Arts History Update for late July 2014

14 Jul

Arts History Update for late July 2014 by David Cummins

The National College Baseball Hall of Fame repository is the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Libraries at Texas Tech University and there is a display exhibit now through September 30 noting the events of the past season. For Texas Tech the most important event was that its baseball team made the last eight teams in the nation at the College Baseball World Series in Omaha Nebraska
and for that accomplishment the team’s coach Tim Tadlock was awarded as National Coach of the Year. This was the first time for Texas Tech to be in the College World Series. Regrettably it lost its first two games and left town a bit deflated. Fans recall that it made it into the regional tourney at Coral Gables Florida and won, then hosted a super regional in Lubbock and won that in two straight games, fueling an enormous surge of pride that persists.


When companies say they participate in Social Media to advertise and inform about their product or service and connect with the market, what do they mean? Essentially, their staff keeps up a constant presence on:

1. You Tube channel
2. Facebook
3. Twitter
4. Foursquare
5. Flickr
6. Instagram
7. Linkedin
8. Wikipedia
9. Pinterest
10. Tumblr

An example is Texas Tech University and and and and and and and and and

There’s a verb associated with each form of social media, to alert us that this is an activity folks are encouraged to engage in, and of course the more they engage with a company or institution the more the latter has reached its goal. Do you “pin” or “link” or “tweet” or “like” or “follow” or ‘tag” etc.

There are many more social networking services.
The responsible and sensible use of social media on behalf of one’s employer is a skill for which employers pay top dollar when it’s demonstrated to help the company. Some companies outsource this activity, often to a public relations firm, and others employ staff in-house to carry it out.

Of course there is always the possibility of doing something badly, and we know that some folks will appropriate and share confidential and private information and images. Youngsters who have been “outed” in this manner have been so devastated as to attempt or commit suicide.

One sober although not often appreciated stance toward social media, is to be aware that someone, a total stranger with an agenda unknown to you, is repeatedly watching and listening to social interactions. It may be so commercial and mundane as someone trying to figure out who might be a likely market for the watcher’s commercial product and so should be targeted as a consumer. It may be headhunters or potential employers wanting to know about the private lives of persons of interest.

The vigilant and safe folks will take more time and telephone to have a private conversation or meet and talk over coffee eye to eye. Only in that context will private information be exchanged. Not on social media.

When something happens live, like athletic events and concerts, and communities of fans and supporters can interact to and with it, savvy operators of those events create Social Media platforms for fans and supporters to respond, often instantly so unconsidered, emotional and inconsiderate responses abound. Athletic Departments at universities are an example and notice the “Live Chat” drop-down dialogue box that you can be assured is monitored by an athletic department employee. Here’s a long list of social media sites devoted to Texas Tech Athletics including a way to instantly respond to head coaches in each of the sports.

In days of yore we noticed Monday morning quarterbacks chatting about what the football coach should or shouldn’t have done at last Saturday’s game. Today with digital social media, that “quarterback” sitting in row 37 or at home watching on television can “correct” the coach instantly. Thankfully, pressing the send button is a one way transaction, and the coach may not read or receive the message until Monday morning.



Tex Thornton:
King of the oilfield firefighters
and rainmaker
by Clay Coppedge


The oil fields of the Texas Panhandle in the 1920s and ‘30s were a place where a man who knew how to use nitroglycerin could make a good living for himself. Ward A. “Tex” Thornton was such a man. He learned all about nitro when he went to work in 1913 for an Ohio company that manufactured torpedoes. He brought that knowledge along with a steady hand and no small degree of courage to the oil fields around Amarillo in 1920.
Thornton was sent to Amarillo in 1920 as a branch manager for U.S. Torpedo Company of Wichita Falls where he learned about the peculiar nature of those oil fields and how nitroglycerin, which he knew all about, was in high demand. The problem was handling and using nitroglycerin without blowing everybody and everything around it to atoms.

Nitroglycerin, first developed in Italy in 1847, was adapted commercially by Alfred Noble of peace prize fame as a high explosive, which meant that it was highly unstable and could be set off with just the slightest jolt; numerous explosions of the spectacular but tragic variety attested to this and led to it being widely banned, which was bad for Nobel’s nitroglycerin factory. He experimented with it some more and eventually stabilized it with the use of diatomaceous earth in the manufacture of an explosive he called dynamite. (Yes, the man for whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named invented dynamite.)

Nitroglycerin in its raw form was used in the Panhandle oil fields in a couple of ways. Well shooters like Tex Thornton would put it into promising holes to create an explosion intended to shake the oil loose and bring it to the top; the thick limestone formations in the fields made it necessary to use a lot of nitroglycerin. The fields also held large amounts of natural gas, which made dropping little canisters of nitroglycerin into well holes occasionally problematic.

Demonic gas vapors sometimes caught the canisters and forced them back up the well hole. When that happened it helped to be able to (a) run very fast, or (b) catch the canister when it came back up. Bobble the nitro and the well shooter and everyone and everything in his immediate vicinity would be toast. Thornton was said to be one of the best at catching the nitro when it came back up.
The high levels of natural gas also made the fields susceptible to fires. One way to extinguish such a fire was to drop a charge of nitro into the fire and explode it; the explosion sucked all the oxygen from the fire and snuffed it out. When the threat of starting additional fires was too great to use the nitro, Thornton would smother the fires with massive amounts of steam and water, which took about three weeks, 20-30 men, and 50 steam boilers; but it worked. Tex Thornton was known as the king of oilfield firefighters.

Later, during the Dust Bowl, he picked up a reputation as a rainmaker or charlatan, depending on your point of view. There’s no evidence that Tex Thornton did not believe that explosions properly placed in the clouds would produce rain. Napoleon believed it, World War I soldiers believed it, and in the 1930s everybody in Dalhart, at the cold, flat and windy northwestern tip of Texas, was ready to believe it, too. Thornton probably believed the theory that rain follows artillery but if he tried such a thing anywhere other than Dalhart it hasn’t been widely reported.

Dalhart was hit especially hard by the Dust Bowl. The bank failed on June 27, 1931, a day when the temperature reached 112 degrees. That began the first of eight years with very little rain and the beginning of the most destructive dust storms in history. Dalhart was one of the worst-hit communities in the nation.

Tex Thornton showed up in Dalhart right the middle of the town’s misery, in 1935. He told the city he believed he could make it rain. He certainly tried. He set off explosives in the clouds for several days, battling dust storms and high winds much of the time. People came from miles around to watch him but the blowing dust drove most of the spectators away. Thornton stayed at it. Finally, it snowed. Then, as the temperatures warmed, it sleeted.

For all anybody knew, Tex Thornton had coaxed moisture out of the sky in Dalhart, though places like Kansas and Colorado, way out of range for Tex Thornton’s nitroglycerin, also got snow and rain in roughly the same amount at roughly the same time.

His reputation as a well shooter, firefighter and rainmaker made Tex Thornton something of a legend in the Panhandle but he met with an unfortunate ending that had nothing to do with a large explosion, as we might expect. Thornton was murdered by two hitchhikers he picked up on June 22, 1949.

The man and woman charged in the murder – the hitchhikers – were not convicted. The trial was of the sensational variety, and aspersions were cast on Tex Thornton’s character, an ignoble end for a legendary character of both oil field and Dust Bowl lore.


Ward A. “Tex” Thornton’s son was Charles Bates “Tex” Thornton “whiz kid’ at Ford Motor Company and Hughes Aircraft, and founder and CEO of Litton Industries,
in whose name funds were given to Texas Tech University to endow professorships. Charles B. Thornton 1913-1981 was born in Haskell Texas and was abandoned by his father soon thereafter. Charles attended Texas Technological College for two years majoring in business administration. Haskell is north of Abilene Texas on US Highway 277.

Opening up the Northwest

There were three railroads that operated from the upper Midwest to Seattle, the Northern Pacific Railway, the Great Northern Railway, and Chicago Milwaukee St Paul and Pacific Railroad [called The Milwaukee Road],_Milwaukee,_St._Paul_and_Pacific_Railroad In addition, the Union Pacific Railroad [the first transcontinental line chartered by President Lincoln in 1862] came north to Portland in 1884 and Seattle 1888 from San Francisco.
The Northern Pacific was chartered by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1864 for a line from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. Construction began in 1870, was delayed by Indian wars, and was completed in 1888 by a direct route through Missoula Montana crossing the Bitterroot Mountains at St Paul Pass and Taft Tunnel [1.6 miles, east entrance in Montana west entrance in Idaho] on to Lookout Pass and Wallace Idaho, and Stampede Pass in the Cascade Mountains west of Yakima, and by an indirect route from Spokane down to the Columbia River and then north from Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington. 15,000 Chinese laborers and 10,000 Anglo laborers were used in the construction.
The Great Northern, bankrolled by James J. Hill, took a more northern route, what is currently US Highway 2 route, through the Montana High Line country, Glacier National Park Montana, Sandpoint Idaho, Spokane Washington and across the northern Cascade Mountains at Scenic Washington [Old Cascade Tunnel 2.6 miles and New Cascade Tunnel 7.8 miles 1928-1989] in the Stevens Pass area reaching Puget Sound in 1893. John F. Stevens was chief engineer for the Great Northern.
In the economic Panic of 1893 the Northern Pacific slipped into bankruptcy but the other railroads carried on.
Railroad lines converged in Seattle in the 1890s and the two permanent downtown stations or terminals were constructed later, King Street Station (1906) [Great Northern and Northern Pacific] and Union Station (1911) [Milwaukee Road and Union Pacific].
Today all the lines have been merged into the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and its trackage is an amalgamation from former railroads. The current Amtrak passenger service eastward is on the Empire Builder train and its western terminus is King Street Station with its 12 story clock tower. The current passenger service southward to Los Angeles is on the Coast Starlight By law passenger service today must defer to freight train traffic, so train schedules for passengers are guides or suggestions. It’s relaxation and beverage time all day and night.
The historic Hiawatha train was a Milwaukee Road passenger train that ran between Chicago and Seattle. Today it is an Amtrak service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The historic Empire Builder train was a Great Northern passenger train service between Chicago and Seattle and the historic North Coast Limited was a Northern Pacific passenger train service between Chicago and Seattle. These three historic passenger trains were flagship trains and marked the apogee of haute railroading in the early 20th century. The freight cars and trains were the economic engines of the northwest.


Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival 2014, the fifth annual, is Labor Day weekend August 29-31 at Moody Gardens in Galveston Texas. It locks down a hot Texas Summer about as well as anything might. The best craft beer made in Texas is definitely present, and some excellent craft beer from around the nation is on offer. Free van service back to your hotel so no one gets into trouble on the road after imbibing. The other trouble is yours to navigate.

Brewlicious Brews & Food Pairing at $75 per person on August 29 in the Ballroom, and Brewhaha Grand Tasting at $35 per person in the Convention Center on August 30, and Beach Brews & Bands at $10 per person on August 31 for an evening concert with fireworks over the lake, among other events, make up the weekend I like the Pub Crawl around the city of Galveston event, with all transportation provided on Saturday evening, and I’m guessing the promoter stocks those pubs in advance with some of the best Texas beers so crawlers/aficionados will find their desires satisfied.

Moody Gardens at any time of year is a destination in itself


Bay Model Visitor Center at 2100 Bridgeway Boulevard, Sausalito California is a 1.5 acre working three-dimensional hydraulic model of San Francisco Bay San Pablo Bay and the Sacramento River – San Joaquin River Delta System, open to the public Tuesday through Sunday free admission US Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District and the national parks and recreation system is the landlord. The model area is San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay [northeast to Vallejo], and Suisun Bay just west of where the Sacramento River flowing south from the Sacramento Valley meets the San Joaquin River flowing north from the Central Valley City of Stockton is to the east of that river systems delta and is on the San Joaquin River. Since 1933 there is a deep water channel that permits ships entering San Francisco Bay to proceed through Suisun Bay all the way to Stockton and to West Sacramento where there are turning basins. Carquinez Strait connects San Pablo Bay with Suisun Bay.

What a thrill it must be to walk around the expanse of the model feeling like a giant striding across the lands and waters and gaining a perspective not readily otherwise achieved.

The source of the San Joaquin River is the Mount Goddard area in Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the river flows southwest to Fresno in the Central Valley and then north roughly parallel to Interstate 5 Highway. A myriad of diversions for agricultural irrigation purposes and some hydroelectric facilities make the San Joaquin a highly utilized river. This area of the Central Valley is referred to as the Thousand Lakes area.

The source of the Sacramento River is in the Klamath Mountains south of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County and flows south roughly parallel to Interstate Highway 5 through the cities of Redding, Red Bluff, and Colusa to the City of Sacramento [joined there by the American River] and converges with the San Joaquin 40 miles south of the city. The city of Chico is on Butte Creek but is only a few miles east of the Sacramento River so Chico folks go tubing on the Sacramento at Scottys Landing



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