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: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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: ddavison@houstonherald.com.



Horse Sense logo 2

The ‘goody two shoes’ 10 commandments

The 10 commandments of God are indeed an extremely deep, rich well from which to drink.
Truly valuing them will help us roll up our sleeves and voluntarily work eagerly to get more dependent on God and each other, rather than sit back and pat ourselves on the back for how great we think we are doing compared to others.

It is tragic how quickly we can gloss over these 10 commandments and check them off like the rich young ruler in scripture, thinking how good we are at obeying them. We might say:
I – Yeah, I believe in one god (the one I made up in my mind).
II – Haven’t bowed to any graven images today (too much effort, I just look).
III – Haven’t cussed God much (but if I can’t blame others, he’ll do in a pinch).
IV – Sure, I believe in taking a long break on Sunday, just like I do everyday.
V – I mailed a card to mother last month.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

VI – Haven’t murdered anyone (but I might have de-friended a busload of chumps).
VII – Haven’t sowed any wild oats lately (but my memory is short).
VIII – Haven’t stolen anything for a few days (enough hotel towels for now).
IX – Don’t lie much (unless I have to  to get what I want).
X – Surely I don’t covet like Bo Diddly down the road does.
So let us just put a halo over our head and break our arm patting ourselves on the back, right?

If there is any remote chance that we profess to be Godly people, we need to be far harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. One thing that should wake us up about these commandments is that we really enjoy seeing these words of life trampled on big time. We love seeing people kill, cheat on, steal from, lie to and covet each others’ things nearly every time we turn on our “graven image,” whether it be a computer screen, or a “couch potato box.”

How would we get entertainment if there were no more murders in the world? Gee, I don’t know if’n I want to go to heaven if it is going to be that boring. I mean, isn’t the most exciting part of life consist of watching others run faster and jump higher while they are poking each other full of holes with guns and knives? Of course the next best thing is sitting around watching others run faster and jump higher in their numbered underwear (ya’ know, fancy pants) while they are young so they can aspire to get paid beaucoup bucks for it as a career, then fall off the band wagon when they get old (age 29) and wish they were young again. Yeah, but us Bible-thumpers think a good song or sermon is the answer. If we can spout off scripture forward, backward and upside down, then surely we are the bee’s knees.
Meanwhile in a land far, far away, down in a coal mine there is a horseman (well grounded) sweating with a pickaxe in his hand:
I – “Focusing intently” on the job at hand well aware that The Creator God is at his side helping him grow in every good way.
II – After work he rides horses, climbs trees, plays ball or creatively designs something with his wife and kids to achieve more “balance” in life.
III – “He points to God with the work of his hands in deed and words.”
IV – He takes a break, scratches his head and asks God whether he needs to bear down, back off or change what he is doing regularly, based on a set apart day to “reflect and sharpen.”
V – In honoring his parents, he is very attentive about listening to, and seeking out “advice” from all, and tries not to get defensive (welcoming truth).
VI – With an unselfish “attitude,” he tries to organize and plan with others in mind so it will be easier to succeed and harder to fail in working with “others” (opposite of murder).
VII –  He knows we all have trouble with self control and responsibility (adultery realm), so he asks God to help him build in “checks and balances” in his life. He asks for help in this area from friends, neighbors and family members as well.
VIII – He knows that the best way to please God and care about others is to spend time with them in the mud, blood, sweat and tears of life, and that the best answer to prayer is the one that includes him but points to “Jesus Christ” as the source of all he can do (opposite of stealing).
IX – He knows that time is a gift from God and not to be wasted, and since he senses he does not always “communicate clearly,” he strives continually to shed more light, open more doors and be more transparent so deception can flee like the cockroach that it is (the opposite of lying).
X – He recognizes why God limits his resources. It grows his character, and helps him run faster and jump higher in the things that count without poking holes in others (disclaimer for surgeons).
Therefore he “makes do,” and uses God’s free truths to develop skill  rather than covet. This horseman is the true “James Bond” by a long shot!  Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings.”

Dear Lord, help me to gag and throw up at the normal way I look at the 10 commandments. Help us all be that coal miner (horseman) who searches the 10 commandments realistically so we can run faster and jump higher in real life in the things that matter. Help us recognize “you” by the evidence we see more than the words we hear. Father (designer), Jesus (builder), Holy Spirit (janitor).

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.

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: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

When it was over, I was physically drained in a way I hadn’t been in a long, long time.

I was soaked to the bone, a bit groggy, and many of the muscles ached inside my aging body. As I trudged back to the vehicle, each step required my full attention.

But it was worth it. The eight-mile, five-hour kayak trip down the Big Piney River that me, my wife, Wendy, our youngest daughter, Claudia, and our adventurous Welsh Corgi, Gertie (the Permapup) had completed last Sunday was an experience that will leave a lasting impression on all of us.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

We arrived at Boiling Springs resort (west of Licking) before noon, and were soon being shuttled upstream in a pickup truck with a trio of kayaks in its bed. Before long, we were dropped off at Sand Shoals, with many miles of Big Piney current between us and the boat ramp located a few yards from where we had parked.

The conditions for our trek were ideal – temperatures were in the high 70s, and the river was running at a perfect level with water that had spent a few months warming up to just the right point since winter left the region.

Moments after we all put in, Gertie and I realized we were in for a challenge. Our kayaks were the kind where you more-or-less sit on top, and our combined volume (especially mine) made us a bit top-heavy.

Over the course of the first couple of miles, Wendy counted seven times that me and the dog went overboard. Each time, I laughed and either stood up if the river was shallow enough or made may way to the nearest piece of shoreline that appeared to offer space to get back in. Gertie always followed and eagerly got back on board.

Every time we dunked, I was sure we were getting closer to staying topside. And ultimately, we learned how to balance (with Gertie staying put near the center of the boat, nestled instinctively between my outstretched legs) and went in only one more time the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Wendy went in only once and Claudia stayed afloat the whole dang way.

As we cruised downstream, the sights and sounds never ceased to be downright captivating. As we paddled through many calm stretches and numerous sections of relatively merciful rapids, we passed numerous large bluffs (some of which hung right out over the Big Piney) and traveled through what at times looked (and felt) like Amazon jungle, with deep, lush forest featuring dozens of species of trees, some draped with big vines. All the while, a talented assembly of animals and birds provided a soundtrack perfectly suited for any jungle-themed setting.

At one point, an unseen squirrel or bird was chattering from the trees in such a way that it seemed like monkeys might suddenly appear on the branches.

Claudia even said, “it’s like we’re going through the jungle.”

Being fans of all types of turtles, we enjoyed observing them along the way. Large logs on the shoreline or sticking up from the depths almost always hosted a perching red-ear slider or two, and we twice saw one of those oddly flat softshell versions slink into the river off of flat rocks at water’s edge.

At about the six-mile mark, I was pleasantly surprised when a baby softshell spent a few minutes being a passenger in my boat. The kayaks we were aboard were the kind designed with a couple of holes in the bottom, which allows some water to freely come and go from the craft.

I figure my little aquatic reptilian buddy came and went the same way (although the coming part was probably not done as freely as the going).

Naturally, we did stop about halfway for lunch on a gravel bar. We also saw a group of young men and women in canoes doing a little fishing. When we went past them in McKinney Eddy, a guy in one of the canoes said they had done pretty well and the goggle-eyes were biting.

When we were putting in, our driver, Rob, had advised us that when we were several hours downstream and saw a big overhanging bluff with a large cedar growing right out of its top, were about a mile from the end. When we saw that natural feature, it was like we had been refueled.

Then when we saw the boat ramp and the canoeists unloading there, I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment. I could tell Gertie did, too.

Then came the realization that my frame isn’t really designed to be in that position for so long, and the subsequent hardship of getting back to our vehicle. But I can’t say it wasn’t worthwhile.

It just comes with the territory if you want to be an infrequent – but intrepid – Ozarks river trekker.

Whew. It was fun seeing Gertie out cold in the back seat on the way home. Kind of made me feel like something “big” had just happened.

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

I have been using God’s 10 Commandments to convey horsemanship in a newspaper column every other week.

I came across this idea from a famous horseman who found “the 10 qualities of horsemanship” in nature, so to speak. I grew up kind of viewing religious things as somewhat boring and unrealistic to actual living with gusto in the real world (y’know, like in beer commercials). Through time I began realizing that genuine godliness was far more useful than all our phony substitutes which ignore, exclude, replace or misinterpret God as well as include an adult “baby bottle” (or crutch) of some sort. So when I came across these 10 Commandments in nature, I began to see the true diamonds in what on the surface seems to be advice for old fuddy-duddys , rather than people who are truly interested in running faster and jumping higher in things that really matter, which might include actually running faster and jumping higher.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

As I have been receiving feedback from my biweekly column, the main thing I hear from people is that they are not into horses, and even the ones who are have trouble applying these principles (mostly the motivation realm). Since application is more of a lifestyle than a one or two hour splurge on a feel good fair weather day, I feel I need to emphasize the overflowing nature of these principles into all things. So I will make an attempt to emphasize real life over the horsemanship hopefully helping our horsemanship to come more alive as well. In other words, I feel I need to back off of the specific technique aspects and look more at the big picture.  Since I feel this truly is God’s lumber , it does not limit itself just to horsemanship – hence the label of  “horse sense” as another term for common sense pointing to the creator of  all  things including creativity itself. God’s creativity alone will inspire future horsemanship and help make it more realistic and relevant as well everything else.

Believing that God’s fifth commandment (honor father and mother, listen to “experience”) has us constantly monitoring feed back from others so as to try to determine whether we are passing over any blind spots that for one reason or another we simply are not seeing, I want to give friends and family a chance to dialogue with me intelligently about this. I believe that the Holy Spirit does talk through others to help keep our humility in check, and the more feedback I get, the better.

The feedback I am looking for should question:

  1. Whether I am true to God’s word.
  2. Whether I am relevant, and/or realistic to real life.
  3. Whether I am indeed communicating the way I intended to.

Since my column will appear once a month, I feel I should  go in depth on each of these commandments of God from the perspective of the “working world” based on what this horseman in the desert happened to find, looking from the outside in. I will emphasize boots on the ground efficiency in all work, emanating outward from horsemanship.

Other feedback I have had from actual horse people tells me I need to simplify as well as clarify. I have found that I can explain these laws of life in three parts: Commandments I, II and III = BRAIN; IV, V and VI = HEART; VII, VIII, IX and X = COURAGE (boots on the ground).

Another way to remember it is through the scarecrow, tin man, and lion in the Wizard of Oz story. I will probably focus on these three parts to start with before the in-depth, perfect 10 laws. They will focus in even more than I originally explained them three and a half years ago. The column after this will be called “Those goody two shoes 10 Commandments.”

Once a month columns will give me plenty of time to receive feedback from friends and family before I put it out on the Internet or newspaper. Even then I still welcome feedback from anyone. Oh, don’t we spend enough time talking about the weather, or cattle prices, or other shifty things, rather than the things that stand the test of time. So let us talk about God and the laws he has put in place to help us with genuine excellence. We cannot not talk about God when we see that this stuff permeates everything we do to be productive. When we do not talk about God than we are essentially stealing his lumber. This real life nitty-gritty application can excite us and keep us coming to him for guidance, recognizing that he is the one that gives us the lumber and breath for all of our gusto!

You might say I will be working on part III of motivation for the next year and a half.  The exciting part is that this really is more honey than vinegar (my last columns in the local newspaper were on motivating horses with honey and vinegar).

Sincerely, from a fellow pilgrim in the world and hopefully brother in Christ.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.