As surreal as it may seem, a man and his pistol saw to it that little ’ol Tyrone became the focus of the world for a while for all the wrong reasons.

Like or not, me and a couple of my cohorts at your local news source have since had to spend many hours focusing on Joe Aldridge’s stunning actions. I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s not the kind of thing anyone around these parts could ever have imagined being on the front-page of the local weekly (much less the home page of NBC.com), and we’ll never be able to put it entirely out of our memory banks.

But we can and will move on (because that’s all we can do) and that will be nice.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

I’ve seen and heard a lot since Joe Aldridge gained permanent infamy last Friday – so much that at it at times has been hard to sort things out and even to simply process the moment. So many layers, so many side notes, so many results, ramifications and effects.

Some of the information and feedback I’ve absorbed during this unforeseen, undesirable trek has consisted of critiques of the way news sources deal these days with violent, fatal events. I’ve heard people express positive and negative viewpoints, and I completely understand both.

One thing I find particularly interesting is the notion that media “fuels the fire” by dedicating significant coverage to the actions of the likes of Joe Aldridge, and that maybe the next Joe Aldridge becomes such out of a twisted yearn for being emboldened on TV screens and newspaper pages. I think there is probably some merit to that concept, but I think the state of violence in today’s world has less to do with lost souls seeking a macabre place in history than it does unavoidable, unstoppable deterioration of mankind’s glass house, as is well documented in the Bible.

People care less and less about the welfare of others and about God’s will, and what’s happening (or more accurately not happening) inside the walls of homes from Maine to California and from South Africa to Sweden prevents young people from growing up with a true understanding of right and wrong.

I do, however, agree with the idea that the American media in general is guilty of following the same path as the rest of society, and there is a lot of shoddy work presented as “good” these days on TV newscasts and on newspaper pages. Surely, some bigger media sources even lean toward an unwritten, unspoken policy of embellishing and sensationalizing.

It’s a shame, but I feel good about the way the Houston Herald dealt with Texas County’s darkest hour, and I submit that what we do is as straight forward and transparent as we can make it, and is never designed to “sell papers” in sacrifice of good journalism.

We dig deep to provide valuable information in news and feature articles, and my opinion-oriented columns come straight from the heart, and when content seems sensational or dramatic, that’s because it’s nature (and it’s reality) steers it that way.

What is, is and there’s no getting around it. With that in mind, we try to present what is to the best of our ability.

With regard to the situation in Tyrone, people badly wanted as much information as they could get about it as quickly as they could get it, so we were only doing our jobs by posting update after update on the Herald website. In case there is any doubt people were hugely interested, consider that this past Monday morning, the main (ever-growing) “Tyrone tragedies” story had been viewed close to 250,000 times (a quarter million!). Also consider that it’s unusual for a story on the site to eclipse the five-figure mark (let alone six), and a No. 1 story for an entire year might have about five to maybe 10 percent as many looks as this online juggernaut has already accumulated.

That’s, well, I’m not sure what that is other than phenomenal.

Anyway, as someone who has lived for extended periods in many corners of the U.S. (California, Washington and Georgia, to be specific), I wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than Texas County. While the world is in a permanent downward spiral, at least this place is arriving late for the party and there is still a lot of good here to be immersed in.

The Bible tells us every man has an appointed number of days to live, as determined by God (Job 14:5). All we can do is live each day knowing His will precludes ours (even when it comes to “survival”), and be glad for each and every day and each and every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

So now we pick up and press on, just as the survivors of far greater calamities have always done. Because that’s all there is to do.

Because life goes on – God willing.

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

Every year when my camera and I hang out for a few days around the livestock showing area at the Texas County Fair, I end up impressed (in a good way) by all the kids and their animals.

Without question, Texas County is largely an agriculturally-oriented place and it stands to reason that anything that helps support, promote, sustain or advance agricultural is good for everyone who lives here. Showing and selling of livestock at the fair certainly does that in a big way, as youth are afforded an opportunity to work toward a goal in an agricultural format and setting.

Along the same lines, there is a proposal being considered by the Houston Schools Board of Education that I sincerely hope ultimately meets with approval. It’s an idea based on the premise that agriculture should take a front row seat in the local education process, and one that would seem to make plenty of sense for Houston and the surrounding area.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Basically, Houston High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Josh Roehrs wants the district to operate a “school farm” where students could get significant hands-on experience in everything from livestock rearing to marketing and aquaculture. The farm would hopefully be located near the school, and Roehrs envisions it being run and maintained by students as an actual (and viable) business.

Hours spent at the school farm would be part of curriculum, and book and written work would accompany raising pigs and hens and all the other available farm-related activities. I can’t imagine how a whole bunch of kids wouldn’t be all over this.

Obviously, the school farm concept involves a cost. But that’s where the people making up an agriculturally-influenced community come in.

Part of Roehrs’ presentation to the school board outlined several potential methods of fundraising. But as he would be the first to point out, it’s not going to happen without good old community interest and involvement – financial style.

The bottom line is, this is far from an outlandish notion (illustrated by the fact that there are actually already several school farms in Missouri – even nearby), and if enough of the right people realize how good this would be for Houston, the money will follow. It’s a matter of discretion combined with foresight and wisdom.

Be on the lookout for a public meeting hosted by Roehrs and other school farm supporters in which details will be provided, questions will be answered and suggestions and advice will be accepted. When the time and date of the meeting are announced, the Houston Herald will share them.

I think the ramifications of the existence of an HHS FFA school farm are far-reaching and would positively affect pretty much everyone in Houston, whether directly or indirectly. There aren’t all that many ways a school can truly add or create something that makes a major (and favorable) difference in its community, but this sounds like just that for Houston.

I hope the community gets behind this idea and it transforms from the vision inside the head of a young, intelligent, amiable, motivated ag teacher (who’s a Mizzou grad) into a reality that positively and valuably touches the lives of many a 16-to-18-year old student.

And the rest of us.

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

There’s enough negativity in today’s world that it’s always nice when something positive comes along.

Within a matter of weeks, a dairy products manufacturing facility known as Dairymen’s Best Creamery will begin operation in Houston.

That’s right – a brand new manufacturing plant in Houston, complete with new jobs, new tax revenue and everything else that comes along with industry. Never mind that Houston is well known for being the former home of multiple plants that up and left; that was then, this is now, is this sure sounds like a good thing to be taking place.

When asked what this area needs most, most peoples’ answer is “more jobs.” In my mind, that’s 100-percent accurate and nothing else could help Houston and Texas County more.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But making that happen is harder said than done, big-time. But it’s certainly not an impossible task, and that’s apparently understood and embraced by a few individuals with the City of Houston who have the ability to do something about it.

Not that Dairymen’s Best will single-handedly solve the jobs situation overnight, but it’s a great step in the right direction, what with 20 or so people gaining employment at the outset and likely a bunch more in the near future.

As I said, this sure sounds like a good idea, and a lot of the thanks has to go to the Houston Industrial Development Authority, which has crawled out on a financial limb to offer really generous monetary incentives to Dairymen’s. But knowing what I know about the situation (which is by no means everything, but is a whole lot more than a couple of weeks ago), I feel like that limb is stout and it’s not going to come crashing down any time soon.

Surely, one of the best aspects of having this place open in the Houston Industrial Park (other than basic economic benefits) will be its retail store where we’ll be able to purchase locally made dairy products created from milk from local cows.

I’m looking forward to getting some garlic flavored butter and farm-fresh sour cream, and I’m a big fan of cheese so I can’t wait to taste the pepper jack and cheddar (hopefully yellow and white) that will be offered there.

Man, locally made dairy foods – how cool is that?

Also, we’ll have plant manager Dave Cline in our midst. Wait ’til you meet this man – he’s about as nice as they come and I figure we’re all going to learn a thing or two as he and his cohorts educating us about what’s real and good in the dairy industry. I think it’s going to be fun as they start getting out and shaking hands, and I believe they’ll inevitably become a familiar and integral part of the community.

Anyway, as we collectively watch how this sortie of calculated risk and free enterprise works out, a bit of recognition seems appropriate that Houston Economic Development Director Ron Reed, City Administrator Larry Sutton and the members of the city council seem to understand that making positive economic change can sometimes mean being proactive and aggressive. I’m pretty sure the days of sitting back and waiting for someone to open a big business ended some time ago, and it’s nice to see some action in addressing that.

Here’s to hoping we get to buy locally made cheese and yogurt in our own backyard for a long time.

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

 

Based on statistics compiled each month, there’s no denying that a lot of people make use of the Houston Herald’s website.

But even though thousands upon thousands of folks regularly log on and do enough clicking that monthly totals typically reflect more than a quarter-million page views, I know by hearing first-hand that the site offers features and options that are being missed out on. Based on an entirely unscientific educated guess, I think that’s because some users haven’t taken the time to explore how to use them or simply aren’t aware of their existence. But none are difficult to take advantage of; it’s just a matter of knowing how and doing it.

Surely, the home page has a familiar look to each and every member of the throng who visit the Herald website. But this is also where the mystery sets in – some users lack full understanding of all the places they can go from there and exactly how to do the going (again, I know because I’ve heard it said).

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

With that in mind, here are a few basic (but really cool) doors that can be opened from the home page.

Right under the big Houston Herald logo, there’s a horizontally arranged list of other pages that can be accessed, and sub-pages each one leads to.

Mouse over “news,” for example, and a drop-down list shows up that allows a person to check out several other cyber locations. Also by way of the list, you can keep track of who died, who was born and who was married under “records,” find out how local sports teams fared under “sports,” and even post your own stuff under “your stories” and “submit.”

Yep, you can post your own news and photos on the Houston Herald website. You can share your nephew’s success after he hits his first little league home run.

Or make sure your aunt gets her due for winning the blue-ribbon in the savory jelly category at the Goshen County Fair in Wyoming, or just post a photo of yourself in the middle of one of those big crowds at a family reunion in south Georgia.

Considering the fact that the last user-submitted story was posted in March, and that only two photos were posted in April and none in May, there’s probably not a great deal of awareness that this option exists. I feel like a lot more submitting could be happening, and I’d actually like to see it happening.

One reason for that is I believe there’s a misconception that we know about every newsworthy moment or situation in Texas County and our gigantic staff always has someone available to get the story and the pictures. Actually, we’re often at the end of the grapevine and are the last to hear about things, and you can count how many people we have available at a given moment on a hand that’s missing multiple fingers.

Silly analogies not withstanding, a little more submitting would be great on several levels.

Then there’s the “multimedia” option, where you can look at photo galleries and video clips of events and incidents, and even purchase photos. This option has many fans, because some galleries amass “view” totals numbering north of 5,000. But I know even more views are possible, because over the years I’ve directed more than one person to a gallery who didn’t know it was there.

And for folks who have enough spare time that they can squander some of it viewing previous versions of this column, they’re all posted on the “blog” page that can be found under the “news” header. Just think: Hundreds of chances to read mindless hooey penned by a small-time media nincompoop. How cool is that?

What I think is one of the neatest features (and perhaps the best-kept secret on the website, even thought it’s in plain sight) is the “advanced search” window on the home page, located just to the right of the previously mentioned horizontal list (under the current temperature). By plugging in the name of a person, place or thing, stories dating back years will pop up in which they or it was mentioned. It’s really quite amazing; it’s like a time travel portal.

I sometimes hear people say, “I wish I could see the so-and-so story because I missed it,” or “I’d love to send my cousin’s friend’s neighbor in Walla Walla a link to the such-and-such story, because I forgot to do so when it was current.” “Advanced search” could well be the answer.

Anyway, most users of www.houstonherald.com are probably tech-savvy enough to have already known most of what I’ve pointed out here. But like me, there are others who are somewhat digitally-challenged, and this little set of tidbits might just open up a few new windows of opportunity.

And this represents only a percentage of what’s possible – there’s way more to discover. Enjoy.

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

 

Back in the mid-1980s, a 3-year-old boy demonstrated his passion for growing fruits and vegetables by planting his first garden. Even then, he told people he wanted to be involved in the seed industry.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles between him and the realization of his dream, he never wavered. In 1998, Wright County resident Jere Gettle printed his first Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog. The rest, as they say, is history.

Gettle’s business has grown to the point that it now includes a bustling online ordering system, and has expanded beyond its original place north of Mansfield to include locations on both coasts – one in Petaluma Calif. (north of the Bay Area), and another in Wethersfield, Conn. (which involved the restoration and preservation of the landmark Comstock, Ferre & Company, the oldest continuously operating seed company in New England). Gettle and his wife Emilee also publish the nationally distributed Heirloom Gardener Magazine and supply free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries, as well as school gardens and other educational projects in the United States.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Along with Emilee and their daughter Sasha, Gettle still lives in the house where he grew up. Miles off the pavement, the home is right next to Bakersville, an 1800’s style village built around the original Baker Creek Seed Store that features several authentic buildings brought in from far away places. As well as the now immense seed store, Bakersville visitors are treated to a fully operational mercantile store and flour mill bakery, and other historically accurate structures and sights including a sale barn and livery, apothecary, and blacksmith’s shop. There’s even a vegetarian restaurant where patrons are asked to pay for meals by donation rather than set price.

The magnitude of Gettle’s operation can be understood by setting foot in the giant seed store, where customers can choose from close to 1500 varieties from more than 70 countries, all of which are strictly pure, unadulterated heirloom seed (some of which are descended from strains from the 1800s). By design, there’s none of that GMO stuff (genetically modified organism) – not even hybrid seed.

While most of Bakersville’s buildings don’t necessarily host activities on a daily basis, they definitely do on the “town’s” bigger days. If you go there on the first Sunday of each month from March through October, or the annual spring festival in early May, you’ll likely get to see a blacksmith in action, and many other old-timey demonstrations and exhibits.

During a company outing to Bakersville last week, me and some of the other people in the Herald family had the opportunity to speak at length with Gettle, and he struck me as a very amiable, personable individual, without an ounce of arrogance in his being. He was also obviously incredibly knowledgeable about his trade, and his passion for what he does was apparent with every statement he made about an aspect of his diverse business, the best time or way to plant a certain seed, or simply the name or characteristics of a given plant.

At Bakersville, Gettle has surrounded himself with a group of employees who seem to fit the bill, so to speak, from the cook who puts together the restaurant’s veggie-only fare, to the woman in the bakery who delivers up what are arguably some of the world’s most awesome cinnamon rolls.

If you go, make sure to pick the brain of horticulturist Art Davidson if you get a chance. On our company outing, Davidson led us on a tour of the place, and displayed a passion for plants (especially preservation of rare and disappearing strains) equal to Gettle’s.

Ask Davidson a question and he’ll set out on a verbal quest to make sure you’re as educated about the subject of your inquiry as time constraints will allow. Make a comment about Monsanto, GMOs or some other controversial topic and you’ll hear a reply void of any sugar coating.

Also make sure to look up David Kaiser while you’re at Bakersville. He’s the hillbilly-looking guy with the long beard you see on the big Bakersville billboards alongside U.S. Highway 60 as you approach the Highway 5 exit at Mansfield from either direction.

Having spoken with him on both of my visits to his combined work place and home (he lives in an on-site “cabin” that looks like it’s out of a Tim Burton movie), I can safely say that Kaiser is an intelligent and personable individual with a keen sense of history and societal change.

And I’m here to tell you, the stories he tells about knowing Jere when he was a kid are no less than fascinating. He witnessed the young Gettle boy when he was truly serious and determined to beat the odds and become a one-of-a-kind seed man.

“And now I work for him,” Kaiser said.

Going to Bakersville is like a trip back in time. But it’s also about the best place in the area to get the full scoop on gardening, and to browse through an almost unprecedented selection of heirloom seed.

If you haven’t been there, it’s worth considering. And check out Gettle’s website, http://www.rareseeds.com/. There’s a reason why Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has been featured in stories in the New York Times, Oprah Magazine, and most recently the Wall Street Journal. And its headquarters is right in our back yard.

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

D and J w:border

A full day’s work

For quite some time, Jamie has been bugging me about going to work with me.

After years of hearing me talk about what I do, he has time and again insisted he could perhaps help.

He would often say, “you need a Corgi’s perspective.”

Last Thursday, the Big Lug got his wish.

The day began as usual, with Jamie heading outside to do his business, and then getting a bite to eat on the Sidewalk Café on the east side of our house, and me sitting down for a couple of cups of coffee. Then I brushed a Walmart bag or two of fur off of his 35-pound frame, and we were ready.

“Let’s do this,” Jamie said. “Stay close to me and I’ll get you through.”

“We’re not negotiating a field of land mines or heading to the front lines of a battle,” I said. “We’re going to work. I do this five days a week.”

“I’m just saying,” Jamie said.

When we got to the Houston Herald office, Jamie wasted no time getting started. He worked with editor Jeff McNiell on processing some digital photos that were downloaded in a computer, helped production manager Leesa Smith proofread an ad or two, and looked over accounting paperwork with publisher’s assistant Deanna McKinney. He then sat with me for a while proofing more ad copy.

“I think you might want to try a different font for that phrase right there to make it really pop,” Jamie said. “You have to do something that gets peoples’ attention.”

“That’s not bad, big man,” I said. “It’s almost like you know what you’re talking about.”

“Almost?” Jamie said. “I’m not here for my looks. Although that would be a valid reason.”

After tackling several other tasks, Jamie turned his focus to a lady who walked in to renew her subscription to the newspaper. She said she wanted to renew her “prescription.”

“So did your doctor tell you to take two Heralds and call him in the morning?” Jamie said.

“C’mon, Dawg, don’t be rude,” I said.

“You never know,” Jamie said.

One of the office women with thumbs took care of the customer, and I took the canine jack-of-all trades on the road to take care of some of the day’s out-of-the-office business.

We stopped first at the Houston Police Department station, and Jamie looked over some incident reports submitted by officers. He then met with Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham about the prospects of beginning a city K-9 program.

“This is something you really need, and I’m your dog,” Jamie said. “No law enforcement agency should be without state-of-the art ability to locate clandestine pork chop stashes hidden in vehicles or at crime scenes.”

“Uh, Jamie, what they might need even more is an animal that can detect drugs,” I said.

“No chops?” Jamie said.

“Nope,” I said.

“No ginger snaps?” he said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Right then, moving on,” Jamie said. “Thanks for your time gentlemen.”

Next we went to the new Farm Bureau Insurance office just south of town, where an open house was taking place to celebrate the firm’s move.

“Where’s Flo?” Jamie asked. “I want Flo’s autograph.”

“Uh, wrong insurance company big guy,” I said.

“What about that British lizard?” Jamie asked. “Where’s he?”

“Again big man, wrong company,” I said. “Farm Bureau’s advertising campaign has to do with a guy named Dan who hangs out with a puppet named Clay who cracks corny jokes and says ‘you don’t have to be a farmer to get insurance from Farm Bureau.’”

“Oh yeah, him,” Jamie said. “His jokes aren’t that funny.”

“Yeah, that’s what Dan sometimes says,” I said.

“They need a better mascot,” Jamie said. “I can think of one that would draw millions more customers.”

“Let me guess – you’re referring one that’s long and low and has big ears,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s the ticket,” Jamie said. “All I’ll ask for as a salary is unlimited pork chops. And maybe ginger snaps.”

“Right,” I said.

“Speaking of food, I smell grilled hot dogs,” Jamie said.

“Yep, they’re offering a free lunch here,” I said. “You want a couple of weenies?”

“Does a Corgi shed in the spring?” Jamie said. “Mmm, that’s the good stuff.”

After making another stop of two, we headed back to the office and Jamie sat in for publisher Brad Gentry while he left for a spell. The interim boss didn’t take many calls.

“Just transfer them all to my voice mail,” Jamie said. “I’m a little busy over here trying to get a paper out.”

When the Big Lug was no longer needed at the helm of the good ship Herald, he helped print manager Tyson Troutman get some brochures put together for a local business.

“Hold that a little closer so I can read the fine print,” Jamie said.

As is seemingly the case with many Thursdays, the day went by quickly and late afternoon arrived before Jamie and I knew it. We finished the day by visiting Emmett Kelly Park to view the completed tree planting project.

“Wow, what a difference,” I said. “This is going to be awesome when they get big. It’s already awesome.”

“Yeah, but it looks like I need to get busy,” Jamie said. “Drop me off here and come back in about 45 minutes. I should be done by then.”

“No way, chief,” I said. “There’s a leash law in this town and I’m not going to escort you around to the base of every tree here.”

“Aw man,” Jamie said. “A great opportunity wasted.”

When we got home, Jamie almost immediately went horizontal on the hardwood floor. He was completely exhausted from a hard day’s work.

“I’m dog tired,” he said.  “Make sure to wake me up in the morning – I’ve got a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

“There’s work to do.”

“I know what you mean, big man,” I said. “I know what you mean.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Past versions of this column are posted on the blog page at http://www.houstonherald.com. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city’s proposed K-9 unit.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. "Hold it just a little closer."

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. “Hold it just a little closer.”

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. "Go ahead and trasfer that call to my voicemail, I'm kind of busy trying to get this paper out."

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. “Please transfer my calls to voice mail. I’m kind of busy trying to get this paper out.”

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.

So Nov. 6 will soon be here, and another major election day will have come and gone.

On Nov. 7, we’ll finally know who took the prizes in numerous political fashion shows and which special interest groups bought enough favor to have their agendas become “policy.” But the arrival of that day will also bring what, to me, will be a very welcome extra: The Houston Herald can go back to being a weekly community newspaper and bear less of a resemblance to a tabloid.

The surreal displays that have for weeks and weeks appeared on the pages of your local news source are – in my estimation – a very telling example of the culture of brash behavior that has become so deeply entrenched in our society. Many people will stop at almost nothing when it comes to promoting their opinions, desires, and agendas, even if it means figuratively shaking them in others’ faces.

You see it in other areas of society, but the political arena presents the perfect chance to go all out – any many do just that. When it comes to what is popularly called “mudslinging,” virtually all forms of name calling, reputation bashing, and outright maliciousness seem to now be standard procedure, and there are apparently few, if any, boundaries in what are deemed acceptable tactics.

And it’s not even done anonymously. Almost as if it’s some sort of sign of strength, or badge of honor, people don’t even mind having their name associated with wildly creative or loosely conceived mudslinging.

Doug Davison

I’m not quite ready to start pushing up daisies, but I’m getting to be a pretty old guy. And in the fairly lengthy time since I became coherent enough to comprehend what the game of politics entails, I’d have to say I’ve never seen anything like what has gone on during this year’s campaign season (which is thankfully soon to conclude). Many of my fellow oldsters apparently agree, because I’ve heard many say that they haven’t either.

And I’m not referring to any particular level. The same stuff now seems to happen with the same frequency and intensity at the national, state and local levels. Nothing and nobody is immune.

Not that mudslinging doesn’t have a place in political advertising. To the contrary, it can at times be a valuable source of information.

I was recently talking with someone who holds an elected office and who pointed out that mudslinging sometimes turns out to be a way of finding out important aspects of a candidate’s character or past, and what we learn through “negative ads” can (and maybe should) add to our cache of knowledge about people who want our votes.

I agree. While mudslinging is often treated as a smear tactic rather than a valid tool (and sometimes borders on slander and libel), it at times can and does allow us to learn legitimate details about a candidate that they might fail to mention when describing how wonderful they are and why they are the best (or “only”) answer to our problems.

I guess what’s bothersome is the amount of it we now must endure, and how the spirit with which much it is delivered has simply gone over the top. For crying in the mud, mudslinging has – as they say in sports circles – been taken to the next level in this country.

Another person who holds an elected office recently said to me that the biggest problem with our current political system is that it prevents many people who might be our best options from seeking office. I agree with that, too. I believe our best options in most cases never become options.

After all, who can blame anyone for keeping their name out of the hat? Beside the fact that it takes about a zillion dollars to run theses days, it’s hard to imagine having your reputation and everything you stand for dragged through the mud and spat on to the extent that takes place in political fashion shows. And it’s not just you. Your family and everything else in your life might end up targeted – and truthful justification isn’t necessarily going to accompany the attacks.

It would be nice if everyone running just ran on their own merit instead of focusing on building a case against their opponent, and if everyone who believed in a cause simply promoted the merit of that cause rather than harping on the stupidity of not supporting it.

But I realize that none of that is ever going to happen. We’ve already blown that bridge up and there’s no going back.

Kind of like Mark Twain once said, many politicians aren’t prone to letting the truth get in the way of a good story. And believe me, it’s clear we live in a world of dual truth, and gray areas seem to be preferred over right and wrong (no surprise there, though; that’s certainly mentioned in many ways in many passages of the Bible).

Anyway, I’m just looking forward to making it to Nov. 7 when there won’t be two truths to quite as many issues, and there won’t be quite as much dirty laundry being hung out in plain sight.

Well, that’s enough rambling and ranting. Let’s get this over with and move on.

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