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Wednesday Interview: Texas Matters – Should Texas Remember Or Forget The Slocum Massacre?

West Texas Talk brings you a special from the Texas Matters program from Texas Public Radio in San Antonio.

July 29th, 1910 marked one of the darkest and bloodiest racial atrocities in the history of Texas: The Slocum Massacre. Newspaper reports tallied between 8 and 22 were killed that day. All were African-Americans. But the real number of fatalities is unknown. There is evidence to suggest African-American casualties could be as high as 200.

Today, Texas Matters dissects the truth behind the accounts of the Slocum Massacre, and also analyzes why the event has been mostly absent from the oral and textual histories of the Lone Star State.

West Texas Talk is broadcast at 6:30 pm each weekday.
(Graham Dickie/KRTS)

(Graham Dickie/KRTS)

War Stories Through the Eyes of West Texans

At the Casner Room in Marfa City Hall, Angelo State University professors Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai and Christine Lamberson usher veterans into adjoining rooms for audio interviews. They set their mementos onto a small white sheet for photo documentation, and have them fill out paper work so all the material they gathered can be used for an online database.

The aim is to work towards making war history from the recent past into something personal for West Texans here as part of a much larger project called “War Stories.”

“This is the stuff of which history books are made,” said Wongsrichanalai, who’s co-directing the project with Lamberson.


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Tom Michael, Zara Meerza, Natasha Jatania, and Anna Reinelt at MPR Studios (Ryan Lentini/KRTS)

Tuesday Interview: British Filmmakers Craft Marfa Documentary Using New Technology

Today on West Texas Talk, Tom Michael sits down with three British filmmakers, Zara Meerza, Natasha Jatania, and Anna Reinelt, to talk about their month long documentary shoot in Marfa. The trio have interviewed over 40 community members in order to create a wide portrait of Marfa for European audiences.

Part of the pitch of the film, which is expected to be shown in festivals this year, is the use of a  technology called, Google Cardboard. They have conceived of the possibility of having a virtual tour of Marfa using the immersive new invention.

West Texas Talk is broadcast at 6:30 pm each weekday.
The Brewster County Courthouse in Alpine

In West Texas, Some Counties Are Issuing Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples, Others Are Not

With Friday’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, some county clerk offices in Texas, including those in Travis, Bexar, and Dallas counties, began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples immediately. But in West Texas, most county clerks were not. They were waiting further instruction from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

On Sunday, Paxton’s office issued a non-binding statement that county clerks may opt-out of providing these licenses. In this opinion, he warned counties, though, that they should be prepared to face fines or legal challenges. 

The West Texas counties of Hale, El Paso, and Midland announced on Friday they would issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Others though, like officials in Ector County, reversed their decision between Friday and Monday, announcing they would update their forms and begin issuing the licenses. It was a similar story in Brewster County and Presidio County, with officials on Monday saying they would abide by the federal ruling. Several West Texas county clerks were unavailable for further comment.

We continue to track the changing landscape of West Texas counties on this issue. A county-by-county decision map from The Dallas Morning News is being updated throughout the week.

Lucy and Clay Furlong, West Texas ranchers and the owner of this old mercantile story in Kent, TX., are gearing up to fight a proposed nuclear waste site in Culberson County. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Lucy and Clay Furlong, West Texas ranchers and the owner of this old mercantile story in Kent, TX., are gearing up to fight a proposed nuclear waste site in Culberson County. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

After a Few Failed Attempts, A New Pitch for Nuclear Waste in West Texas

West Texas has had a long and often contentious relationship with nuclear waste, stretching back to a years-long battle over a planned permanent waste site in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Opponents eventually won that fight, but a different site was later built in the Permian Basin.

Some now see West Texas as the ideal place to store higher-level waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants, since those plants are running out of room to do it themselves.

Ranchers don’t like the idea, and they’re already gearing up for a fight.

Bill Jones is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner. He’s also co-owner of the Austin-based company AFCI, Texas. In that role, he wants to bring used nuclear fuel from those power plants to an above-ground storage site in rural Culberson County.

But he’s been trying to do that for seven years. Even with supporters as powerful as former governor Rick Perry backing the idea of bringing nuclear waste to Texas, it’s still been a hard sell.

Four other West Texas counties have already told him, “no thanks.”

“It’s fair to say that we did not bring along the landowners with the process, as we have with this county,” Jones said at a recent community meeting in Van Horn.


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Report for June 24th

Summer isn’t always good waves and fun times, more often than not the ocean is flat and boredom hangs around the town. All the air-conditioning and waiting has got Punch Kennedy down, and it looks like the flat spell is going to continue … Continue reading

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
El Paso artist Margarita Cabrera shows off a model of her sculpture entitled 'Uplift.' The piece was removed mid-installation from a public roundabout earlier this year. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

El Paso artist Margarita Cabrera shows off a model of her sculpture entitled 'Uplift.' The piece was removed mid-installation from a public roundabout earlier this year. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

City-Commissioned Sculpture Raises Questions Of Censorship

A public art piece in El Paso that was abruptly removed by city officials earlier this year is raising questions about censorship. The metal sculpture depicted a flock of birds carrying off fragments of guns once used to commit crimes.

The resulting controversy reveals a city struggling to define itself in the aftermath of a brutal drug war that hurt both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

The trouble began when local artist Margarita Cabrera decided to change the design of a city commissioned work she calls “Uplift.” The sculpture originally incorporated confiscated gun fragments in its concrete base. Later she decided to weld the gun fragments onto the sculpture itself, putting them in clear view of the public.

“We have a shared history of violence here in the border…and I wanted to celebrate the change that we have seen in years past where that violence has really diminished,” Cabrera said.

In 2008, a turf war broke out between two rival drug cartels in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso. More than 10,000 people were killed, including Americans. Many Juárez residents fled to El Paso.


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West Texas wildflower, June 19, 2015 (Daniel Alvarado / Marfa Public Radio).

West Texas wildflower, June 19, 2015 (Daniel Alvarado / Marfa Public Radio).

After Being Defunded By the State, Texas Mountain Trail Decides to Go-It-Alone

The 2015 legislative session is over. There were winner and losers. One agency that lost state funding was the Heritage Trails Program, made up of 10 organizations across the state.

Tom Michael spoke with Drew Stuart, a board member representing the westernmost region – called Texas Mountain Trail. He describes their purpose, their activities, and what his board decided to do, now that they’ve been defunded by the State of Texas.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon erected this 'No More Weapons' sign in 2012 at the foot of the Bridge of the Americas in Ciudad Juárez. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon erected this 'No More Weapons' sign in 2012 at the foot of the Bridge of the Americas in Ciudad Juárez. (Mónica Ortiz Uribe)

Ciudad Juárez Tears Down ‘No More Weapons’ Sign

Mexican officials have ordered the removal of a three ton sign that reads, “No More Weapons!” at the foot of an international bridge across from El Paso, Texas.

The giant sign is made of confiscated firearms and was erected in 2012 by then President Felipe Calderon as a means of sending a message to the United States.

The U.S. is the main supplier of illegal guns into Mexico and those weapons often end up in the hands of organized crime. The sign was placed at the border crossing into Ciudad Juárez, a city now recovering from years of intense drug violence.

Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano criticized the “No More Weapons!” sign at a press event Wednesday saying it was a billboard for bad diplomacy and could scare off visitors from the city.


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The Alpine City Council at a regular meeting on June 17, 2015 (Katherine Rae Mondo / KRTS)

The Alpine City Council at a regular meeting on June 17, 2015 (Katherine Rae Mondo / KRTS)

Addressing Concerns from Big Bend Residents, Alpine Council Passes Pipeline Measures

The Alpine City Council passed two measures related to the Trans-Pecos Pipeline on Tuesday: one a strongly-worded move against the pipeline, the other a more reserved effort to have the pipeline built under stricter safety standards than what’s currently required.

In a 3-2 vote, the council gave Mayor Avinash Rangra permission to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deny a presidential permit for the project.

That’s the government approval the pipeline needs to connect at the U.S.-Mexico border with another pipeline stretching from the Mexican side.

A previous anti-pipeline proposal from Rangra died before getting to a vote at the council’s last meeting, and for a moment it appeared this second measure would also die.

People in the audience pleaded with the council after member Julian Gonzales’ motion for a vote was met with silence from the rest of the council.

“Please, please!” one person cried out. “Come on!” said others.

Though she expressed some reservations, council member Cynthia Salas eventually seconded the motion, bringing it to a vote. It passed, with Rick Stephens and Jim Fitzgerald voting against.

Rangra’s letter to FERC will have to be approved by the city council before it’s submitted.

“City of Alpine, through its council, has spoken against [the pipeline],” Rangra said, adding that he’s been more outspoken against the project since 23rd District Congressman Will Hurd and his predecessor Pete Gallego weighed in on the issue.


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Garrison Brothers Distillery  (Erin Scott)

Garrison Brothers Distillery (Erin Scott)

Texas bourbon distilleries are on the rise

Sunday was National Bourbon Day. That’s a liquor associated with the state of Kentucky. But the geographic similarities between Texas and Kentucky are not lost on some new Texas distilleries.

Every state has its treasures. California has its beaches. Louisiana its jazz clubs. Kentucky its bourbon. Legally though bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky to be bourbon. It’s all about the production. As long as its made from a grain mixture that’s at least 51% corn, ages in barrels for two years, and meets some specific proof specifications, you can slap a bourbon label on it.


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Pumpco, Inc. has been using water from the well in question to settle dust at the Alpine staging site for the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Pumpco, Inc. has been using water from the well in question to settle dust at the Alpine staging site for the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Pumpco Denied Water Permit for Pipeline Staging Site

On Tuesday, the Brewster County Groundwater Conservation District denied a water well permit application filed by Pumpco, Inc. – the contractor preparing to build the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

The company’s been clearing a site in Alpine that will be used to stage the pipeline for construction.

The denied permit comes a few weeks after a district board member, Tom Beard, was arrested for trespassing and felony assault during an altercation with a Brewster County Sheriff’s Deputy at the Alpine site.

Reports said Beard was there to find out whether or not Pumpco had a permit for a water well it was already using. District Manager Conrad Arriola later confirmed the company did not.

Arriola said Pumpco’s permit application was denied because of “some technicalities.”

“It was the wrong acreage on the land, and the production was above our allowable production, so the board voted not to approve it,” he said.

Arriola said Pumpco has already re-applied for a permit, and the board will likely hold another public hearing on that application later this month.

It’s not clear whether this means Pumpco will stop using water at the Alpine site, given that the company was already pumping without a permit, and the groundwater district didn’t previously take enforcement action against the company.


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"It all is a big media deal - we read the ads in the newspapers, talking about we are gonna be neighbors, this or that, but neighbors don’t speak through newspapers." - Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra (Graham Dickie / KRTS)

"It all is a big media deal - we read the ads in the newspapers, talking about we are gonna be neighbors, this or that, but neighbors don’t speak through newspapers." - Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra (Graham Dickie / KRTS)

Alpine Mayor on Trans-Pecos Pipeline: “I Feel Uncomfortable”

Earlier this week, in an interview with Marfa Public Radio, Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra laid out his views on the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

The 143-mile pipeline would carry natural gas from producers in the Permian Basin, through the Big Bend region, to the border with Mexico.

The pipeline, intended to supply Mexican power plants, represents a significant step forward in cross-border energy partnerships, in the wake of Mexico opening up its oil and gas sector to foreign investment. Investors on both sides of the border are itching to cash in.

Rangra spoke to us at length about his feelings on the plan, with this takeaway: he’s concerned about what he sees as a lack of transparency from the company behind the project, Dallas-based Energy Transfer.

“I feel uncomfortable, simply because we don’t have any information that we can verify available from the outfit that is engaged in laying the pipeline,” he said.

Energy Transfer has published fact sheets about the project, held a series of open houses, given presentations to local county commissioners, and spoken with the media about its plan, but Rangra feels that’s not enough. He’s disappointed the company hasn’t had frank, one-on-one discussions with him to address his specific concerns about the safety of the pipeline.

“What are the safety measures? Are they going to assure me that the material of the pipeline is stable enough to withstand the pressure of the gas that’s going to be going through the pipeline?” he asked.

“It all is a big media deal,” he said. “We read the ads in the newspapers, talking about ‘we are gonna be good neighbors,’ this or that, but neighbors don’t speak through newspapers.”

Listen to highlights from our Wednesday interview above, in which Mayor Rangra said he was surprised a recent resolution opposing the pipeline died before getting to a vote. 

When asked if he would consider trying to get a similar resolution in front of the council, Rangra said he’s “thinking about that, yes.”

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Report for June 10th

After catching some waves under the moon last night, Punch Kennedy’s betting there’ll be some swell sticking around today. Full report when the sun comes up – if it ever does. Music by Andrew Kidman from the OST of his own 2006 film, … Continue reading

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
A brainstorming meeting for Pink Petro on May 22, 2015. The group aims to increase networking among women in the oil industry. (Lana Straub / KXWT)

A brainstorming meeting for Pink Petro on May 22, 2015. The group aims to increase networking among women in the oil industry. (Lana Straub / KXWT)

In the Male-Dominated Oil Industry, Efforts to Build Stronger Networks Among Women

When people picture the oil industry, they often picture men.

Of the 132,000 American oil and gas workers in 2013, 33,000 of them were women. That’s only 25%, and the situation is even more skewed in executive offices.

With those numbers in mind, we take a look at women leaders in the energy sector.

Kimberly Smith is a female “landman” in West Texas. Landmen are the oil industry reps that spend their time in offices, looking for signatures and operating agreements.

Smith’s friends call her a “Land Ma’am.” It’s a West Texas term of endearment, but it also distinguishes her as a woman in a male-dominated profession – a profession that often deals Smith some gender backlash.

She says when she tries to network for jobs, people often don’t see her as a breadwinner. It’s more like she’s working for spending money.

“I have had where if my husband, who is an owner in the company, had said ‘I’m looking for a project,’ people would be more intentional in helping him network,” Smith says. “Whereas they perceive that I’m just buying the kids fun stuff and accessories.”

That attitude hurts women trying to find work in this business.

“There’s a lot of women that are contributing and are maybe the sole provider for their families, and they wouldn’t be seen as that,” she says.


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Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Poet Laureates Through The Ages

This week Lonn Taylor, the Rambling Boy, reflects on the culture and history of poet laureates in the United States and the United Kingdom. From rewards and duties of the position, to quirky characters who have had the job, the Rambling Boy takes us through poet laureate history.

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Mondays after the 10 am newscast and again after the 7 pm newscast.
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Thu. Jun 25 Interview: Theater of Big Bend: Annie Get Your Gun

This week we speak with Theater of the Big Bend. Joining us are Dona Roman and Lana Potts, director and music director of Annie Get Your Gun. Also joining us are leading actors, Kolbi Forks and Josh Martinez. While celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Theater of the Big Bend, rehearsals are wrapping up for Annie Get Your Gun, with opening night on June 26th.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Precambrian rock forms the "basement" of the continent. The Red Rock Ranch, west of Van Horn, contains some the most extensive examples of Precambrian geology in Texas.

Grandfather Rocks: Red Rock Ranch & the Precambrian Eon

One billion years ago. The planet, with its rocks and seas, was bare of all but the simplest forms of single-celled life. In the waters, algae were the sum of plant life. The Precambrian Eon preceded the emergence of complex … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.
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Veteran landscaper David Christiani in the KRTS studio (Tom Michael/KRTS)

Wed. Jun 24 Interview: David Cristiani on Landscaping in West Texas

Landscape architect David Cristiani has lived throughout the Mountain West, studying native plants. He operates his own environmental design firm, Quercus, now based in El Paso. Today on West Texas Talk he shares some of what he’s learned, talking about the philosophy of landscape architecture and offering tips for aspiring gardeners.

What are the best ways for your plants to reflect the Big Bend area? How do you achieve the best growth possible? What difference does soil type make? And what are classic mistakes that landscapers should avoid? Christiani helps clear some of these questions up.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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2015 KRTS Youth Media participants, Joel, Brizzy, and Eva.

Tue. Jun 23 Interview: KRTS Youth Media Project Features Marfa Student Stories

The 2015 chapter of the KRTS Youth Media Project has concluded. On West Texas Talk today, we play the final reports form the student storytellers. Project Coordinator Sally Beauvais talks about this year’s program – the third year of the project and the first year it was conducted entirely at Marfa Public School.

The KRTS Youth Media Project is part of the PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs. The stories are:

  • Big Business, Small Town: A Wal-Mart in Marfa , by Joel Hernandez
  • Healthcare in Isolated West Texas, by Chris Salas
  • Text Tones: Risking Your Life Behind The Wheel, by Amber Olvera
  • Attached at the Hip: Leaving Home for the Military, by Alejandra Hernandez
  • The Amazing Dizzneyland, by Brizzy Mendoza
  • RoboHorns in Lubbock: Marfa ISD’s Rookie Year at FIRST Robotics, by Michael Vega
  • Campaigning in the Age of Millennials Wendy Davis and Social Media, by Eva Guevara

 

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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