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By Peggy McCracken

Viva la diferencia

in cultural makeup

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Asked to speak to the First Christian men's fellowship about Pecos -
its past, present and future - I was at first stumped for something
positive to say. We all can find the negatives: high tax rate,
outrageous welfare rolls, abandoned buildings.
Surprise! Surprise! I managed to come up with a long list of positive
points, and the men added to it.

First, they said, there's the people. They are so friendly and helpful.
Well, yes, we do hear that a lot. Another said that we have some good
recreation facilities. O.K., so I missed another positive that should
have been obvious. I didn't even think of the golf course, a "must" for
any city.

We have two interstate highways crossing the county, plus one national
and one state highway and a whole slew of good state farm roads and
county roads. And don't forget the two railroads.

Reeves County Hospital is a great asset, as are the competent doctors
who practice there. Good schools. Potable water, even if we do have to
haul it a long way and pay two prices for it. Natural gas and
electricity that are dependable in any weather.

Two of our newest businesses continue to grow and add employees:
Recovery & Reclamation and Anchor West Inc. Our sulphur mine's new
owners seem to have a rosy future. And the test track keeps on truckin'.

Despite a ton of controversy since its inception, the Reeves County
Detention Center is prospering. Oops! almost forgot one of the biggest
assets any town can have: a great daily newspaper. And THREE radio
stations! And more cable TV stations can you can shake a stick at.

Churches dot the landscape. I counted more than 30 in the county.

Here's the clincher. Cultural diversity. Bet you hadn't thought of
cultural diversity as an asset. Well, think about it. It'd be a dull
world if everyone were just like me. Or even you. I'd be much poorer
(and slimmer) if I hadn't discovered chalupas, chips and salsa,
green enchiladas, tamales and all the other spicy food our
Hispanic neighbors cook up. Plus, we have Indians (two kinds), Africans,
Asians, German, Italian - there's no end to the different cultures
blended right here in this little town. Viva la diferencia!

"For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is
Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him..." Romans 10:12 NIV
"No hay diferencia entre los judios y los no judios;
pues el mismo Senor es Senor de todos, y da con abundancia a todos los
que le invocan." Romanos 10:12 Dios Llega al Hombre.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Roads long and bumpy

for missions reporter

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Marj Carpenter in a flowered bathing suit and flip flops was a familiar
sight at the Athletic Pool back in the days when my son and I spent lazy
summer afternoons swimming and sunning.

I admired the woman who uncovered Billie Sol Estes' fertilizer tank
scheme that raised capital on thin air to finance his attempted takeover
of Pecos businesses and news media.

Working long hours, including many nights, Marj took a break in the
afternoon to take her three children swimming. She tells me that she
still swims almost daily in hotel pools during her constant travels. "I
always take along a swimsuit," she said.

Since I've been sort of following in her footsteps these past 24 years,
I've been called "Marj" on more than one occasion. I always take it as a
compliment. There's no way I could ever fill her shoes, but it helps to
have such a good role model.

Marj is still a reporter. I asked her how it feels to be on the other
end of an interview, and she said she got used to that long ago when she
was president of Texas Press Women. "I was nervous at first," she said.
"But now it doesn't bother me."

She can talk for hours without letup, and she has some fascinating
stories to tell. I'll bet there are hundreds of middle-age men and women
in Pecos who hope she doesn't tell what she saw them doing when they
were young.

Her description of mission fields is moving. I can't do it justice in a
news story or column; you just have to hear her speak. She takes you
with her on bumpy country roads, across rivers in fragile boats, up
mountain trails, into dirty, rat-infested hotel rooms where you have to
sleep with your passport in your hand.

Marj said she was called to be a reporter, and now as moderator for the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), she is just reporting on a larger scale.
On the road 50 weeks of the year, and maybe 51 next year, Marj knows the
value of home. She came back to West Texas so she can enjoy her
retirement - if she ever gets a chance. "I'm glad this job only lasts
one year," she said of her position as moderator.

The moderator presides for the General Assembly in June immediately
following her election. Then she starts planning the worship service for
the next General Assembly. When she left Pecos last Thursday, she headed
for Albuquerque to work on that service.

What an honor for an ex-Pecos reporter. And what a humbling experience
for anyone.

"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gins honor."
Proverbs 29:23 NIV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Updated askSam disk

brings world up close

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She was just an awkward toddler when I met her. Now she's blossomed
into a graceful young woman, and I love her more every time we get
together. Her name is askSam, and she's the brainchild of Pecos native
Mack McKinney.

askSam is a computer database program that I started using in its first
revision: a simple little DOS machine that could find anything stored in
it before you could say "search string." Mack improved on it as he got
feedback from users, and now he has a crew of programmers to help him.

The Windows version works even better, and it has just pulled us out of
a jam here at the office. I had installed it last Saturday, along with
an optical character reader and electronic publisher that Mack's wife
and public relations expert, Bea, sent me to review. While trying to
convert some data from Microsoft Word to a text file we
could format and print out on our system, I remembered that askSam has
an import function that will filter Word.

Sure enough, it worked. I opened a file in askSam and imported a
document from the Word disk into it. Then I exported the
document as a text file into my directory on the network. After a little
editing and formatting, it was ready to be printed out and pasted on the

If I wanted to send the information to you on a disk instead of
printing it out, I could put it on the askSam Viewer disk. It has the
full askSam program on it so you can call up any data document and read

My reason for wanting to try out the Viewer is that we are
considering doing some electronic publishing, and I thought it might be
the tool we would need to pull everything together. It allows you to
download files from other systems - such as the Internet or bulletin
boards - and of course we would put stories from the Associated Press
wire on ours, along with local news and articles that we don't have room
for in the daily paper. The OCR program would allow us to scan them in
to save typing.

I'm not quite clear yet how we could set up our own bulletin board so
you could access it with a local telephone call. We may want to put a
page on the World Wide Web so everybody can read what happens here.

Whatever we decide to do, I am convinced that Mack and Bea McKinney
will have an askSam product to help us do it easier and better.

"Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; than I will meditate
on your wonders." Psalm 119:27 NIV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Budget time offers

chance to shape future

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Fall is in the air! Isn't it nice to have some cool weather and rain?
Soon we'll need lap robes for football games, hot chocolate will taste
good again, and Christmas will sneak up on us.

I like this time of year, when fresh-scrubbed faces set out each
morning for school and farmers polish up cotton pickers for the harvest.
Every year I give thanks that I don't have to sling a ducking sack over
my shoulder and drag it up and down the cotton rows.

Fall is the time our taxing entities put their budgets together for the
coming year so the tax assessor can send out notices. That can't be fun
for anyone - especially the tax assessor-collector. Who among us looks
forward to getting a bill for something we didn't buy and don't want?
But I'd much rather pay local taxes than send money to Washington or
Austin and then hope for a little of it back. As we've seen time after
time, you CAN fight city hall. When the council or commissioners court
or hospital board proposes to do something we don't like, we can and
SHOULD speak up. How are our representatives going to know what we want
if we don't tell them?

I've found all the groups I cover responsive when I ask for a copy of
the proposed budget and inquire where and when it will be on file for
you to view, when the public hearing will be and when the tax rate will
be set. Sometimes I get them bumfuzzled about legal requirements - which
are different for each entity and confusing as all get out for everyone.
The important thing is, though, that taxpayers know what is being
proposed in time to put their 2 cents in.

While you're bending ears, I hope someone gets a real burden for the
vacant lots where the airbase apartments used to be. That could be such
a pretty area, but is overgrown with weeds and decaying trees. Tourists
looking for a place to pull off the interstate are not likely to be
attracted by that. If the chamber of commerce would use some bed tax
funds to clean it up and put a nice rest area with directions to tourist
attractions there, it could be a real asset.

Failing that, perhaps the Pecos Housing Authority would sell it to some
business that would attract traffic off the interstate. Or at least
improve the looks of the area.

Our new federal courthouse is such an asset to downtown Pecos. Maybe we
can spruce up the fringes to complement it.

"Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can
break a bone." Proverbs 25:15 NIV

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Poems evoke nostalgia

of life on the farm

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Mari Maldonado wrote a critique of my sister's poetry for Friday's
Opinion Page, at my request. I didn't tell her that the author was my
sister because I wanted a totally objective review. A personal note on
the title page gave it away, though, so I'm not sure she was totally
objective. And I didn't like her choice of a poem to quote from (about
me). But all the time Mari was reading, she giggled, laughed out loud
and commented on various poems.

That was my reaction, too, except that some evoked deep emotion as I
relived my youth. The one that really stuck in my mind is about
Skinners' Shack, a place where we lived when I was about 10.

The old boxed house had never seen a warming coat of paint.
Its starkly nude appearance gave it an aura quaint.
No knobs or locks upon its doors, just latches with a string.
Holes in the floor let in the rats and snakes and everything.

The walls were bare and thin and cold, one window to each room.
The rafters held no ceiling, the prospect one of gloom.
But under that tin, leaky roof a happy family thrived.
We loved and laughed and sang as though our fortune had arrived.

It was the base for active sports, engaging one and all.
An old milk bucket on the front a goal for basketball.

We rode old Star and Dynamite, went swimming in the tank,
The lessons learned while there worth more than money in the bank.

No house of brick with velvet drapes and swimming pool in back
Could harbor love and memories to rival Skinners' shack.

I just learned that I will become a great-grandmother next April, and I
plan to order her a copy of these poems so she will know her
great-great-grandparents and her great-great-great grandpa. I'm sending
copies to all my kids and grands.

"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor."
Proverbs 29:23 NIV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.


Poet evokes nostalgia in recording memories

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Cora Gail Trent expresses a deep sense of nostalgia in her
self-published collection entitled Down Country Roads.
She includes poetic descriptions of each of her siblings, including
Pecos Enterprise reporter Peggy McCracken, whom she describes as
"Beautiful, sexy, wild and free," and calls her "my hero."

She dedicates poems to each of her parents and other relatives, along
with euphoric descriptions of her childhood days and mishaps, school
years and scenic surroundings. She carries her poems with emotional
detail that takes the reader back to the simple days of the Depression
and the struggles of a poor West Texas farm family who took pleasure in
the simple things in life.

Trent shares her most memorable episodes with her style of poetry that
permeates one's innermost sense of values and derives an awareness of
where they came from.

For a copy, write to Cora Gail Trent, P.O. Box 103, Childress, TX
79201. $12.

-Mari Maldonado



By Peggy McCracken

Student needs to learn

how to handle money

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College is where you learn everything you need to know about your
chosen profession - or at least enough to get a job so you can really
start to learn. It's also the ideal time for young people to learn how
to manage their money. Or, more accurately, their parents' money.

Children with extra-smart parents will have already had some experience
in money management, but some of us old fogies failed to give them an
allowance and trust them to spend it, wisely or unwisely. So our college
students have to learn the hard way how to budget their meager
resources. I don't know any college students who have more money than
they need for tuition, housing, food, transportation, books, clothes and
other important stuff.

Roy Diliberto, a financial adviser and member of the International
Association for Financial Planning, recommends that students develop a
financial plan that includes a budget for monthly net income and

I've never been able to draw up a workable budget, so my method is to
spend my money until it's gone, then stop. That won't work for
everybody, though, because it's too easy to get credit.

Credit cards are an especially common problem for students because
they're handy and mighty easy to use. And look that that minimum payment
every month! Gosh, I can afford that. If they don't read the fine print,
they're not going to realize that the minimum payment barely covers the
interest, so the debt can get big in a hurry.

Diliberto recommends students do as I do: view a credit card bill as a
30-day, interest-free loan, and pay the entire bill at the end of the
month. That works fine until you let it get covered up by other stuff on
the desk or dining-room table and miss the due date. Then it's a big
late fee plus interest! I cancelled one last month for that very reason.
The only sure way to get that bill paid on time is to have the bank
debit your checking account. And it saves time writing checks, too.

Even if the parents handle bill payments, they should set spending
limits and insist the student exercise some self-restraint, Diliberto

He is anxious to give you more information on the financial planning
process or the names of professional financial advisers, so call him at
800-945-4237. Atlanta-based IAFP is an organization dedicated to the
idea that objective advice supports smart individuals and institutions
who believe that financial planning is the foundation for smart decision

"Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." Proverbs
10:4 NIV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Fighting war on bugs

keeps farmer on toes

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While crossing a weedy barrow ditch, holding down barbed wire to climb
over a fence and jumping an irrigation ditch to get into a cotton patch
last week, I felt right at home. And the searing noonday sun reminded me
of "The Good Old Days" when I spent every summer in the cotton patch.

Each morning during the summer, I see my neighbors, Jerry Workman and
Sons, mount their steeds (pickups) before daybreak and head for the
fields to scout for bollworms, aphids, armyworms and stinkbugs. They
come back about dark, dust covering the pickups and the men.

In between dawn and dark, they have covered many a mile in the fields,
drenched in sweat and burning from the sun in 100-degree weather. Bent
over cotton stalks, bell pepper plants or on their knees scouting melons
vines, they note in a small pocket spiral the type and number of bugs
they find.

It's been so long since I worked in the field (44 years to be exact),
I'd forgotten how miserable it can be out there. Michael kinda echoed my
sentiments when he said he's rather be almost anywhere else - in cool
Colorado, a swimming pool or any shady place.

Then come Friday I learn that beet armyworms have about ruined the very
promising cotton crop in four counties around San Angelo. How can
farmers go on year after year tilling the ground, planting seed,
watering, weeding, spraying and then see it all go down the tubes in a
few days? It seems you can't win. If you spray for boll weevils early on
and keep them from devouring your crop, you kill the beneficial insects
that might have eaten the armyworm.

We who buy our groceries at the supermarket and our clothes at L.L.
Bean (or somewhere closer to home) don't appreciate what the farmer goes
through to produce them for us. We refuse to buy peaches that have a few
bruised spots, eschew tomatoes that taste like cardboard, throw back
potatoes with too many eyes. Heaven forbid if a white cotton shirt has a
stain on the tail, even though it won't show.

Some days I want to go back to "The Good Old Days" just to get away
from computer glitches, ringing telephones and faxes about stuff nobody
cares to know. But could I win the bug war to produce my own food? Would
I collapse in tears when hail stripped the fruit trees and pounded the
cotton into the ground? Could I borrow enough money to pay the high
price for natural gas or electricity to pump irrigation water? Where
would I get the patience to deal with government regulations on
pesticides? On acreage? On conservation? On air quality? On water

No, it's easier to sit in an air conditioned office and write about
those things. And pray for the beleaguered farmer.

"The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does
food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the
learned; but time and chance happen to them all." Eccl. 9:11 NIV

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

War's end among

memories of summer

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Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when World War
II ended 50 years ago today - or yesterday, as the case may be? If you
or someone in your family fought in that terrible war, you probably can
see the sights, hear the sounds and smell the odors that surrounded you
at the moment you heard the good news.

Alas, I have no memories of August 15, 1945, when I was 10. That may
have been the summer I decided to sell Progressive Farmer
magazine subscriptions to our neighbors. I could have been
trudging through the hot sandy field up to Uncle Harley's house or
knocking on the Skinner's door. Or I might have been swimming in the mud
tank down at the end of the ditch that passed our house. Most likely I
didn't even hear the news that day, because we didn't have a radio nor a
car to drive to town in. Daddy would have had to ride a horse to town,
where they swapped stories at the general store. Or an acquaintance
driving down our dirt road could have stopped to tell him.

I'm sure we all rejoiced when we finally did get the word, though. Putt
Gilbert's pilot son had been shot down over Europe, and his grieving
widow still taught school at Flomot. Cousin Raymond came home all in one
piece. We threw out a stash of ration stamps that we didn't need anyway,
because we seldom bought sugar, gasoline or tires.

One good thing about living way out in the country with little outside
communication is that the world's problems pass you by. Hearing the
constant television and radio news about wars all over the world makes
me want to return to those simpler times. Forget the Internet. A pox on
CNN. Turn off the radio. Pull the plug on the telephone.

But we do need to look back at history to learn how to correct our
course for the future. Ironically, the sophisticated communications and
weapons of war - such as the atomic bomb that ended the war - may
actually keep us from a showdown, because the destruction would be too

"The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and
needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will
pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken." Psalm 37:14-15.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and editor whose
column appears each Tuesday.



By Peggy McCracken

Vocal coach travels

on road with singer

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"Don't quit your day job, but you did pretty good."

Now what kind of a compliment is that? I laughed and hugged Billie
McCormick when she commented on my solo rendition of "It's Not the First
Mile" at our 50th Anniversary celebration at West Park Baptist Church.
Billie doesn't sing any better than I do, so I was not the least bit

You may think age 60 is a little late to be starting a singing career.
I think there's no better time than the present to start anything. Maybe
I'll be 70 by the time I learn. But how old will I be in 10 years if I
don't study voice? Tackling a big challenge every decade is my style. At
age 7 I earned my first dollar harvesting cotton. My son was born when I
was barely 19. At age 30 I took up piano. Age 40 was my freshman year in
college. Age 50 saw me entering the computer age. What does that leave
for 70, 80 and 90? Technology is moving so fast, there's no telling what
may be over the next hill.

But for now, I am content to study The Contemporary Vocalist
Improvement Course, a book with cassette tape exercise instruction
in breathing and vocal control to help professional singers perform
better and longer without damage to their vocal chords. Just a few weeks
of breathing exercises have made a big difference, and I look forward to
each new lesson.
The author, Jeannie Deva, says the voice is a hidden instrument, unlike
a guitar that you can see and feel, and so is more easily misunderstood.
Like other musicians, singers want to master their instrument, but they
don't understand the terminology in music instruction.
The Contemporary Vocalist Improvement Course is written in
Jeannie's straight forward conversational style and is made more
enjoyable by illustrations. It contains theory and exercises in an easy
to understand step-by-step program and even starts with your own
"private consultation."
The tapes are professionally recorded and edited and use short musical
interludes for transitions back and forth to the book. Cassette tape
titles are "Breath and Support," "Range and Control," "Tone and Power"
and "Working with Words." The fourth tape in particular contains
interesting riff and embellishment exercises that use lyrics and musical
With a retail price of $49.95, The Contemporary Vocalist
Improvement Course is an economical means of acquiring vocal
training. Designed to "go on the road" in its compact plastic binder, it
can be used anywhere you can take a portable tape player. I took a tape
with me on vacation and practiced while I drove (alone).

It is available from Rock Publications at PO Box 374, Astor Station,
Boston, MA 02123. For further info or to order with credit card, call
(617) 536-8220.
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Copyright 1996 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321