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Commentary

Tue
14
Feb

Lynchings ignite Hoodoo War

by Bartee Haile

 

A masked mob dragged five suspected cattle thieves kicking and screaming from the Mason County jail on Feb. 18, 1875, lynched three of the terrified outlaws and touched off a nasty feud forever known as the Hoodoo War.

In the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War, Texans often took the law into their own hands. Desperate characters, who mistook common folk for easy pickings, were routinely dispatched without benefit of judge, jury or clergy.

Mon
30
Jan

Infamous Texas fugitive flees to Brazil

Bartee Haile is a syndicated columnist of 'This Week in Texas History' read in the pages of The Highlander.

by Bartee Haile

The news out of Brazil on Jan. 30, 1977 was that a 19-year fugitive from Lone Star justice, had been arrested for financial misdeeds in his extradition-proof sanctuary.

Long before the savings and loans scandal of the 1980’s, there was BenJack Cage, scam artist supreme. The six-foot four-inch former football player could size up a sucker across a crowded room, or as one of his many victims observed, “He can take your pulse at 20 paces.”

Six decades ago, any Texan with $25,000 and a gift for gab could get into the insurance racket. Taken in by BenJack’s stirring promise to erect “a living memorial to the working people of Texas,” gullible labor leaders helped him launch his own company in 1952.

The AFL-CIO went so far as to encourage locals and members to invest in ICT Insurance. The unions complied by purchasing more than half of the $15 million in stock that flooded the market.

Tue
29
Nov

Oakley Facebook comment draws fire

Facebook is a wonderful tool for people to use, but like any tool, it should be used with great care.

The social media site is useful for helping people keep in contact with friends scattered across the globe whom they haven’t spoken to for years. It allows family to reconnect and allows the sharing of photos, ideas and news with others within one’s peer group.

However, it also instantly shows, without context, intent or clarity, the thoughts and ideas a person clacks out on their smartphone or computer keyboard and exposes those posts to instant scrutiny.

Such is the case involving Burnet County Judge James Oakley, who learned a very hard lesson this past week about the lack of anonymity Facebook affords.

On Monday, Nov. 21, Oakley shared a post from the San Antonio Police Department about the arrest of an African-American man, Otis Tyrone McKane, accused of killing San Antonio police Det. Benjamin Marconi on his personal Facebook account.

Fri
25
Nov

Thanksgiving, a time to count blessings

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

When I was a child, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite times of year. We'd either go to my grandmother's house or have company over at ours and we'd feast on turkey, dressing, brisket and everything sweet under the sun.

The last few days of school were spent learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians and how they celebrated the first harvest in the New World. We'd dress up like Pilgrims with black paper hats or big white collars or we'd pretend we were the Indians, with feathered headdresses and long hair and breastplates.

It would be a celebration of equality, spirituality and brotherhood that would belie the rest of America's historical treatment of the indigenous people of the North American content, but we didn't know that as kids. We just enjoyed the fun of the holiday, stringing cranberries and popcorn together to hang in the classroom and reading about Squanto, Massasoit, William Bradford and Myles Standish.

Fri
25
Nov

Knee replacement: a modern miracle

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

A lot has been written about in this newspaper in the past about the Restore -The Remarkable Join Replacement Center at Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg. It is considered one of the best of its kind, not only in Texas, but in the nation.

In mid-October, Healthgrades released its ratings of nearly 4,500 hospitals nationwide and for the 2017 ratings year, HCM received Excellence Awards in joint replacement, pulmonary care, gastrointestinal care and general surgery, ranking HCM in the top 10 percent in the nation in those four categories.

Specifically, Healthgrades recognized HCM as a five-star recipient for total knee replacement, hip fracture treatment, colorectal surgeries, treatment of COPD, and treatment of pneumonia.

Fri
28
Oct

Psychic wife means ghosts in my life

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

Highland Lakes Newspapers

I love a good ghost story, but I am not sure if I truly believed in ghosts before I met my wife. Since that time, a number of things have happened that have made me into a true believer.

My wife told me not long after we began to date that she had been given a gift (or curse, sometimes) of being able to not only see the departed, but to commune with them. Stephen King referred to it as “the shining” in his book of the same name, while others refer to it as psychic ability.

I admit I was skeptical at first, even though my wife is a very direct, honest person. My skepticism didn't last for long. While in the hospital, Betty hesitantly told me there were three spirits with us. (She still wasn't comfortable with talking about her ability because she was afraid of ridicule from disbelievers).

Fri
23
Sep

Saying 'goodbye' to a beloved fur baby

Sydney Bristow Cohn (April 27, 2003 to Sept. 20, 2016)

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

 

The decision to put my dog down was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. My wife Betty came to my office Monday, Sept. 19, and told me that Sydney had been coughing and struggling to rest all night. That morning, she had coughed up some blood and things looked very bleak for her health.

Sydney, after all, was more than 13 years old. She suffered from cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and congestive heart failure. Just about six weeks ago, we had to rush her to Austin to the 24-hour emergency clinic because she was having a hard time breathing.

Fri
09
Sep

Remembering 9/11: an editor's perspective

By LEW K. COHN

Managing Editor

HIGHLAND LAKES NEWSPAPERS

It was a Tuesday morning in September and it was deadline day for getting the Bowie County Citizens Tribune out the door. I was in the office early, like I usually am when it is deadline day, and the phone rang around 7:50 a.m.

“You won't believe this!” my (now former) wife said. “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. It's on Good Morning America.”

“That's horrible!” I said. “Let me know if you hear anything more about it.”

I ended the phone call and went back to work on the paper, thinking a plane crash in New York City was tragic, but would have very little impact on my job locally as managing editor of a small-town Northeast Texas newspaper.

Then the phone rang again at a little after 8 a.m.

Wed
24
Aug

Blame it on me: My song made it rain

Lew K. Cohn, Managing Editor

The Highlander

I confess. I think I am the one originally responsible for all of this rain in Burnet County.

It started innocently enough. The cast was in the middle of performances for “Annie Get Your Gun” when it was also auditions for the Hill Country Community Theatre's Talent Show. I decided to try out and my act would be playing my guitar and singing.

I had many different song options from which to choose. I play rock, pop, blues, country, alternative and even Jewish camp songs.

I was only supposed to play one song for the audition, and I narrowed down my choices to four: “My Hometown” by Charlie Robison, “Baby I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton, “Alabama” by Cross Canadian Ragweed and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” by Credence Clearwater Revival. I chose the last one.

Fri
05
Aug

Interconnectedness proven during weekend

Lew K. Cohn/The Highlander

At one point during her Choctaw Casino concert Friday night, there was about six feet of separation between me and Joan Jett. She is still an incredible performer. 

by Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Highland Lakes Newspapers

 

Very few people have not heard of the theory of six degrees of separation — the theory that everyone and everything in the world are connected by six or fewer steps from any other person or thing in the world.

This theory was originally introduced by a Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, in a 1929 short story, “Chains” (Lánczemek) and is used to demonstrate how the world, though incredibly large, can be a small place through our interconnectedness.

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