Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fight Between Brothers Leads To Murder/Arrest

In one of the strangest cases of murder in recent years, three Hill County men have been charged with the murder of another by dragging a man behind a truck until he died. What makes this case even more unusual, is the man who has been charged with this murder – is the brother of the dragging victim. The other two suspects in this murder are also brothers. The Hill County Sheriff said that too much drinking and anger lead to a series of bad choices that left one person dead at the hands of his own brother and friends.

Raymond Scott Harrington, Marcus Allen Beckham and Raymond George Harrington Jr. have all been charged with the murder of Christopher Neal Beckham, a 24-year-old resident of Millford, Texas. According to Waco TV reports, all four men were unemployed, hanging out and drinking together on Wednesday night when anger turned into murder. Hill County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyon said that Marcus Allen Beckham has confessed to putting a rope type device around the neck of his brother Christopher and then tying it to the hitch of a pickup truck, before all three men began dragging the victim down country roads for at least five miles.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Treat N Go Saves The Day, Again

In 2007, I discovered a new way to get a medical problem diagnosed and treated in the Waco area. This new method involves visiting a Nurse Practitioner at a Treat N Go Clinic, instead of a medical doctor. Then, this week, I found myself again in need of medical treatment, so I visited the Treat N Go Clinic just off of Valley Mills Dr., behind the McDonald's Restaurant. Unlike the old days when I would visit a doctors office and wait for hours just for a 5 minute visit – at Treat N Go, it's extremely easy to have a sickness diagnosed and treated. On Wednesday, when I visited Treat N Go in Waco – I arrived around 4:30pm and within 30 minutes I was finished and on way to the H.E.B. Pharmacy to get two prescriptions filled.

The first time I visited Treat N Go back in 2007, I do not believe they accepted health insurance. However, on my most recent visit on Wednesday – I saw a sign that listed some insurance companies which they accept. I was in a hurry, so I did not try to use my Blue Cross insurance card during my last visit. Part of the appeal of medical locations like Treat N Go in Waco are their pay your cash and get treatment fast option. The last time I visited Treat N Go, I was suffering from a sinus and upper respiratory infection. The Nurse Practitioner on duty conducted the same tests on me that a doctor would have and he was very friendly and seemed dedicated to making sure that I was back in good health as soon as possible.

The past twelve months, the media has been talking about how President Obama's new health care law will effect medical treatment in the future. I personally do not think the government will be more successful at running the health care industry, then insurance companies. However, I am so glad there are affordable medical clinics like Treat N Go in Waco – where a person in able to pay less than $100 for an office visit and be seen by a medical professional within a matter of minutes. The last thing I want to do, when already sick and feeling bad – is to sit in a doctors waiting room for hours, surrounded by other sick people. Even if you have gone to the same family doctor for years, the next time you call for an appointment and are told that it will be days before they can see you. Why not make a quick stop at Treat N Go, get treated and well on your way to recovery - long before your regular family doctor could even fit you in for an appointment?

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Central Texas Sickness On The Rise

When I came home from work on Friday, I felt fine. However, by midnight I knew I was getting sick with some kind of upper respiratory/sinus infection. Then on Saturday, I started feeling really bad. As it became difficult to breath, I decided to stay inside all weekend and only got out of bed to watch a few minutes of the Superbowl. I should have called in sick at work on Monday, but we were already short handed – so I slowly got myself out of bed and into the shower - then headed on into work. That is where I discovered some type of winter illness is making the rounds in the Waco area. Monday night, I was still coughing so much that it was hard to catch my breath. Also, my ribs and diaphragm are very sore - as if I had been working out all weekend.

When it comes to illness, I am a very fortune man – because the last time I was as sick as this was back in 2007. While I did not go to the doctor for this illness, it does seem to be some type of sinus infection that effects every part of the body. When I arrived at work on Monday, I heard from several people who have experienced this same illness. Some of them were sick last week, while others told me that their spouse or children have suffer from the same thing in February. Even Monday night, when I stopped by a convenience store after work, the clerk said he was feeling sick from the same symptoms. While the symptoms of this current bug traveling around Waco are similar to the flu, I personally think it is bacterial – rather than viral.

I was really looking forward to last weekend and I even considering taking in a Superbowl party or two. However, those plans were canceled shortly after returning from work on Friday. While this new sickness is making the rounds around Waco bringing with it fever and a general terrible feeling, I did start to recover by Monday night. The worst part about upper respiratory and/or sinus infections are the low grade cough they leave behind for weeks and sometimes months after the illness is gone. My hope is that you do not catch this new Waco sickness, but if you do – plan on staying in bed for the better part of 72 hours, until your body builds up enough strength and antibodies to fight it off.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Superbowl More Than A Game, It's A National Party

The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have arrived in Texas and on Sunday, one of them will be world champions in the NFL. With the exception of Packers' and Steelers' fans, the annual Superbowl game is so much more than just the final game of a season. For most people, the annual Superbowl game is more about celebrating at thousands of parties, then it is to cheer for one team over the other. The later part of this week proved to be a cold one here in the Waco area, as the final blast of a cold front that effect most of the country all week – blanketed the area with several inches of snow.

Even with Waco streets filled with snow on Friday, the only thing most people were talking about was what they were going to be doing on Superbowl Sunday. Most people I talked to on Friday were attending a Superbowl Party either at a friends house or at a local business. None of my conversations involved a debate on which team would win the game, but instead people were just eager to get together with friends around a big football game and have a good time. Several people did tell me that the best part of the Superbowl for them, were the funny commercials that appears during the game. During most of the NFL season, when I am glued to my TV set watching the Dallas Cowboys, my wife usually goes shopping in order not to watch the game. However, she is always around during the Superbowl – because she likes the commercials.

While most people in the Waco area could care less which team wins the Superbowl on Sunday – most people will be near a TV set to watch the game anyway. Why? Simple because the annual Superbowl game has turned into an event that is much larger than the game itself. Yes, the NFL will bask in the glory of well over 100 million people watching their biggest game of the year. However - there is so much more to Superbowl Sunday, these days, than a football game. For most people watching the game, it will be the party and the commercials that will keep them tuned in for several hours and not the play on the field by the Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Snowman Building In Central Texas

Today, there will be a new sight to see around Waco and Central Texas as hundreds of snowmen will appear on the lawns of homes and businesses throughout the area. At 10pm last night, snow began falling in Waco and before the sun rises today – forecasters predict that 3 to 5 inches of snow will be on the ground. Mainly snow deprived Waco, finds itself with the “white stuff” only once or twice per year. It appears that our best chance for a meaningful snowfall that will not melt before sunrise will occur today February 4, 2011. It's not just kids that love to build a snow man or two in Waco, but adults seem to let their inter youth slip out every time snow falls in our city.

Even between midnight and 2am, some of my friends on Facebook were still awake and going outside to touch and experience the snow falling. I don't know what it is about snow that brings out the child in most people, but my guess is that something buried deep inside our mind creates a child like feeling each time snow begins falls. After previous large snowfalls in Waco, I have driven down Austin Avenue where dozens of snowmen are usually found. I'm not sure why the folks who live on Austin Avenue are so eager to build a snowman, but they are. With up to 5 inches of snow likely to be on the ground in Waco by 8am. I expect that there will by hundreds of snowmen popping up by noon today

I learned a long time ago, that there is an art to building a good snowman. For a snowman to last more than a few hours in Waco, it must be extremely fat at the bottom and on it's head. The great news for snowman builders today is that the high temperature in Waco is not expected to rise above freezing. That means that many of the snowmen built on Friday, could very well survive the weekend – which is very unusual for Central Texas. If you are an experienced snowman builder or you want to try your hand at constructing your first one. Today is your best opportunity to get the job done and having it remain around for more than a few hours. Have fun!

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Cold Weather Increases House Fire Risks

Every year, on the first real cold day of the winter, the Waco Fire Department answers more calls than usual - because residents are lighting their furnaces for the first time. The past week, the weather has been colder than normal and even though this is not the first winter blast of the year in Waco, there are still far too many house fires devastating families. Sadly, some people blame the victim, instead of realizing that a house fire could happen to anyone at any time. Certainly, many house fires could be avoided with more attention and alertness about the issue, but who is totally focused with laser attention 24 hours per day on everything?

It's one of the most devastating things that can occur in a family's life to watch their home burn to the ground. An old friend in the insurance business once told me that there were no better prospects to sell fire insurance to, then neighbors of those who just lost their home to fire. The citizens of Waco are fortune to have one of the best fire departments in the nation. However, there are thousands of rural Central Texas residents who find themselves with a 15 minute or more response time when a fire breaks out. Some of the most recent fires in the Waco area were located in rural settings where a slow response time and lack of available water - caused a bad fire to become a total loss.

Whether you live in the City of Waco or in the surrounding area, the best way to prevent a fire disaster is to have a plan of action - if your home catches on fire. At the top of the list, there must be a reliable way to get all family members out of the house in the event of a fire. Once everyone is safe, there should be working fire extinguishers available for family members to use - so small fires do not turn into a complete loss. The biggest thing most people can do to prevent a house fire is to be careful when lighting a gas furnace for the first time. Also, small electric space heaters will start fires - if placed too close to combustible materials. A friend of mine ends his emails with a signature saying: “be safe, be aware”. That is also wonderful advice for folks wanting to prevent house fires.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Students & Employees Are Hoping For A Three Day Weekend

It started snowing in the Waco area around 10pm on Thursday night and with that beautiful white stuff falling from the sky, many students and employees began hoping for a snow day on Friday. From my location, not far from N. Valley Mills Drive, it appears that the snow is sticking to the well frozen ground. Rusty Garrett, from Channel 10, had predicted that it would snow Thursday night and he turned out to be 100% correct. Nothing excites a weatherman more than getting a forecast right. It's been a long week of extremely cold weather in Waco and throughout Central Texas. In fact, I told a coworker today – that I had already had my fill of winter for the entire year.

While driving around Waco on Thursday, I saw City of Waco employees working on a broken water pipe. That must be one of the worst jobs in the world when it's 20 degrees outside. I also have a friend who works at a local full service car wash tell me that he has been out of work all week. When I see City of Waco water department personnel working outside in 20 degree weather, while water is spraying into the air – I feel extremely blessed to have a job that does not require me to be subjected to either extreme cold or hot weather.

As the cold weather has continued to blanket the area this week, homeless shelters have become packed with visitors who normally sleep outside, even during the winter months. It's been snowing now for about an hour and as I look out the window into a yard that is normally brown this time of year, there is something soothing about seeing a sea of white instead. I think it's likely that most school districts will cancel classes on Friday. Heck, the other day they canceled school in the Waco area even when there was little to no snow falling. Each employer will decide whether or not to close on Friday based on their own circumstances. However, considering how many Waco area employees have suffered hardships just in getting to work all this week - I hope non essential businesses will consider allowing their employees to have an unexpected three day weekend to help them recover from all this cold weather.

For the rest of us who must work on Friday, let's just remember what the Sarge use to say on “Hillstreet Blues” many years ago - “Let's all be careful out there”.

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Dallas Superbowl Revenue Extends To Central Texas

Mike Copeland wrote an interesting article in the Thursday edition of the Waco Tribune Herald about some local hotels receiving reservations for people who are attending the Superbowl. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is alive with excitement this week as the first ever Superbowl will be played there. Just to make sure the Mayor of Arlington doesn't get mad at me too – the actual Superbowl game will not be played in Dallas, but at the new home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. It's hard for me to believe that with the thousands of hotels and motels in the DFW area that there are not enough rooms to handle 100,000 or so fans from Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

My best guess agrees with Copeland in his article that some people just don't want to book a hotel room in Dallas or Fort Worth, because they probably have family members who live in the Waco area. Whatever the reason, it's a good thing for the local economy anytime hotel rooms are filling up in the Waco area. Back when George W. Bush was the President of the United States and vacationed at his Crawford ranch – dozens of new hotels were built in the Waco area. I remember asking myself, even back then, how in the world the City of Waco would be able to support so many new hotel rooms – once he was not in office anymore. To date, most of those newly constructed hotels are still in business, so I guess there was more demand in this area than I at first thought.

Like most folks around here, I am so disappointed that the Dallas Cowboys will not be playing as the home team in the Superbowl this year. However, that disappointment is tempered by the fact that there will be a Superbowl played in Central Texas for the first time. Late estimates suggest that Superbowl attendance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington could exceed 100,000 people. However, I do not expect Sunday's attendance to surpass the all time record set at the Rose Bowl in 1980 of almost 104,000 people. Right now, on a funny note, I just hope that our local power companies will be able to avoid rolling blackouts when all those Superbowl fans start showing up in Waco to book their hotel rooms this weekend.

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Number One Lady Bears From Baylor Destroy Oklahoma

On Sunday, the Baylor Lady Bears were played a close game by A&M. However, on Wednesday night – Baylor played a blowout game against OU and won by the score of 92-70. A few weeks ago, I suggested that there are really only two great girls basketball teams in the United States. The Baylor Lady Bears and UConn. Mixed in with Baylor and Connecticut are about a dozen good basketball teams, but they are not in the same caliber as Baylor and UConn in 2011. After watching A&M play a close game to Baylor on Sunday, I am now ready to say that there are three great girls basketball teams in 2011. Baylor, UConn and Texas A&M.

Is anyone else already starting to have March Madness fever? I'm not sure if it's the extreme cold weather from the past few days or the remarkable way Baylor is winning it's games this year – but I most certainly am ready for March and the “Final Four”. Going into 2011, I also had high hopes for the Baylor Men – but as of late, they do not seem ready to compete this year in any meaningful way in the playoffs. So, all my hopes and best wishes are flowing in the direction of the Baylor Lady Bears - who might be peaking at just the right time for this years “Final Four” championship. Until I watched Texas A&M almost beat the Lady Bears last weekend, I did not think there would be a serious challenge to Baylor until they met UConn in the championship game this March.

Now, I'm not so sure that Baylor will easily walk into the “Final Four” game against UConn, because there is a good chance that Texas A&M could beat them before they get there. During the first half of Sunday's game between Baylor and Texas A&M, the Lady Bears totally dominated A&M. However, in the second half – a completely different Texas A&M team came out to play and Baylor was fortunate to win that game. Time will tell if Texas A&M has a great team in 2011 or just a good one that was pumped up when playing the number one team in the nation. Right now, I hope for a Baylor Lady Bear victory each and every time they show up to play a game and so far that wish has come true.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rolling Blackouts To Continue On Thursday

Wednesday was a tough day to be a citizen of Waco, because extreme cold weather and a couple of power plant disruptions caused there to be rolling blackouts throughout the day. Reports late Wednesday night say that more rolling blackouts should be expected on Thursday in many parts of Texas. I consider myself lucky, because the only thing that effected my wife and I on Wednesday – were the rolling blackouts. Several friends and coworkers told me that they were were without electricity for most of Tuesday night. One coworker, even told a funny story about putting her makeup on using two candles and a flash light, since her home was in total darkness when she woke up.

To me, the whole idea of rolling power blackouts are events that usually happen during the long hot days of summer. I cannot remember a time in recent years when the electric company was forced to institute this type of policy during the winter months. While I'm not sure exactly what happened to cause Wednesday's rolling power blackouts in Waco, several television stations reported that there was a shortage of electricity in the area, because two different power producing plants had major water-line breaks at the same time. A little good news was reported late Wednesday night that should help the power needs of Texas for the rest of the week. With the electricity demand of Texas continuing to be at an all time high going into Thursday and Friday, the government of Mexico has agreed to sell the state extra electricity until this latest cold spell leaves the area some time this weekend.

Like many other long time Waco residents, I have more jackets in my closet than real warm winter coats. That said, I was fortunate to find an old, heavy winter coat in the back of my closet this morning. Those light jackets I wear during most of the winter - certainly would not have kept me warn this week in Waco. As I was walking to the house tonight and my fingers were very cold, my mind was wondering how in the world people in places like New York City and Chicago survive such cold winters? Most of the time, the weather in Central Texas is just fine with me. However, this week of extreme cold temperatures and the extreme heat that will invade the area this summer are certainly exceptions to our usually great weather.

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Gordon Collier (KWTX Channel 10) Arrives In Iraq

It was great seeing Gordon Collier alive, well and reporting live from Iraq on Tuesday night. Collier flew from Fort Hood, Texas – halfway around the world to bring back stories from soldiers, who's family members call the Killeen, Texas area home. Gordon Collier has been a member of the KWTX Channel 10 news team since the days of the David Koresh/Branch Davidian standoff in Waco. On Tuesday night, Gordon talked about how difficult it was just to get to Iraq for soldiers who have deployed there for years. As he described his travels from Central Texas to Iraq, I kept thinking back to an old work saying that goes: “hurry up and wait”.

After a long trip and countless hours just to get there, Gordon Collier is now in Iraq and judging from his facial expressions on New 10 Tuesday night - he appeared to be in be well rested and in good spirits. Colliers' co-anchor Julie Hays visited with him via a satellite hook-up. As many of you already know, Julie Hays is pregnant and has opened up her new family journey to thousands TV viewers in the Waco area. The next few nights, Gordon Collier will be reporting live on News Channel 10 about his travels around the nation of Iraq. On Wednesday, he plans to fly to Mosul, Iraq and visit with US troops there. If I am not mistaken, it was in the City of Mosul that Saddam Hussein's two sons battled to their deaths against US troops early on in the Iraqi war effort.

It's a real treat for Waco TV news viewers to have one of their own reporters/anchors reporting live nightly from Iraq. For many Central Texas residents, the end of the Iraq War cannot come soon enough. A great deal of American treasure has been lost on the battlefields of Iraq, since the war began. However, on a positive note – it does appear that the new Iraqi government is making great strides in learning how to govern themselves in a free and democratic way. I look forward to watching News Channel 10's Gordon Collier report back from Iraq all this week and at the end of his journey - I pray that God brings him back home safely to Central Texas.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Schools Closed While Businesses Remained Open

Most schools in and around the Waco area were closed on Tuesday, because of bad weather. However, most businesses remained open and that created a problem for hundreds of parents who did not have a back-up plan for child care. A few times per year, this same scenario occurs and the same people who did not have a plan the year before, find themselves at a loss for what to do once again. It's pretty much a certainty that public schools in and around Waco will declare a couple of snow days each year, even if there is no snow on the ground. However, some people refuse to plan ahead and those are the folks who found themselves between a rock and a hard place on Tuesday.

While I believe it's the wrong thing to do, some young parents look at public school as nothing more than a child care facility during most of the year. Then that once or twice a year bad weather event occurs and those parents do not have an alternate location to watch their kids, when the boss says that normal working hours will be observed. I know some Waco businesses allow parents to bring their children to work on occasions like these, but others do not want small children interfering with the normal business day. With few other options available, some parents will be forced to stay home on bad weather school days and either take a vacation day or miss out of 8 hours of pay.

While the weather in Waco was very windy and cold on Tuesday, forecasters are predicting that Wednesday morning it will be even colder than yesterday. In fact, Rusty Garrett from Channel 10 news said that by 6:00 Wednesday morning the temperature in Waco will be 12 degrees or lower. I think it's possible that some schools in this area will, once again, cancel school on Wednesday and that will create even more problems for working parents. A word of advice from a man who has lived in Waco for almost 35 years. Count on there being at least a couple of school days each year being canceled, because of bad weather, and also prepare for the possibility that your employer will not be closed on the same day as school.

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What Happened To Tommy B's Restaurant In Waco?

When I arrived home from work on Monday, my wife told me that she saw a “for lease” sign at 900 N. Valley Mills Drive where Tommy B's Restaurant use to be. I certainly hope that they have moved to a new location and not gone out of business. Every Saturday, I look forward to eating at Tommy B's. It's not uncommon for us to wait for an available table, because so many people are enjoying this fine restaurant. I hope someone will post a comment to this blog post, if they know what happened to Tommy B's Restaurant in Waco.

My wife and I ate at Tommy B's this past Saturday and the place was packed with customers. As I usually do, I ordered Tommy B's great breakfast and it was wonderful. A couple of weeks ago, we ate some “home made chili” that was fantastic. It did seem like the employees were mentally distracted on Saturday and I am hoping that the reason for their behavior was not because the restaurant was closing for good. If Tommy B's Waco has gone out of business, it will be a great loss to this community. It's common to meet old friends and business associates when dining there.

If Tommy B's has moved to another location, I hope someone will post the address in the comments section of this story. I know people would be willing to travel to enjoy Tommy B's great food, if we only knew where it's new location will be. If on the other hand, Tommy B's has gone out of business – I hope someone will post that news, as well. The numbers of locally owned restaurants in Waco continues to diminish each year and I certainly hope that we have not lost another one, because of over saturation by out-of-town franchise operations.

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