon sergeant leading a patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, NCOs are out front, making things happen Army-wide every day.

The U.S. Army is celebrating 2009 as the “Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer.” Since 1775, the NCO Corps has distinguished itself as the world’s most accomplished group of military professionals. Historical and current accounts of NCO actions are exemplified by acts of courage coupled with a dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes to complete the mission. NCOs have been celebrated for decorated service throughout our nation’s military history – ranging from Valley Forge to Gettysburg, to charges on Omaha Beach and battles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to the current operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and streets of Iraq. The recent actions of Texas’ own Staff Sergeant Matthew Kinney, from Nacogdoches, represent the tremendous level of leadership, dedication and courage epitomized by the Army’s NCOs.

Staff Sergeant Kinney had already served twice in Iraq when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. Kinney, a flight medic, responded to an urgent MEDEVAC request for four casualties in the rugged Korengal Valley of Afghanistan on October 16th. Once on the ground, Staff Sergeant Kinney discovered six American casualties in a small mud hut, as well as several other Soldiers taking cover from fire.

Demonstrating strong and decisive leadership in a very difficult situation, Kinney ordered all nonwounded Soldiers to secure the outside area as he triaged the casualties and stabilized the critically wounded. As hoist operations began, the aircraft and the shelter came under heavy machine gun fire. While completing a hoist, Kinney was able to locate the direction of the fire and redirect Apache gunships to take out the enemy threat, ultimately saving the crew in their MEDEVAC aircraft as well as the Soldiers still on the ground. As Kinney continued the evacuation, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he diligently cared for his fellow Soldiers, without regard for his own physical well-being. Then, while en route to the Forward Surgical Team’s location, Kinney single-handedly treated the wounds of five critical patients.

His heroic actions that day earned him a Silver Star, our nation’s third highest military award for valor. He has also been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for a separate engagement in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Kinney epitomizes the critical role played by our Army’s NCOs, and he and other NCOs like him provide the gold standard for others to follow. Today’s NCOs are more innovative and capable than ever; they lead by example, all while taking care of their fellow Soldiers, adapting to ever-changing environments, and taking on growing responsibilities. This year of recognition for our Army NCOs serves as an opportunity for Texans and all Americans to become better acquainted with the significant functions that NCOs carry out within our Army. They are truly a national treasure, deserving of our utmost gratitude and respect.

Please join me in celebrating the accomplishments of Staff Sergeant Kinney and these fine American patriots. I applaud the efforts of the Army’s NCOs as they train and fight every day to preserve our way of life and care for the American Soldier. I also offer my sincere thanks to our Army NCO veterans who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom and who continue to represent the best of both Texas and the United States. I am humbled by your dedicated service. Well done!

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

Spring showers turn savage

Flash floods last Saturday turned familiar roads into strange streams. Rapidly climbing water in Newport and Indian Shores caused the fire volunteers to erect barricades to warn of high water. Rain reached 6 inches in Crosby by the afternoon. Hare Road became so impassable the library closed early. Above a wrecker truck takes the higher inclines of South Diamondhead to rescue one motorist’s vehicle, while others scurried past undaunted.

BBB’s Dan Parsons entertaining speaker at Highlands Rotary

HIGHLANDS – Do you want good news, or bad? Dan Parsons, President of Houston’s Better Business Bureau, brought both in his lively talk at the Rotary lunch last week.

The good news is that the Houston Better Business Bureau is an advocate for the consumer, and for businesses. This means they walk a “delicate balancing act” between the two parties, helping facilitate disputes and business decisions.

Last year, the BBBHouston received over 30,000 complaints, and resolved most of them. The BBB has over 9000 members, so this is not a disproportionate amount of problems. In addition, nationally the organization receives over 1,500,000 monthly inquiries for information about businesses, Parsons said.

He said the bureau works on the goals of being relevant and helpful in today’s business climate, which he noted has begun to improve. A new rating system for member companies is being studied, giving A to F grades to businesses based on an algorithm of facts, such as size, age, type of business, and complaints.

The bad news is that the bureau gets many reports of fraud and irregular business practices, which they try to resolve. After Hurricane Ike, many “storm chaser” contractors showed up, cheating local residents. Another problem he warned about, is that many white collar financial criminals have now served their 10 year federal sentences, and should be back in the work force soon, probably scheming even more than before because of what they learned in prison.

In closing, he warned that everyone falls for a fraud scheme at some point, so be cautious and skeptical, and call the BBB if you need help or information.

Government money…

The eagle screams this week. In case you do not know what that is, it is payday for government service. That is what it was called aboard ship in the Coast Guard and they paid us in cash. Generally the supply officer and a gunner’s mate, both armed with .45’s, made the trip to the bank to pick up the ship’s payroll.

Those once a month paydays are back now that yours truly is drawing social security. While working in the banking industry for years, we were paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. Never received an actual paycheck, everything was direct deposit, still is. During my last year, the bank changed our paydays to every other Thursday and that was a nice treat. Sometimes before on those long weekends before payday, you would have to wait for payday to do something and to buy groceries.

One thing about the social security, and you have probably heard about it before,I’ll tell you flat out if you expect to live just on social security alone when you retire, you best move on into the poor house. You might think you are there now but you are in for a big surprise. Ma said if you think we are poor this week, wait until next week.

What I draw from the government is just enough to pay required insurance on the old truck and old car, the old house plus all the various and assorted taxes one must pay to live in the great state of Texas. Not to mention the light bill, water bill, phone bill, cable bill, Dr bill, drug bill, and incidental bill, and still out of your check is the income tax Uncle Sam charges you to pay you. Ain’t nothing wrong with cornbread and peas but some good fried streak-o-lean is good every now and then.

Enough of the poor mouth but fortunately for me, I married a woman younger than me and she is still working. She has a ways to go before she retires and continues to work to this day. As my old buddy would say, you cut a fat hog on that one.

Uh-O, that almost got me in trouble, I had to explain what that saying meant.

Timothy Jay Burger

Timothy Jay Burger affectionately known as “Jay” to all his family and friends passed away on Monday April 20, after a 20 month battle with cancer, at the age of 51 in Crosby, Texas.

He was a prominent businessman owning Jay Burger Signs & Service and Precision Lighting and Maintenance for 26 years.

He had been very active within the community being past President of the Highlands Rotary Club, member of the Channelview Lions Club and member of the North Shore & Highlands Chamber of Commerce. His passion was being on the water and any kind of car, boat or motorcycle that would go fast. One of the last dreams he fulfilled before becoming ill, was to own a houseboat on the Tennessee River.

He was very active with his son Andy and friends traveling around Texas to watch and compete in motocross events and always looked forward to going to the Loretta Lynn (Hurricane Mills) amateur nationals in the summer time, camping out via the motor home and roughing it for a week. He loved floating down the Guadalupe River or just being with family and friends. He loved playing Black jack and drinking White Russians in Vegas. One of his favorite sayings was “Ain’t nothing but a thang.”

He was born in Nashville, Tn., and grew up in Chattanooga, Tn., graduating from East Ridge High School; he has remained close friends with a lot of the kids that he went to kindergarten with.

He is survived by his loving son Andy and his ex-wife Sharon, whom he lived with until his death. He is also survived by his special brother Chuck Burger and wife Pat and their son Chas of Cleveland, Tn. He is also survived by his mother, two brothers, and a sister whom he has been estranged from for over 20 years by no fault of his own. He is also survived by his special sister-in-law Pamela Hilton whom he loved dearly, and her husband Stan Frederick, along with his special little buddy, his nephew Jacob Frederick. He also leaves behind his 3 little dachshunds Woody, Nugget, and Daisy.

Jay was very fortunate to have so many special friends Joe Boutte, Fred Zabac, and his family along with their children Fred Michael, Alexis, and Emily that made an endless supply of his favorite “Cupcakes”. Tom Edison was his favorite camping buddy.

Arrangements are through Sterling-White Funeral Home 11011 Crosby-Lynchburg Rd. Highlands, TX 77562. Visitation will be held Thursday evening from 7pm-9pm at Sterling-White Funeral Home. Funeral Services will be Friday at 2pm in the chapel at Sterling-White Funeral Home. For more information or to send condolences online visit

Dad — You are gone in body but you will always be with me in spirit… throughout the rest of my life… Thank you for teaching me to be the man that I have become. I will always love you.

RIP Andy