Friday, January 22, 2010

The Santa David

(Big Spring, Texas is a booming community about 100 miles east of Kermit. This story made the AP national news wire in early December, and I'm pleased to bring it to you, late as usual. Enjoy!)
From the San Angelo Standard-Times:
Naked 'Santa David' statue offends Big Spring neighbors
The Associated Press
Updated Monday, December 7, 2009

BIG SPRING, Texas --- A Texas homeowner who adorned his front lawn with Michelangelo's "David" as a scantily clad Santa got more than just jolly laughs from his neighbors.

Barry McBee says he was aiming to make people chuckle by adding a Santa hat and white beard to the 5-foot-tall replica of the Renaissance statue with six-pack abs an image at odds with usual depictions of a fat, jolly St. Nick.

Then, parents started calling Big Spring city officials saying their children were asking why Santa was naked.

"I just like to shock people to make them laugh, kind of break the monotony around here," said McBee, who has all kinds of animal yard ornaments in his garage. "I just bring them out occasionally."

Last week, code enforcement officials received an informal complaint and an officer went to photograph where McBee had placed the statue, which is normally in the back yard.

The sculpture on the corner lot along a main road into McBee's subdivision did not violate any town ordinances, and the copy of one of the world's most well-known statues did not involve any obscenity issues, said Linda Sjogren, city attorney in Big Spring, about 290 miles west of Dallas.

But Sjogren, concerned that complaints would continue, decided to consult with others on a possible remedy. She posted a query on the Texas Municipal League's secure Web site, which someone with access to then reposted on Facebook.

Sjogren left McBee a voice mail last week, requesting that he put more clothes on David.

McBee relented after his friends teased him as well, putting a pair of black and white faux-velvet shorts, with a Christmas bow, on the statue.

"I think if it offends any children, I didn't want to do that," McBee said. Lest he end up with a bag of coal for Christmas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Prairie Dog: Going Extinct?

From the Odessa American
January 4, 2010 2:03 PM

A federal agency says no, but a college professor says yes.

The topic: prairie dogs are on the brink of extinction.

Whether you think they’re fun to hunt, make a great local football mascot or are just plain cute is a matter of perspective.

Getting the critters listed as an endangered species list also brings up several viewpoints.

In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a study indicating that the black-tailed prairie dog, the kind seen scurrying around parts of Odessa, doesn’t warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Joy Gober looked at historical information in the study.

And history speaks for itself.

Since 1961, the study shows, black-tailed prairie dog habitats have increased.

In Texas, however, the grassland space is deteriorating; thus shrinking prairie dog colonies and restricting their expansions.

"They’re a colonial species," said Diane Post, an associate professor of science and mathematics at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. "They live in social groups."
But there may just be an exception in the Permian Basin.
Given the large presence of prairie dogs on the UTPB campus and in Odessa’s Sherwood Park, Phillip Dickerson, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife in Midland, said prairie dogs are "hangin’ in there."

(UTPB even hired a "prairie dog whisperer" once to relocate about 150 of the rodents. - DK)
Found in the wild east of the Continental Divide, the black-tailed prairie dog is abundantly present with colonies as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as West Texas stretching west to Arizona.

Long ago, prairie grasslands covered a large portion of the American west, but now that land is scarce.

"There aren’t many prairie dogs left," Post said. "Without (prairie grassland) they can’t live."

For now, Dickerson said, there’s nothing to worry about.

"There’s no immediate risk," he said. "(But) long term, it’s hard to tell."

Despite being kept off the endangered list, Gober admits prairie dogs have "declined dramatically on a historical level," and said the black-tailed prairie dog has "broader range than any other (prairie dog) species."

But the main concern in all of this isn’t just the prairie dog. It’s the other animals that count on the prairie dog for survival.

"They’re what’s called a keystone species," Post said.

Other animals like ferrets and the burrowing owl depend on prairie dog burrows to live and hibernate. Certain insects such as grasshoppers and several types of plant life rely on prairie dogs for a life cycle.

"They engineer that ecosystem," Post said.

With the numbers showing a decline, Gober said all states housing wild prairie dogs should be "concerned." But it’s not just because of environment that’s declining the prairie dog population; hunters and a plague are reason for concern as well.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study shows a plague has made its way from colony to colony and cut into prairie dog populations.

Recreational shooting can help reduce population densities, the study said, but in Texas and most of the other states where prairie dogs live, the animals are considered varmints. Basically it means they can legally be shot, trapped or killed if found to be a nuisance.

"Those things have to change," Post said.

And she does have a solution that will allow prairie dog colonies to grow in the area.

"Acquire land and let them be," Post said.

(Odessa images from Flickr and Panoramio.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bambi's Mother?

January 5th - Decided to celebrate Syd Barrett's birthday a day early by crashing into a deer, ten miles outside of Kermit. Hoo hah!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cavern Threatens to Swallow Carlsbad, New Mexico

Another day, another sinkhole! I thought this Huffington Post article was fascinating because I drive over this very spot about twice a month! Eeeek!
CARLSBAD, N.M. (Nov. 7) --The bright yellow signs on U.S. 285 are the first indication that things aren't right in Carlsbad.

"US 285 south subject to sinkhole 1,000 feet ahead," motorists are warned.

Officials in Carlsbad, N.M., say a cavern that formed under a brine well operation has the potential to swallow part of a New Mexco highway, a church, neighborhood businesses and a trailer park. They fear the site could collapse without warning, just as two wells in nearby towns did last year.

But there is little other evidence that in southeastern New Mexico's oil country, a giant cavern sits beneath the earth, ready to swallow part of the highway and possibly a church, several businesses and a trailer park.

The cavern was formed over three decades as oil field service companies pumped fresh water into a salt layer more than 400 feet below the surface and extracted several million barrels of brine to help with drilling. State regulators flagged it as a potential danger after concluding that it was similar to two wells northwest of Carlsbad that collapsed without warning last year.

Over the past few decades, communities in Texas, Kansas, Michigan, Canada and Europe learned of similar underground danger only after cracks appeared and the ground began to sink. Regulators are trying to determine how to prevent future collapses by better managing a practice that's used throughout the world.

Most brine wells operate far from homes and businesses, but Carlsbad's is unique because it is in a population center — and could prove potentially disastrous.

"It would be a mess. It would be like a bomb going off in the middle of town," said Jim Griswold, a hydrologist with the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division.

The city council and the Eddy County Commission declared a state of emergency Thursday, the first step to free state and federal funds that could be used to figure out a way to stabilize the cavern.

"The public's been warned," Carlsbad Mayor Bob Forrest said. "We've had a heads up, and for us as elected officials to sit here and do nothing is political suicide. We want to move forward."

The city of about 26,000 residents knows caverns well. It is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a network of some of the largest natural caverns in North America, where tourists can see both delicate calcite formations and towering stalagmites.

But this man-made salt cavern has residents nervous.

Officials have set up a monitoring system that takes readings from tilt meters and pressure sensors every two seconds and averages them to determine whether there are changes drastic enough to trigger alarms. The alarms are expected to give authorities several hours to evacuate people in advance of a cave-in that could span anywhere from 200 to 500 feet, Griswold said.

I&W Trucking, the oil field service company that owns the site where the cavern is located, contends the state is overreacting because of the previous collapses on state land and criticized the Oil Conservation Division for not doing more tests to establish the size of the brine cavern before forcing it to plug the well.

The agency hired independent consultants to determine the size and shape of the cavern and the risk of collapse.

Eugene Irby, whose family owns I&W Trucking, said the company has always followed the rules and performed annual pressure tests on the cavern. Had the cavern been that unstable, he said, it would have already collapsed, given that more than 2 million pounds of water and heavy trucks were on the surface every day.

"I went to work there every day," Irby said. "I would walk the yard at times and if there were cracks in the ground I would have seen them. There's none."

I&W has given up the brine operation, emptied its tanks and moved down the road.

But trailer park residents Cookie and Ellie Fletcher have been left to wonder what they will do if a sinkhole opens on the other side of the chain-link fence. They are on fixed income and said they could never afford to move.

"It's a nightmare," Ellie Fletcher said, motioning to the wells and tanks in the distance. "I would like to forget about it, but I can't forget about it because it's right there."

It doesn't help that curious friends and acquaintances bombard the Fletchers with questions about the sinkhole each week at church.

At the Circle S Feed Store, next door to the well site, store owner Wally Menuey doesn't need the repeated requests from customers to look at the hole, even though none exists yet.

Menuey said the first thing he looks for when he rounds the corner into the parking lot each morning are the tanks next door. If they're still standing, he knows it's safe to continue on to work. Still, he said, structural cracks have formed in the store.

"It makes you wonder," he said.

The potential sink hole wouldn't just swallow parts of the town. Potential crop damage could total $100 million.

No one knows when the cavern might collapse. But the mayor and other city officials are worried about getting the money they need to tackle the problem in time to stop the worst from happening. State officials said parts of the ground above the well are already heaving while other parts are sinking.

"The clock is ticking," said Jim Goodbar, a senior cave and karst specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...