Doug’s column

No matter where you are – at work, in a restaurant, in a store or even at home – you’ll here old sayings and adages used with relative frequency.

The fact that they’re a common part of life is without question, but where they originate is seldom known. Here’s a look at some of them and where they might have come from.

  • Lowball

When negotiating a price on a home, car or other item, a buyer might offer an amount considered to be this by the seller in an attempt to get a really good deal.

The saying probably stems from a version of draw poker in which the player having the lowest-ranking hand wins the pot. Basically, the winner of a hand “lowballed” everyone.

  • The worm has turned

    Doug Davison

       Doug Davison

Pretty well known to mean a reversal of fortune (whether from good to bad or bad to good), the expression was first used to convey the notion that even the meekest of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far.

The phrase was first appeared in a renowned writer’s work in the mid-1500s, and was famously used by William Shakespeare in one of his plays.

  • Tickled pink

This phrase not surprisingly refers to the fact that when some people are highly excited, their skin literally changes color – just like when they blush. It more or less amounts to becoming so pleased that the blood vessels dilate, more blood flows close to the skin and the person appears redder than usual.

  • Off the schneid

When you hear this phrase, you probably understand the user is referring to the ending of a losing or bad luck streak or the replacement of a series of negatives occurrences with something positive.

“Schneid” is actually short for “schneider,” a term originally used in the card game, gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring points. “Schneider” came from German, where it means, “tailor.” The original gin-related meaning was that if you were “schneidered,” you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.

Schneider first appeared card-playing jargon in the late 1800s.

  • Wazzoo

When someone thinks they have too much of something, they might say they have it “out the wazzoo.”

If someone doesn’t like something, they might say it’s a “pain in the wazzoo.”

There’s “up the” versions and other versions, too.

Somewhat expectedly, the term began a long time ago as slang for the part of the body you sit on (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

  • Posh

Easily recognizable as meaning elegant, fancy or upscale, the term goes back to the day when wealthy passengers on ships traveling between England and India would have “POSH” written by their bookings, standing for “port out, starboard home.” That way they were housed in the more desirable cabins on the shady side of the ship, both on the way east and on the return trip west.

  • Snazzy

Speaking of posh, if something is that it might also be this.

The first documented use of the word was in 1901 in a New Zealand magazine in an article about George H. Snazelle, a famous English singer, entertainer and actor. He, of course, was referred to as “Snazzy,” and the rest (as they say, whoever “they” are) is history.

  • Hunky dory

Certainly we all know this phrase means OK, nice, satisfactory and the like.

While its existence isn’t even close to clandestine or complicated, its origins are. But it could well be that it’s a combination of slang from multiple cultures.

The “hunky” part might be from a mid-1800s term, “hunkey” (meaning satisfactory), which probably came from a New York City street game slang word, “hunk” (meaning “in a safe position”).

The “dory” part might have begun with “Honcho Dori,” a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors would go to enjoy themselves.

  • Cop

This term that obviously refers to a law enforcement officer is actually an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

  • Bobby

A constable on patrol in England might be referred to in this manner.

That began with Robert (Bobby) Peel, a British politician who was prime minister in in the 1830s and 1840s.

  • Son of a gun

We’ve all heard someone blurt out this phrase when they’re surprised, or maybe annoyed.

It might have begun centuries ago when the British Navy allowed women on ships, even though there were supposedly rules against the practice. If a boy was born on board to uncertain paternity, he was listed in the ship’s log simply as “son of a gun” (i.e., military man).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at Email:

At one time or another, most Americans have heard of archaic laws that are on the books in given states (sometimes after dozens of decades) despite not making any sense.

Here is a list of such laws that are actually official (although perhaps not strictly enforced) along with their unofficial counterparts (added by your local fish wrap correspondent). As usual, there’s no particular order involved.

  • Nebraska

Official: Fishing for whales is illegal.

Unofficial: Harpooning politicians is illegal.

  • Kansas

Official: Shooting a rabbit from a motorboat is illegal.

Unofficial: Shooting a motorboat while hunting rabbits is illegal.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

  • Georgia

Official: Keeping and ice cream cone in your back pocket on a Sunday is illegal.

Unofficial: With a permit, keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket is legal Monday through Saturday.

  • Hawaii

Official: Serving customers a milkshake with non-dairy milk without warning them is illegal.

Unofficial: Warning customers you’re going to serve them a milkshake with non-dairy milk in it, then telling them they’re actually going to get a milkshake with real milk in it, and then serving them a root beer float is illegal – unless it’s made with non-dairy ice cream.

  • Oklahoma

Official: Wrestling with bears is not allowed.

Unofficial: Trying to stop a wrestling match between a person and a bear is also illegal. •Connecticut

Official: A pickle isn’t a pickle unless it bounces.

Unofficial: A basketball isn’t a basketball unless it’s pickled.

  • West Virginia

Official: Taking road kill home for dinner is illegal.

Unofficial: Taking road kill to your neighbor’s house for dinner is OK.

  • Nevada

Official: A man cannot buy drinks for more than three people at one time.

Unofficial: A woman cannot accept drinks from more than five men at a time.

  • South Dakota­­

Official: Sleeping in cheese factories is not allowed.

Unofficial: Sleeping with gouda in your ears or havarti between you toes is illegal.

  • Iowa

Official: One-armed piano players cannot charge for performances.

Unofficial: Pea-brained lawmakers can give themselves raises.

  • Montana

Official: Leaving a sheep in the cab of a pickup without a chaperone is against the law.

Unofficial: Taking a sheep to a dance without a chaperone is illegal.

  • Delaware

Official: Selling dog hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from New York.

  • New York

Official: Selling cat hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from Delaware.

  • North Dakota

Official: Selling beer and pretzels at the same time is not allowed.

Unofficial: It’s illegal not to eat pretzels while drinking beer.

  • New Mexico

Official: Idiots and insane people are not permitted to vote.

Unofficial: Idiots and insane people can legally run for office.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at Email:

What can you say about this presidential election year, other than it’s the craziest one ever?

I’d say it’s more of a “show” than any previous version, with characters who might belong more in a big top than the oval office.

So in keeping with the tone of the whole fiasco, I thought I’d have a little fun by comparing some of the presidential candidates (active and withdrawn) to “who they look like,” similar to the way it’s done with coaches and players on the popular ESPN Radio program, “The Dan Le Batard Show.” Candidates aren’t arranged in any order, not all are mentioned (and that’s not because of some sort of conspiracy) and there’s no intention of riling anyone up (although that could well happen anyway).

  • Bernie Sanders looks like high school math teacher who plays “Doc” in a drama department production of Back to the Future II.”

    Doug Davison

         Doug Davison

Or a scientist on a public TV show about space who shakes his finger at the camera and exclaims, “it’s poppycock that some of my colleagues took away Pluto’s status as a planet – and I’m going to show you why!”

  • Marco Rubio looks like a guy working in an department store electronics department wearing a blue shirt with a name tag on it who walks up to you holding an odd looking contraption and asks, “have you seen what this can do?” before introducing himself or saying anything else.

Or a man behind the window of a carnival pretzel trailer wearing a striped shirt and hat who asks if you want an extra pack of mustard.

  • Chris Christie looks like a guy who sells meat out of a cooler in the back of a small pickup who continues with his pitch on your driveway after you tell him you’re not interested because you don’t have a stand-alone freezer in the garage and there isn’t room in the freezer section of the fridge in your kitchen.

Or the guy who works at an outdoor products store who claps his hands and says, “so, I can definitely see you taking this home today!” as you sit in a five-figure UTV parked near the back of a dark showroom.

  • Carly Fiorina looks like a woman who does a bad “tribute to Celine Dion” show at a regional or state fair.

Or a flight attendant who says, “we only have Coke products” (drawing out the “only” and putting heavy emphasis on the “s” in products) when you ask for a Pepsi.

  • Ted Cruz looks like the guy who plays the hermit-like, slow-talking villain in a B-movie about teenagers exploring an abandoned mine town.

Or the guy who greets you at the entrance to a clown museum and says, “anyone who doesn’t like clowns doesn’t like America.”

  • Ben Carson looks like the guy inside an airport garage payment booth who says, “fye dollaz,” in a low monotone voice without making eye contact with you.

Or a guy driving a tram in the parking lot of a major theme park who keeps saying, “we’re glad you’re here, where every day is a beautiful day.”

  • Hillary Clinton looks like the woman behind the checkout counter at a liquor superstore who asks if you found “everything you needed.”

Or the woman sitting next to you on the subway who wants to know all about every dog you’ve owned in your life.

  • John Kasich looks like a college basketball coach who loosens his tie half way through the first quarter and yells “so it’s going to be like this again?” at the nearest referee.

Or a financial adviser who smiles and assures you “the same thing won’t happen this time.”

  • Donald Trump looks like a guy who would reminisce about his trip to Namibia while selling crystal jewelry on a TV shopping network.

Or a traveling representative of a hair products company who keeps saying, “just look what it’s done for me.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at Email:

Almost every day, I hear people use old sayings and slang words in routine conversation, rather than simply saying what they mean.

But I’m glad we use language that way, because life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if we all simply said what we meant every time we open our mouths. For no particular reason, here’s a look at the possible origins of a handful more of the thousands upon thousands of old sayings, idioms and slang that constantly show up in the English language.

•Doozy (or doozie).

I’m pretty sure there’s nobody I know who doesn’t understand that if something is a “doozy,” it’s a heck of an example of whatever it is.

While there doesn’t appear to be a definitive origin for the word, there are at least three main theories.

The oldest possibility is it’s an adaptation of “daisy,” which was used in 18th century England as a synonym for something or someone of high caliber.

For example, if someone was trying to sell a mare and was trying to convince someone else of what a fine animal it was, they might have said, “that horse is a real daisy! She’s well worth the price!”

Another possibility is that it came from the nickname for the Duesenberg, a luxury automobile introduced in the U.S. in the 1920s by Duesenberg Motors Co., a firm that was sometimes referred to as “Duesy” (just like many people in these parts don’t own Chevrolet pickups, but Chevys).

A third possibility is that it comes from the nickname given to Italian actress Eleanor Duse, who made headlines in the 1890s in the world of New York theater.

All three are cool possibilities. I like the automotive choice.


A cute way to say, “see you later,” or “goodbye,” right?

Yep, and it’s origin is British.

The “toodle” (or tootle) part is a variation of the word “toddle,” and both basically mean to “walk in a leisurely manner.” So I guess if you say, “toodle-oo,” you’re going to walk AWAY in a leisurely manner.

Incidentally, if you’re in need of walking away leisurely, but quickly, you can just say, “toodles.” At least, I’ve heard that many times and I figure it’s a time saver – albeit small.

Incidentally, you really don’t have to walk anywhere to use either variation – time has allowed them to simply become ways to say “goodbye.” I’ve heard my own wife say “toodles” when hanging up the telephone.

•Nose to the grindstone.

Certainly, we all know that anyone whose nose is in this situation is hard at work, focused and determined.

But maybe the phrase was originally more about working smart than hard. That’s because it’s an old-time European expression designed to remind a miller that he must maintain a flow of grain between the mill stones, which were traditionally set one above the other. Without any grain between them, the stones would touch and create sparks that could cause an explosion that would kill the miller.

Basically, keeping your nose to the grindstone meant to pay close attention – and maybe live another day. So it didn’t have anything to do with sharpening tools on stones or that kind of thing – who knew?


My wife and I watched an odd movie the other night about members of a high-falootin Mexican family.

Accurately stated, they were “highfalutin” people. The word isn’t even slang. The Merriam-Webster definition is “seeming or trying to seem great or important; expressed in or marked by use of high-flown bombastic language.”

Wow, so now we have an old saying that’s not even an old saying, and it basically means exactly what we’re used to having it mean. And come to think of it, I know of a lot of high falootin folks, especially in major politics.


It’s no secret that if something is smack-dab in the middle of something else, it’s centered about as well or as much as possible.

But what in the Sam Hill do “smack” and “dab” have to do with that?

I’m not really sure, to be honest. But I can tell you that “dab” is a British word meaning clever or skilled, and the phrase “dab hand at it” might be used to refer to someone a with a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular field.

Less obscure is the fact that “smack” is a verb meaning to strike sharply and with a loud noise. So I guess if something is smack-dab in the middle, it was skillfully and authoritatively placed there. That’ll work.


I often find myself saying this.

And when I do, I’m sure the listener doesn’t have to think twice to understand it means I’m expressing empathy with undesirable or unfortunate circumstances.

Well, its origin is a little less clear than its meaning, but it might have started in the 1700s, when foxhunters would call out “hoicks” or “yoicks” to encourage their dogs, Apparently, the practice became common in the 1800s as a means of expressing excitement.

If that’s the case, fear was added later. But as we’ve concluded before, many old sayings and expressions are recognized nowadays as meaning the opposite of their origins.

•Kill two birds with one stone.

It’s well known that if you chuck one rock and kill two birds, you’re operating with efficiency and getting stuff done.

But there doesn’t appear to be any neat and tidy origin to this phrase, other than it showed up in writing in the 1600s and has been around ever since.

The other day, I heard a man in our office say, “I thought I’d kill that bird, too.” The “too” in that statement surely references killing more than one “bird,” which of course doesn’t refer to an actual winged creature, but a task.

Interesting how the man didn’t just say, “While I’m at it, I’ll probably take care of that other chore, too.”

But like I said, life wouldn’t be as interesting if we always just said what we meant, now would it? That’s what the spice of life is all about (hey, there’s one for next time).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are also posted online at Email:

I never tire of examining the origins of the zillions of old sayings, idioms and slang words we who speak English so often use in every day conversation.

Here’s a look at some more.

  • In the buff.

Most people are this way when they get out of the shower, right?

The origin of the phrase comes from something very different than nudity.

A buff-coat was a light leather tunic worn by English soldiers hundreds of years ago (through the 1500s). The original meaning of the saying was simply to be wearing such a coat, which Shakespeare even references in a 1590 play.

The current meaning is a reference to the color of Caucasians’ skin, which is somewhat like the light brownish-yellow of buff. This 180-degree transformation of the phrase was first recorded by a well-known writer (Thomas Dekker) in 1602.

I love it when old sayings come from even older sayings that pretty much meant something opposite.

  • Rhyme or reason.

We all know that when something is done without this, it’s absent of justification or sensibility.

Doug Davison

   Doug Davison

The saying has apparently meant pretty much the same thing since its inception, and started in French in the late 1400s before being picked up by English about a century later. I was hoping to nail down the “rhyme” part, but I guess there’s no rhyme or reason it’s in there.

  • Peachy.

Not only is the peach the state fruit of Georgia (even though substantially more of them grow in South Carolina), the word commonly stands for something going well, feeling good or that kind of thing.

Oddly enough, the meaning of the idiom stems from the practice of eating peaches. Apparently, there are versions that produce a natural high by interfering with lipotin receptors in the brain. This strain of peaches were often sold as a drug until being outlawed in the 1940s.

When “high” from eating them, people would often say that they were feeling “peachy.”

Since cocaine used to be an ingredient in Coca-Cola, maybe some folks back in the day considered a Coke and a peach a their “power lunch.”

  • Swimmingly.

Ranking high on my list of strange old sayings, it’s well known that if something is going this way it’s going well, with ease or successfully.

The common use of the adverb can be traced back to the early 1800s, when movement through water was considered generally smooth, especially compared to the “clomping” of walking on land.

A written piece from 1824 said, “The interview went off very swimmingly.” Not just swimmingly, but VERY swimmingly.

Now that’s smooth.

  • Fiddlesticks.

My mom would sometimes say this when something went a little haywire.

The term literally stems from “fiddle sticks,” the bows used to play violins, which were called “fydylstyks” in the 1300s. The word became associated with absurdity or nonsense when it was used that way by an English play writer in the 17th century.

  • Cooties.

I recall this word being used when I was young (all those years ago) to describe something – or more often somebody – who “had” something that was yucky (like a disease).

The word probably originated from Southeast Asian languages in which the word “kutu” refers to a parasitic biting insect. The term was also by British soldiers during World War I to refer to lice that proliferated in battlefield trenches.

It’s actually a bug – who knew? I guess that’s why there were big bugs in that game I had when I was a kid.

  • Scuttlebutt.

These days, someone might go to the local café to hear the latest “scuttlebutt” about what’s going on around town, because we know it’s a form of interesting news or gossip.

The term comes from a combination of a pair of nautical words: “scuttle” (to make a hole in a ship’s hull that causes it to sink) and “butt” (a cask used to hold drinking water in the days of big wooden ships).

The butt was also “scuttled” with a hole so water could be accessed, so sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt. Interesting how now the gossip IS the scuttlebutt.

  • Gone to pot.

Certainly, something that has gone this route is no longer as good as it used to be or generally just no good.

As with many modern idioms, there are more than one possible origins of this common phrase. Maybe the best one is that in the early days industrial mass-production, assembly-line workers would sometimes find a defective metal part not suitable for use. The sub-par part would subsequently be sent back to the smelting room to be melted down in the large smelting pot and re-cast a second time.

  • Shenanigans.

While we all know it means trickery or mischief, we’ll have to settle for wondering where the word came from, because time has apparently covered up any definitive answer.

Possibilities include the Spanish word “chanada” (a shortened form of charranada, meaning trick or deceit) the German word “schenigelei” (a peddler’s slang for work or craft) or the related German slang “schinäglen,” or perhaps the Irish word “sionnach,” meaning fox.

You know, it doesn’t really matter where any of these came from anyway. As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Wow, Shakespeare twice in one column. Now that’s some refined classiness right there.

Or just good old shenanigans.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

Examining the origins of old sayings and expressions (or even their possible origins) never gets old.

And there’s no shortage of material to examine because old sayings are such an integral part of the English language.

Here’s a look at another set.

  • Knock on wood.

A widely used phrase and action known as a means of fending off bad luck or “tempting fate” when a person makes an observation or declaration regarding something beyond their control. Its origin stems from a belief hundreds of years ago in several cultures that wood and trees were associated with good spirits, and it was considered good luck to tap trees to alert the “wood spirits” of your presence.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

  • Hobnob.

If you’re “hobnobbing,” you’re talking informally, drinking or otherwise socializing with someone else.

The word can be traced back to 16th century England and the terms “habban” (to have) and “nabban” (not to have) when used by people taking turns drinking to each other’s health.

  • Bury the hatchet.

Recognized as meaning to settle differences or make peace with an enemy or adversary, this phrase was born of a practice that would take place at the ending of hostilities among or by Native Americans in the Eastern United States, when chiefs of tribes would literally bury a tomahawk.

The phrase is found in English writings from the 1600s, but the practice likely even pre-dates the European settlement of America.

  • All get out.

If you hear someone use this old saying, they’re probably emphasizing the extreme nature of what they’re talking about, or maybe pointing out something happening to its utmost.

Its origins are sketchy at best, but Mark Twain used it in his 1884 book, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin” when Huck said, “we got to dig in like all git-out.”

My wife says it pretty often.

  • Pandora’s box.

We all know we had better not open it, because we don’t want to face the dire consequences or endure the resulting chaos if we do.

That stands to reason, because it’s an object from Greek mythology (that was actually a large jar) that was given to Pandora – the world’s first woman – and contained all the evils of the world. She got the “box” as a gift at her marriage and was told to never open it. Her curiosity won out (of course) and she unleashed demons upon the Earth.

  • Good grief.

An expression accepted as representing surprise, alarm, dismay or some other negative emotion that entered mainstream society via Charles Schultz’ famous Peanuts character, Charlie Brown.

It probably originated as a variance of the term, “good God,” as a way to avoid taking the name of the Lord in vain.

  • Hodgepodge.

Easily recognized as a reference to things found in the same place that are not really meant to be together, the expression dates back to the 1400s and the similar French word, “hochepot,” that was derived from the verb, “hocher,” meaning “to shake.” Basically, the word referred to a large, deep pot or pan and a stew made up of many different ingredients (often not well suited to be together) all shaken together in it.

  • Let the chips fall where they may.

This old saying comes from the world of logging, probably beginning in the late 1800s.

Every time a lumberjack using an axe hits a tree, pieces of wood – chips – scatter. The concept is simple: Don’t worry about the various chips flying around and never mind where they land. Instead, remain focused on the task at hand, which would of course have been chopping down a tree.

Nowadays, the same concept far more widely applied.

  • No strings attached.

When something comes without strings attached, we know there’s nothing required of us after receiving it and no need for any form of reciprocation, and no consequences will follow.

The saying originally had a much different, simpler meaning. It can be traced to the 1700s when expensive cloths like silk were imported to Europe and a merchant would mark a flaw in the weave by tying a small string at the bottom.

Even today, a tailor might want some yards of flawless cloth and ask for some with “no strings attached.”

  • Ducks in a row.

We’ve all said (or at least heard someone else say) this phrase when referring to completion of preparations or getting organized.

It’s one of those old sayings that could have one of several origins.

One popular theory is that it came from the sport of bowling. Early bowling pins were often shorter and thicker than modern pins, which led to the nickname “ducks.” Before pin resetting machines, pins would be manually put back in place between bowling rounds, so having your “ducks in a row” would mean all the pins were properly placed before the next ball was rolled. Another possibility is the saying came from the world of nature, because mother ducks often arrange their offspring into manageable straight lines before traveling over land or water. Also, natural ducks are know to fly together a v-formation behind a leader, which allows each one to take advantage of reduced wind resistance.

The phrase might even have begun with carnival games in which small caliber rifles or air guns were used knock down moving targets in the shape of ducks, with a conveyor belt system making sure the targets were presented in a consistent, organized (even predictable) row.

For what it’s worth, I like the bowling theory.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at Email:

Wherever firefighting is left up to volunteers, payment of dues is equally important to both fire departments and residents.

Like in Texas County, for example.

Time and again, I’ve heard that point made by fire chiefs and fire association presidents from all corners of the county. And every time I’ve replied that I completely understand.

In turn, I like to help to drive home that point now and then.

As I’ve stated in the past, the operative word when considering the subject of fighting fire in Texas County is “volunteer,” and the concept that word represents is all that really matters with regard to funding. Each and every department in the county exists almost entirely by way of gathering its own funds, and the men (and women) inside the protective gear are not paid personnel.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Sure, departments solicit grants that are available from various sources and at times receive donations from well-meaning business people and good-hearted citizens. But there is one form of funding that stands out on several levels: Annual member dues.

To break it down in simple terms, each department serves a designated zone (although the boundaries of some zones are less defined than others), and residents of that zone are asked – but not required – to pay an annual fee to their specific department. Like funds from grants and donations, dues go toward fulfillment of every possible need for a given department, from basics like gasoline for response vehicles, to training of firefighters (both new and experienced) to a myriad of gear like breathing apparatus, hoses, axes and much, much more.

And, of course, the trucks sometimes need new tires, a firefighter’s gas mask will break, a communications radio will fail, a new technique will need to be learned – you get the idea. Money is crucial to everything a volunteer fire department does.

All things considered, I always fail to understand why more people don’t pay fire department dues. Heck, even some people who regularly carry five times more than a year’s dues in their wallet are known to refuse to pay.

Dues and other means of funding ensures that volunteer fire departments have the means to do what people want them to do: Fight fire (although they also do a lot of responding to situations and incidents that don’t involve flames).

Conversely, they couldn’t operate without adequate financial support.

When I was discussing the issue of dues last week with Raymondville Fire Chief Mike Jackson, he called them “cheap insurance.” It seems to me he was making an understatement.

I mean, when the difference between having fire protection and not having it could come down to a $45 expenditure once every 12 months, the choice for me is a no-brainer – I’m paying. Really, when you think about everything that comes with that rather modest sum, it starts looking like quite a bargain.

Anyway, while some people question its viability (probably with a fair amount of validity), one thing’s for sure: Volunteer firefighting is the system in place in Texas County, and that’s not going to change any time soon. So perhaps the only logical thing to do is support the county’s fire departments until further notice.

That would seem to be in our best interest, with no exceptions. And the best way to do it is to pay our dues.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email:

Raymondville Fire Chief Mike Jackson stands in front of the deaprtment's new shack last Friday at the annual Raymondville Picnic. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Raymondville Fire Chief Mike Jackson stands in front of the department’s new shack last Friday at the annual Raymondville Picnic.
Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald


It’s often said that “things come in threes.”

Whether that’s true or not, similar occurrences do sometimes seem to happen in succession in what can easily be perceived as a group. Here in Texas County, we unfortunately appear to be one step away from seeing the “threes” concept fulfilled in 2015 in an extremely undesirable way.

At the beginning of the year, who could possibly have foreseen that two (let alone three) multi-death calamities would take place? But the stunning reality is that so far this year we’ve witnessed a pair of rare tragedies within the county’s borders that have resulted in the loss of 12 lives.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Obviously, the two incidents are starkly different in nature, with one stemming from the manifestation of mankind’s darkest traits and the other shedding light on the fact that reliance on mechanized technology is at best always a gamble.

And the Tyrone murders and the Huggins plane crash have both happened before July. It does make one wonder if a third catastrophe is in the offing. And there’s six months-plus left for it to happen.

In a conversation I had the other day with a prominent lawman I know, we both said how the “threes” scenario had gone through our minds last weekend.

“I sure hope there isn’t a third,” he said. “We really don’t need that.”

“Yeah, two’s two too many,” I said.

Another law enforcement officer I know said early this week that Texas County already has had a “tough year.”

“And we’re not even half way through it,” he said

I sent a link to the online version of the article about the plane crash to a friend of mine who lives in Dallas, and is himself a pilot. He was of course well aware of the Tyrone story, too.

He replied to my email with an interesting statement: “Wow, you have big news for a small town.” I mentioned that to the second law officer and he said, “yeah, and it’s definitely not the kind of news we want.”
“No, it’s not,” I said. “We’d just as soon go back to being anonymous.”

Surely, life will go on – Lord willing – and local people will continue with their daily routines. And as always, tragedy won’t be dwelled upon (as it shouldn’t). Instead, amusement and enjoyment will be a big focus and folks will have a good time doing entertaining things like attending this week’s Raymondville Picnic.

But at the same time, it’s apparent (as the early 1900s comedy duo of Oleson and Johnson said) that “anything can happen and probably will” – even in a rural community where one might think otherwise. If there was any doubt about that, the first half of 2015 in Texas County should well have eliminated it.

Here’s to hoping the second half doesn’t help validate that “things come in threes.” At least with regard to incidents that result in multiple fatalities.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email:



I’ve only flown in a small plane three times in my life.

Two of those flights have occurred within the past eight months – one last November and another last Monday evening. That most recent outing was probably my favorite.

Last fall and again this week, the pilot was a friend from Dallas. Last time he was here, he arrived in Van’s RV-6 kit plane built by his father in 1995.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

It was a blast whizzing around in the little “pocket rocket” (as the pilot likes to call it), and I sort of felt like I was in a sky-high roller coaster. This time he came in a Cirrus SR-22, which is famous for being the most frequently purchased craft on the market. The 2003 model we left the Houston Memorial Airport in is a sleek machine equipped with four nice leather seats and a top-quality communications system (featuring comfortable noise-canceling Bose headsets that all but eliminate the ear-busting noise of the 310 horsepower motor and propeller).

Last time I went up in an MG roadster. This time I was in a BMW sedan.

Using incredibly little runway, the craft left the ground effortlessly into the slight northerly wind that was blowing on the late spring evening. As the pilot banked the plane eastward over Houston, I was amazed at the lack of vibration or anything remotely resembling unpleasantness.

With me in the co-pilot’s seat and another friend who lives locally seated in back, we circled Houston a few times, checking out the view from above and snapping photographs of familiar sights from a very unfamiliar angle.

Then the pilot took us on a surreal tour of eastern Texas County. At one point, he shared his impression of what lay below and stretched out before us in every direction.

“Compared to Texas, Missouri is like a painting,” he said.

As we cruised at about 1,000 feet (just below a pesky layer of overcast), the two locals in the plane enjoyed looking down at recognizable roads, buildings and other objects, and we were constantly wowed by how different things look from an aerial perspective. And if nothing else, our lofty view certainly reminded us of just how much forested land there is in Texas County –lots!

We headed north for a while, and then turned back toward Houston. All the while it was so smooth, so peaceful and so easy.

I kept thinking, “it doesn’t feel like we’re in an airplane.”

Once we got back to town, we circled a few more times and then the pilot made us feel like we were in a plane by conducting a high-speed “low pass” of the airport runway.

One word: Awesome!

Landing was another act of smoothness, and the whole experience left me with a feeling of overall satisfaction.

Chances are I’ll never own a private plane. But I’m glad to know what it’s like to fly in one.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

Houston Herald writer Doug Davison sits in the cockpit of a Cirrus SR-22 before takeoff from Houston Memorial Airport.

Houston Herald writer Doug Davison sits in the cockpit of a Cirrus SR-22 before takeoff from Houston Memorial Airport.

Cirrus SR-22 ready for departure from Houston Memorial Airport.

Cirrus SR-22 ready for departure from Houston Memorial Airport.

Doug Davison, front, and Rock Gremillion prepare for a flight.

Doug Davison, front, and Rock Gremillion prepare for a flight.

The view of downtown Houston, Mo., from the cockpit of a Cirrus SR-22.

The view of downtown Houston, Mo., from the cockpit of a Cirrus SR-22.

An aerial view of Texas County Memorial Hospital.

An aerial view of Texas County Memorial Hospital.

Landing in a Cirrus SR-22 at Houston Memorial Airport in Houston, Mo.

Landing in a Cirrus SR-22 at Houston Memorial Airport in Houston, Mo.

As a public service, here are a few randomly organized tidbits to add to your cache of knowledge that you might not become aware of through conventional information outlets.

•There’s a technological marvel being built in the mountains of Chile.

When completed on top of Cerro Armazones at an elevation of about 10,039 feet, the “European Extremely Large Telescope” will be extremely large. The Earth’s “biggest eye on the sky,” the E-ELT will have a 328-foot tall dome and a 128-foot diameter main mirror, and gather 100 million times more light than the human eye and 13 times more than the largest optical telescopes existing today.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Construction began late last year and it’s expected to begin operation in 2024. The ELT will be way bigger than the VLT (Very Large Telescope) that has functioned in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile since 2000. If a bigger one is ever built, maybe it will be called the EBT (Even Bigger Telescope).

• It’s illegal to drive a car while sleeping in Tennessee.

• Alaska’s Kodiak Island and the city of Kodiak got their names from a rough translation of an Alutiiq word, “kadiak,” and a Russian word, “Kad’yak,” both of which mean “island.”

So basically, Kodiak Island is “Island Island,” and those giant bears that live there are Island Bears.

• If all the blood vessels in your body were laid end to end, they would reach about 60,000 miles.

• Missouri State University is on its fifth name. The school was founded in 1905 as Fourth District Normal School. It changed to Southwest Missouri State Teacher’s College in 1919 and Southwest Missouri State College in 1945.

It then became Southwest Missouri State University in 1972 before the “weathervane” part of the name was dropped in 2005.

• When visiting Finland at Christmas, Santa Claus leaves his sleigh and reindeer behind and rides on a goat named Ukko. Finnish folklore indicates Ukko is made of straw (but is apparently strong enough to carry Santa’s ample bulk anyway).

• Houseflies hum in the key of F.

• It’s illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six feet long in Washington State.

• Almost half the newspapers in the world are published in the United States and Canada.

• A South Korean teacher is facing child abuse charges after allegedly eating a live hamster in front of his students.

Police said the 44-year-old male teacher chewed a live hamster and swallowed it May 11 at a boarding school in Jeongeup while seven children were present. He reportedly told police he had caught students abusing hamsters and wanted to teach them “how dear life is” by making them watch him eat one of the rodents.

“I couldn’t control the situation and couldn’t stand it,” he told a local news source. “While watching the hamsters die from teasing, I thought I should teach the children it was wrong to make light of life.”

• A flamingo can eat only when its head is upside down.

• Every day, eight trillion gallons of water pour out of the mouth of the Amazon River into the Atlantic Ocean. Missouri’s largest spring – Big Spring in Carter County – discharges an average of 276 million gallons a day. The Amazon discharges about 28,986 times more water per day than Big Spring.

• Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa without eyebrows for a reason. During the Renaissance, it was fashionable for women in Florence, Italy to shave them off.

• Peanuts are one of the ingredients in dynamite.

• Russia’s Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world (with a maximum depth of 5,387 feet – more than a mile) and contains more water than all five Great Lakes combined. More than 80-percent of the approximately 2,500 species of animals that live there are found nowhere else on the planet.

• It’s illegal to chew gum In Singapore.

• Disney cartoon icon Donald Duck never wore pants. But whenever he got out of a shower, he would always put a towel around his waist.

• A blue whale’s tongue weighs as much as an adult elephant.

• It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Stay tuned. There’s no end to this material.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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