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Posts published in “Columnists – Touch of Life”

Restoring dignity to Native Americans

Today, I am a little upset and somewhat depressed. I’m involved in a controversy. Not that that is news for me but it is the subject. It involves a remains, whole or parts, of 664 Native Americans who were unearthed by some archeologists working for the State of West Virginia in 1963. It is an involved and complex situation that has been in controversy in these parts for at least the past 25 years.

Since the white man came to this area centuries ago no Native American tribes have been known to live in what is now West Virginia. Several groups in Kentucky, Ohio, etc. used this area for hunting and passing through. However, farmers plowing fields in the area of Buffalo, W. Va. (a few miles up the Kanawha River from the Ohio River) unearthed many human bones in the 1800s and early 1900s causing some excitement, curiosity, ghoulishness, etc. The state, through its State Archeologist, intervened and established a dig. From that dig came the remains of some 664 remains. There could be others on that site or nearby but so far no others have been found and no formal digs have been held since then. The remains were removed to West Virginia University, Morgantown where many non-invasive studies were held. It was rather well established that these remains were from Native Americans of the 14th and 15th centuries.

After these studies the remains were kept there for a few years before being sent to Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. More studies were made and the remains were put in storage there for a few years before being sent on to Toledo, Oh. University. More tests and more storage occurred until those involved no longer had use for them and they were placed on a loading dock for trash disposal. Persons from Ohio State heard about this and removed them to Columbus. There, more tests were done and then the remains went into storage once again.

No Native American Tribe wanted to take responsibility for them, no other university or museum wanted them, including West Virginia (the State and the University). They languished on storage shelves at Ohio State for years. This was much to the chagrin of many Native Americans in the area who wanted them returned to this State and reburied, near the original graves. That was, and is, complicated because the traditional Native American thought is to bury remains in an unknown and unmarked place. It should be done by the tribe proving to have the greatest connection to the remains.

With all of the local publicity that this issue has garnered, and with no local tribe to take responsibility, that became difficult to say the least. Some of the local residents, Native Americans and Whites, persisted and a couple of years ago Putnam County authorities (site of the original burial grounds) gave permission for a few people to find an appropriate unmarked site and to secure the remains for reburial. The first part was accomplished some nine months to a year ago.

Ohio State agreed to release the remains and everything seemed to be set in order until the State of West Virginia intervened. The State took the remains and have them in storage at The Grave Creek Mound museum (not on display) in Moundsville (near Wheeling) where they remain today. Many of the state leaders, led by a group of archeologists, do not want the remains reburied. Instead they want them kept in storage in case other uses might be found for them in the future.

I, and many others, are finding this difficult to handle and are advocating for the turnover of these remains to Putnam County and reburied where they may again rest in peace. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin currently has a petition signed by several hundred Putnam residents asking for the return. So far there has been no response and his underlings on his staff and the Department of Cultural and History would like to see this whole issue quietly disappear. It isn’t likely to happen in the near future.

In the meantime I am preparing columns for local distribution that continue to advocate for the reburial. Those on that side of the issue remain hopeful even if the power base is elsewhere.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home?

Don Springer is a writer for the Charleston, West Virginia newspapers, but he and his wife often visit in Houston. He can be reached at

Tip of the Hat Award goes to the Garcia sisters

It is time for me to pat a couple of young ladies on the back. Since I am over a thousand miles away I have to do it in writing. This writer was quite pleased last week to receive my copy of the Northeast News and find that a set of twins was the top two graduates at MacArthur High School for 2009. They went on to say they “never set out to be top-ranked.”

A tip of the Touch of Life hat goes out to Diedra and Cinthya Garcia who were the number one and number two ranked students in this year’s graduating class. I’m sure they were one of the highlights of their class graduating ceremonies held a few weeks ago. From the newspaper story they have been top ranked in the class for more than a year. As I recall from the article I read Diedra was the Valedictorian and Cinthya was the Salutatorian. The difference in grand point average between them was very small. They were separated by a GPA of .0195.

I never had such lofty goals in my high school days. Valedictorian was simply out of the question and I could be Salutatorian only if there were only two in my graduating class.

As expected the twins will not stop here. One is moving on to become a University of Texas Longhorn and the others will head east for Johns Hopkins University. No doubt those schools are glad to have these two fine students among their incoming freshmen. Good luck to both.

The spring high school graduation ceremonies for 2009 are all over by now as this is early July. Certainly there are Valedictorians and Salutatorians all over the place right now who are looking forward to many good things for themselves in the world of academia over the next few years. Texas and the U. S. can only benefit from the likes of these.

Others among our graduates will also move on to bigger and better things as well. We wish the best for them as well. Some of the “late bloomers” will end up doing better than many of the topped ranked students in their high school classes while at colleges and universities. That’s just how it works. Among these “late bloomers” will be many who settled down at the next level, hit the books, and will come out much better off for their experiences. Good luck to all!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

HCC-NFISD annexation is a win-win situation

Sometimes this writer doesn’t think as broadly as he should and brings some readers, or potential readers, up short. While in the Crosby area I have 75% of my exposure to Crosby, Highlands and Huffman; probably 10% to the Dayton area and remaining 15% is spread throughout the rest of the territory. Because of this I write mostly for readers of the Star-Courier and the Dayton News.

I keep forgetting that our illustrious editor-publisher, Gil Hoffman, also has two other papers that at least occasionally carry “Touch of Life.” That would be the North East-Beltway 8 News and the North Forest News. They cover Atascocita, Humble, Kingwood and other habitats in that area. I seldom write about things in that area.

Now I have an issue there that I would like to get behind.

That would be the annexation of the North Forest community by the Houston Community College system.

I was moved by a “Letter to the Editor” written by Elvin Franklin in the Northeast-Beltway 8 News. If everything in Mr. Franklin’s letter is correct (and I have no reason to believe otherwise) that annexation should have taken place earlier and certainly is needed now. Under the present circumstances North Forest students attending Houston Community College are forced to pay twice the cost of other students.

I quote Mr. Franklin, “For years, our community has discussed the possibility of being annexed by Houston Community College. Personally, I believe the time to act is now. A partnership with HCC and North Forest could only be a win-win for the community. Not only would tuition be cut in half for North Forest students attending HCC, but the North Forest School would benefit as well….”

He goes on to explain that should such annexation take place North Forest ISD would gain an “Early College High School, more dual credit offerings, college prep classes, high-tech vocational training, GED and ESL, and college courses offered in the community.” I ask you, “What is wrong with all of that?”

From where I sit, Elvin Franklin is right on! North Forest has taken some hits in recent years and annexation could be a positive step for HCC, NFISD, the students and potential students at North Forest, and the entire community. Mr. Franklin is a retiree living in that district, has no children involved in the school system but is taking interest in this annexation as an interested citizen.

Yes there would be some cost to the residents, about 9 cents per $ 100 evaluation. That doesn’t seem to significant. Let’s get behind this move North Forest and HCC do your thing. Over the years it would certainly be a WIN-WIN for both sides.

Such are the people, places and things that touch my life in my home!

How’d you get that name?

This writer, and family, has been doing a lot of running around the past month or so. Have traveled many miles by car and sometimes believe I have put on almost as many miles by foot as I wander around Crosby, Dayton, Baytown and environs since January 1.

Over the past three weeks we have spent a few hours each day working on son David’s lawn and extra lot. We now have it in pretty good shape. This yard worker has been filling those large black contractor’s bags with leaves and twigs. Forty-seven have been hauled away by the trash man since I started. Have a little hedge trimming, weed-eater work and spreading some mulch before I will call his lawn ready for spring.

That kind of work, occasionally doing some housework and writing columns, keeps me out of trouble. Wendell Berry once said, “The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.” Right on!

##M:Continue Reading…Names

Driving the three hundred miles through Mississippi (northern border at Memphis to the southern border at Louisiana) I came across a couple of people with what I believe to be unique names. One waitress had a nametag that read, “Myedestiny.” That was a new name to me. I asked her how her parents came up with it but didn’t get much of an answer.

On a later stop in that same state I saw a nametag on a waiter that read, “I. B. Free.” His explanation was that the Free’s chose Ivan, plus a middle name starting with a B that I have forgotten, because they liked what it meant. I don’t think I could hang names like that on a kid. Those names brought smiles to my face.

Was reading the “Greater Houston Weekly” recently and found an article that also intrigued me. It was penned by one Ron Saikowski and concerned the “Purple Possum Winery” out Navasota way. You might be familiar with that winery but the name brought another smile to my face. Where did it originate?

Ron explained the owners told him “One evening a possum got into a pail of purple grape juice and changed the color of his coat. It was months before the possum was no longer purple.” This event named the winery. Makes sense but I am still smiling.

Goldfish training

Every now and then I find myself with time on my hands and look for something to do. However, I have never gotten so desperate that I would follow the suggestion in a recent advertisement of a Houston business. It encourages readers to buy a “Training kit to train goldfish to play basketball.” I have no idea how or why anyone would want to train a goldfish to play basketball. Let me know if you bought the kit and have said trained goldfish. I’m still smiling on that one too.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

The Olympic Experience comes to a close

“Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever.” With those words, International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge began the wind-up of the Olympics in China this past Sunday. According to the Associated Press 91,000 people attended the closing ceremonies.

By then, son David was safely nestled in his Newport home after 10 days in China. He called while I was submitting last week’s column to tell us he was home. He was tired but “glad he attended.” He and his varied Houston friends who traveled together to that far off land are now back at work. All good things must come to an end.

By his and others review they were “glorious day,” for them, for the athletes and for China. I do wonder how much change in China this glimpse by the outside world will make—probably very little. The Chinese Communist regime isn’t going to bend. Admittedly, I am a political conservative and have little regard for much of China’s lack of civil rights. But, I do not expect to see many changes during the rest of my lifetime.

Dave and at least one of his traveling companions are already talking of going back to China sometime soon. They are interested in seeing Beijing, and perhaps more of China, without all of the trappings that came with the Olympics. There have been many stories of the government closing factories, changing business hours, doing extra cleaning, etc. to get rid of some of the smog that normally covers the city. They want to go back and see how much change China made just for the Olympics.

Inasmuch as this is my second column on the Olympics I’m sure you can tell I am a fan and friend of the Olympics, summer and winter. While I didn’t watch all of the TV coverage I did watch a lot and managed a little each day. I’m a great fan of the athletes who have worked their hearts out to get to the Olympics. I find myself happy for the winners and sad for those who have great expectations and then lose, sometimes because of injury or some mishap. Mike and Mike on ESPN gave the Olympics an “A” for the events and Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I would agree.

These United States athletes did well this year with 110 medals, 36 of them gold. I got a good feeling for these athletes as they stood on the podium awaiting their awards. I felt good for all of them—American or not. This morning, Monday, I counted the number of countries represented by the winners. There were more than 90 and some from countries one seldom hears about or might have difficulty finding on a map. As I remember pre-Olympic hype indicated there would be 225 or so countries participating.

In this regard we say good work to the athletes, the IOC, China and others who participated in the 2008 Olympics. It was a great show. Now, for the Summer Olympics it is on to London in 2012.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

An Olympic Experience

I’m certain you have all heard the travel expression, “My parents went to Disney World (or some exotic destination) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Such is my dilemma. My son is visiting China for the Olympics and I’m sitting here writing this column. What’s wrong with that picture?

That’s right, while I write this our David Brent from Crosby’s Newport is vacationing in Beijing, China, taking in all the sights and Olympic events he can handle—from both exhaustion and financial points of view. Reports we have received via email is he and his companions are having a ball. They attended the Opening Ceremonies, have visited the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, went sight seeing in much of Beijing and have seen many of the Olympic events.

I say he is visiting China but if things work out as the schedule predicts he should be arriving back in Newport Monday afternoon, August 18, the day I am writing this column. He and his companions spent about ten days there, saw all of the Olympic events they cared to and then boarded a flight back to Houston. From my point of view, Dave had a once in a lifetime experience. Spending several days at the Olympics would be one great event I would like to do and then being able to do so in far off China just adds to the experience and pleasure.

One of his traveling companions, Audrey, was on a working assignment as well as some vacation days. She had her lap top computer with her so we heard from her more than Dave. Since Audrey’s job is travel I figured this would be another trip to China for her but she tells me this was a first for her as well. More power to them! Linda and I have had many opportunities to travel, including one roundthe- world trip, but we never visited China. Hong Kong was as close as we got.

Both Dave and Audrey commented on the smog and the wearing of masks. I know they went over with masks in hand but I have no idea if they wore them at all. In an early e-mail Dave said he is “reminded of Houston with sand.” At this time of year Houston has stifling humidity, and 90-degree temperatures. He said that is Beijing now but add continuous blowing fine sand from the Gobi Desert.

About the smog, Audrey writes, “The air is not as bad as the news would have you think. It is more dirt than pollution. We are walking in humid dust rather than a chemical odor. About all you can do is cover your mouth when walking up wind in the early morning and take a couple of showers a day.”

One of them also advised us that Audrey had a birthday while in China and they celebrated in style. Incidentally, as a travel employee Audrey lives in Houston about six months each year and six months in London.

They also shared another bit of information about the Olympic events that surprised me. Even though most of the events are sell-outs they are taking place to very low audiences. Apparently a lot of people bought tickets and then aren’t showing. They indicated in many events there are about ten vacant seats for every one filled. There are some exceptions, such as swimming and gymnastics. I would expect the field and track events to be much the same. The news in the U.S. is that scalpers have bought large blocks of tickets and have been unable to sell them — thus the empty seats.

Even so, they have been able to secure tickets for anything they want to attend, including the above named events. By email Audrey suggested watching the TV background and look for the yellow or red shirts. The yellow shirts are volunteers attending to fill up chairs and the red shirts are Olympic people filling other seats.

The duo has commented on the food as well. I did a column a few weeks ago on the menu that included dog meat, dung beetles and a number of rather odd sea creatures. They have found their way around most of that. They do better in the finer restaurants and staying away from “street vendors.” It seems every place they go they are accompanied by a guide and security. They have said little about security except “it is tight.” To my knowledge they have not been prevented from going anywhere they have chosen but always with their guide.

They speak highly of their guide, a female who has been quite helpful to them. She is also quite curious about life in the United States and Great Britain.

Transportation seems to be “very good” there according to what I glean from their emails. One e-mail said there is still a lot of walking. “If needed, you can take your pick of several different types of transportation. Just be in track shoes once you get there. The Forbidden City seemed to go on forever, and you have to walk it all,” concluded Audrey. “Next time I come I’m bringing one of those canes that makes a chair.”

Their homebound families are glad they are having a good time and seeing a part of the world relatively few ever see. I’m expecting to see a host of photos when they return. I also hope they don’t bring me a “lousy t-shirt.”

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Tails from the Spell Chequer

Have several things on my mind this morning as I sit at my computer trying to turn a few thoughts into a column. This is my fourth bit for newspapers this a. m. so I’m off to a good start for a Monday morning. It is only 9:05 a.m. Sometimes the words come hard. I’m going to mention several Crosby area friends this week and all of them are of the opposite sex. I know where to make friends!!

Received an e-mail from my good friend Irene Cook who, if my memory serves correct, serves as a librarian at work. Irene sends me an e-mail every now and then giving me Crosby updates and items she things I might find of general interest. Last week she sent a poem about the computer “spell checker.”

That is every computer user’s right arm these days and particularly of use to me, a rather poor speller for a writer. I use the spell check on every sentence, every page and every article. It does its job. Here is Irene’s poem contribution.

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it to say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I’m shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh,
My chequer tolled me so.

Irene’s e-mail brought a big smile to my face when I read this and I thought you might enjoy it as well. That poem is also somewhat of an indictment of the English language. Irene and I are early service church buddies at Crosby Methodist and also pass frequently while walking our dogs on Sea Palms Drive.
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Speaking of dogs, I’ve got to tell a little story on another good friend, Georgia Hayes, a neighbor of our son Dave. We all spoil our dogs as they become part of their family.

Georgia has joined this group with her two little dogs. They love to travel, as does our Maggie, and get a little down in the face when Georgia starts to leave in the car. So Georgia loads them both in the car and takes them on a quick trip around the block before going about her duties of the day. Nice going Georgia. The dogs then seem satisfied. Our Maggie just jumps with joy when she knows she is going to get to go for a ride.
_ _ _ _ _ _

A last but not least item. Another good friend, Jo Pyle, sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago informing me, and others, she has moved from Crosby to Houston. Jo, another member of Crosby Methodist, was the first visitor to Dave’s Sea Palms home a few days after he moved in nearly seven years ago. I’m miss seeing Jo’s face around Crosby.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

An historical perspective…

Several days ago I received a local historical society “Newsletter.” History is important to any town, city, county, state, etc. but unfortunately there are not enough of them around in most communities to really get all the information down in a timely manner and pass it on to the next generation, etc. But, people who put for the effort do a good job.
The editor has some items in this latest issue that may now be among sought after facts in history but they brought smiles to my face and I thought you might be interested as well.
Facts from the 1500s in Europe—Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor. Hence, the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all, the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs—thick straw—piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.”
In those days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”
After reading the above I was glad I didn’t live in Europe during the 1500s. Can you imagine one bath a year!! Such was life then I guess.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

Five years after the Columbia disaster

For the past five years I have written about this same subject in early February and probably will be doing that for some time to come. February 1st has always been a special day for me as it was my late father’s birthday. He would be 104 if alive today. Then, on that date five years ago, the Columbia shuttle tragedy occurred bringing sadness to this country and especially to the families and friends of the seven astronauts killed in that explosion.
I was doing the man-thing on that fateful Saturday morning of channel-surfing with the remote trying to find something of interest to watch. Suddenly I say a familiar face. It was Kerry Kinsey a former sportscaster on one of the Charleston-Huntington stations back home. He was then a news broadcaster on the 24-hour news station in Houston, now missing from our channels.
Kinsey gave me my first knowledge of problems with the Columbia shuttle that was to be passing over Texas about that time. He said it was missing. The national news channels were ahead of him and I switched to Fox News where I got the rest of the story. We all know it was confirmed the shuttle had exploded and hundreds of pieces of debris were falling from the sky across Texas and into Louisiana. It was truly a sad day.

I had reason to travel to Clear Lake the next day where I found thousands of flower arrangements already assembled at the NASA main gate. I was drawn to stop and become a part of the large group of people assembled there. One of the first persons I met was a minister from Dallas who felt he had been called to the site to assist people with their grieving. He had come with a house trailer and was spending some days there. I talked with him for a few minutes and noticed he became part of a number of people’s lives for a short period who had also stopped to pay respects.
This was the third fatal attempt in the space program. The first was in the Apollo program when a shuttle exploded on the launch pad and took the lives of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, one of the seven original astronauts, and two others. The second was the Challenger flight which had on board the school teacher Christa McAuliffe. Millions of children and adults saw it explode on TV shortly after it was sent into the sky.
The space program was put on hold for a while after the Columbia disaster but now is up and running again. I’m glad, if for no other reason than to support those whose lives had been lost in trying to make it a success. We are better off today for the efforts of all who have been active in our space program over the years.
The space program is moving ahead and will continue for years to come. Oh, yes, there will probably be more accidents, more deaths, and we will memorialize those heroes as well. As I said two years ago in this column, “This, my friends is America, where the strong come forth, the strong sometimes fall and die, the strong rebound, the strong succeed and these astronauts, and those who follow them will always be there lest we forget.
Shall we always remember those who gave so much for our country!
Such are the people, places and thing that have touched my life from my West Virginia home!

Christmas is about families

The Christmas season seems to hit me with a vengeance in my more advanced years. The season starts too early and then, all of a sudden, it is over. I’m never ready for the season to begin and I am never ready for it to end.
About the only time I do any shopping is during this season and am not much in favor of the tasks at hand then. If someone would ever tell me I would never been about to shop again I don’t think I would mind at all. It just isn’t my style. Am not too long away for having to shop for a car again and that is always at the bottom of my list. I look at a few cars and am ready to give it all up. Thank goodness my better half is more patient.
Earlier this month Crosby had its Christmas Festival, Highlands had its Festival and Tree Lighting and the Star-Courier is coming upon the issue that includes all of the wee one’s “Letters to Santa.” I look forward to that event and it will probably be the same edition that these words are published.

The kids lead the way at Christmas time and that is good. However, it is a time for all of us—for family enjoyment, for gift exchanges, for giving to others who have that need and for giving thanks to the Lord for all the blessings of the past year. The Springer’s have had many.
I had the old Santa Claus thing all figured out when I was amongst the younger set. The Pittsburgh—Wheeling area had a department store chain named Stone & Thomas. The main store in downtown Wheeling had about ten floors and the sixth floor always turned into a complete toy land.
I lived for my visits to that toy land and the huge model train displays. The visits were all too short and ended with a visit to the store Santa. As long as I can remember I always knew THAT was the real Santa. Those at other stores were only his “helpers.” You couldn’t fool me!
Have one more major task before it is time to leave these parts and head for Texas. Will be in the pulpit of my home church on December 30 (my fifth trip there this year) as our minister will be on vacation that last 2007 Sunday. Two days later we will crawl into our aging Cad and head for your parts pardoner. By the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Jan. 6) we should be nestled along Sea Palms Drive, Newport.
It will be good to see Crosby, the daily visits with Sea Palms neighbors, walking Maggie along Sea Palms and Challenger, attending service again with Texas friends at the Crosby Methodist Church and seeing relatively new friends elsewhere in Crosby, Huffman, Dayton, Etc.
You live in a fine community area and we always enjoy our visits.
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!!
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!