In May 2018 I updated this essay to make it more inclusive. I want to submit it somewhere.
The essay below has not been published as an op-ed--too lengthy--but you may get a chuckle out of it. I posted it on February 11, 2018. See pertient pics on my news log page.
On my way to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is located on the Texas panhandle and represents the second largest canyon in the US, something occurred to make me wish I’d never conceived of the trip. I was tooling along on FM 2381, a state highway, when I entered the hamlet of Bushland from the north. There, an overhead school-zone sign greeted me with “35 mph when flashing.” It was 9:30 AM, school was in session, and the sign wasn’t flashing. Imagine my unpleasant surprise when a deputy sheriff stopped me a bit later, on the stretch that, apparently, constitutes Bushland’s downtown. The name of the road was now Simmons Street; less than half a mile later it became Bushland Road, a state highway once again.
In Texas one quickly learns that the state’s freeway system allows speeds of 75 mph; unfortunately, many of these freeways transect towns that not only change the names of the roads but also reduce speeds down to 45 mph or 35 mph, sometimes lower. Needless to say, even at low speeds the racket of truck and semis is tremendous, and residents put up with it day and night. City-council members (or is it county supervisors?) sometimes seek a bit of revenge. Who can blame them? Not I—except that, now I was caught up in the same.
“I clocked you going 37,” said the officer. “This is a twenty-mile school zone.”
“It can’t be,” I said. “The sign said 35 when flashing, and it wasn’t flashing.”
“That’s for the high school. This zone is for another school. The speed limit is shown with a sign. No flashing lights here.”
He lied, I learned later. There is a flashing sign—it was right behind him, greeting travelers going the other way with, “20 mph when flashing.”
Ignorance of the sign to the south earned me a citation for exceeding the speed limit in an “active school zone” by 17 miles. It made me look like an outlaw maniac high-tailing it through a crowd of children.
I went ahead with my visit to the spectacular canyon, but with stomach roiling. How on earth did I get myself into that? The citation would relieve me of three hundred smackaroos, not to mention the blemish on my driving record.
On my return that evening I passed under the “20 mph when flashing” overhead sign and stopped to investigate. Down the road from the overhead sign was a “20 mph” roadside sign, below which was a warning against cellphone use. In between the “20 mph” and the cellphone warning, “7 AM to 4 PM” appeared in very small print.
Got it. On this stretch of the road “active school zone” means from 7 AM to 4 PM. Presumably the “20 mph” sign flashes continuously during those hours. Motorists from the south are warned even if they fail to notice the roadside sign. Not so for motorists from the north.
I drove on to the high-school sign, then turned around and retraced my entry into Simmons Street. Sure enough there was a roadside sign also. I had overlooked it, partly because the earlier overhead sign caused me to let down my guard, partly because road-construction warnings made me look out for the work crew.
I’d have to appear at “Precinct 3” in Amarillo to contest the citation. Chances were, I’d get the citation dismissed on grounds of the conflicting traffic signs. Trouble is, Amarillo lies 500 miles northwest from southeast Texas, where I’m currently on visit with family. We’re talking two long days of driving and two nights in an Amarillo motel. The costs would exceed the fine.
My son and I had traveled to the panhandle together when he was on a three-day assignment with Fish and Wildlife. Rather than take his truck, we decided on my Subaru so I could go sightseeing while he worked. Travel and motel expenses were covered by the assignment.
What to do? I pored over the citation—and made an astounding discovery. The officer had dated it eight days previous. I visited Palo Duro on January 29, 2018, yet the traffic citation read January 21. Could I get the charges dismissed on account of falsified data? Still, I’d have to appear in court, show the receipt from Palo Duro, and document my stay at the motel in Dalhart.
Then, checking against the calendar, I found that January 21, 2018, was a Sunday. What the . . . ? Does this mean what I think it does? Methinks I’m home free.
A week later I called the traffic-court clerk. She had received the original citation (in Amarillo the officers hand-deliver them; no electronic submissions there) and had entered the date of January 21, 2018. I halfway thought the officer would change the date before handing it in. But no.
I mailed a plea of Not Guilty to the precinct. When trial is set—sometime in March, the clerk said—I’ll send a fax asking the judge to dismiss the citation. The allegations are spurious and without merit. The date of the citation is January 21, 2018, which is a Sunday. The officer cited me for exceeding the speed limit in an “active school zone.” There is no such thing as an active school zone on Sundays.
Naturally I speculated why the officer entered a false date. On January 21 he must have gotten into trouble over something or other; if he could show that he issued a citation in Bushland that day, he could claim he was nowhere near the scene of whatever misdeed was linked to him. I imagine he thought he’d pull a fast one on some little woman on visit from Wyoming. My license plate indicated Wyoming as my home state.
I’ll keep you posted.
Another column finished and no takers, it looks like. Jan 19, 2018. Here it is, to the right.
I have submitted this column to the paper but am not holding my breath that it will reach the public. It's not exactly cheerful.
The Platte County paper that's been running my columns is in upheaval--the editor has quit and it looks like it'll be a while before a new editor takes her place. Actually, Amanda Fry replaced Jacob Hamel, who was running my columns whenever I submitted them, but Amanda was there for only eight weeks. I'm told that the publisher in Torrington is currently running the PC paper's day-to-day operations, but he does this in addition to his regular workload. He hasn't responded to my submissions. So, I've returned to writing autobiographical essays. One is the write-up to the right, which I've tentatively entitled "Walk in the Park."
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In retrospect I think the "Hunting" column to the leftcontains too many disparate ideas. I had wanted to send a modified version to the editor; however, my internet was down and the company servicing it required my presence at home.
I had prepared the column to the right for publication on October 11 but my plan failed to materialize. Instead, It appeared on Oct. 18--well, better late than never.
The September 27, 2017, column to the right was composed as I visited in the bay area of California. Unfortunately, my bag & lap top was stolen en route. More on that later.
The Sept. 13 column is a postscript, so to speak, on the Great American Eclipse mentioned in my news log a few weeks ago.
I had arranged with the editor to hold off on the "Snakes" column but I saw it ran today--with a mangled title to boot.
The op-ed on to the right onclimate change focuses on Wyoming only, yet other states feel it also: Alaska with its burning tundras, Texas & Louisiana with Hurricane Harvey.
The story below about the bodger in back of my house is interwoven with recollections of my dad and snippets of his childhood.
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Below is the text of the news column on industrial hemp in Wyoming as it appeared in WYOFile on June 30, 2017. It generated three positive reader comments.
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The column belowwas posted in the WTE and CST last year. Because I was behind on account of family visiting from Texas and California, I modified it for PCRT to appear in early August 2017.
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The essay below is a start, but there's a lot more to be said about the Scully and Bailey families than what's reflected here.
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The op-ed belowon coal as recollected in the memoir of a Rock Springs native first appeared in the WTE and CTS this time last year.
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Here is the link to my article on hemp as it appeared in WYOFile on June 30, 2017, that features a photo, taken by Janet Cunningham, of myself with hemp fest organizer Marie Jaramillo Peterson.