July 26th marks the death anniversary of General Sam Houston, and each year on this date, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum opens the Steamboat House to the public.
As an SHSU student, I want to learn more about Sam Houston, and this desire was reinforced even more by the fact that I am the recipient of a generous scholarship provided by SHMM. So, I attended the Museum’s opening of the Steamboat House as part of their reenactment of Sam Houston’s death and the Victorian customs associated with mourning.
Dr. Rufus Bailey had commissioned this home as a wedding gift for his son and daughter-in-law. Its original name was “Buena Vista,” and while it might have offered a “good view,” Bailey’s son and daughter-in-law, according to oral history, weren’t keen on living in it, and they opted, instead, to look for other views. The home, then, was vacant, enabling General Sam Houston make it his home when he returned to Huntsville, following his removal as Governor of Texas.
As the group of visitors approached the home, we were given black ribbons to commemorate the anniversary of Houston’s death. We entered Sam Houston’s room, a mix of a study and a bedroom. Most of the items were period pieces, but we did see Houston’s bed and boots. Seeing these original artifacts, as well as the fact that the clock on the mantel was stopped to the time of his death: 6:15.
We were then gestured into the next room where “Margaret Lea Houston” would tell us about the three phases of mourning she went through after General Sam Houston’s death. During the first phase: Deep Mourning, women would dress in black, from head to toe, including gloves and veils (and, of course, no adornments such as jewelry). During this time, widows were given space, allowed to mourn alone. Once they were ready to talk, they entered the second phase of mourning: Full Mourning. The transition to this phase was marked by moving from the wearing of all black to wearing black with a white collar, along with cuffs and jewelry. During this period, the widow might receive visitors, discuss her sadness with others, and correspond by mail with others.
In the third phase, Half Mourning, women wore lively colors such as lilac, lavender, and light gray, and more elaborate patterns. This is the briefest stage, and it indicated that the widow was ready to rejoin societal interaction.
Men, on the other hand, were not expected to mourn for as long or as elaborately. The black ribbon I received is similar to what men wore during their mourning period.
We were then guided into the next room, the kitchen, where we could see one way that the kitchen could have been designed and what they would have eaten. Soon after, we walked up the stairs into the parlor where the funeral of General Sam Houston was held, and we heard from his “mother-in-law,” Nancy M. Lea, who discussed her feelings about Texas’s greatest hero and her son-in-law. While she initially opposed the marriage, Ms. Lea overcame her doubts, and she came to embrace her son-in-law.
Now, if you are wondering why one of Texas’ heroes had a small funeral, that would be because (1) mail was slow and (2) General Houston was very unpopular at the time, a function of him refusing to pledge an oath of loyalty to the Confederate States of America.
For these reasons, only a select few attended his funeral on July 27th at 4:00 pm. The funeral was indeed held less than 24 hours from his death because back then, their only way to store bodies was to ice them, and in Texas heat, it made it challenging to keep the body in a presentable condition.
Despite him not being as popular and not many people attending his funeral, on August 5, 1863, the Dallas Herald printed an obituary mentioning the great man General Sam Houston was, and encouraging people to put aside their objections to his “failure” to support the confederacy: “Let us not shed tears to his memory due to one who has filled so much of our affections. Let the whole people bury with him whatever of unkindness they had for him.”
With those positive vibes, I allowed myself a very unVictorian-like smile and reflected what a good choice I made attending SHSU.
Postscript: The Steamboat House was originally located a block or so from the Oakwood Cemetery–where Sam Houston is buried! Following Sam Houston’s death, the home deteriorated, and it wasn’t until 1937 that the Museum was moved to its present location and refurbished. If you have not had the opportunity to visit the Steamboat Home on the Sam Houston Memorial Museum Grounds, make plans to do so on July 26th, 2023!
All the way from her humble beginnings in Indiana, County Music Legend, two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the year, AMC Female Vocalist of the year, and TV star, Janie Fricke took the stage at Old Town Theatre in Huntsville on Saturday, August 6.
Fricke and her band livened the Theatre with songs of her own, some that she originally sang with other artists, and even some songs from the 40s!
She and her band had hilarious banter on the stage, discussed her career a bit, and she also encouraged everyone to check out her website!
After intermission, Janie Fricke had a confession to make, in the 1980s, she robbed a bank! Fricke said that she would like to get through the show before anyone put a warrant out and her band joked that she is the only person to commit a crime and not serve the time. Fortunately for us, there is footage of Fricke robbing the bank, Janie stared as “Ginny” the bank robber on the TV series “Dukes of Hazzard.”
My favorite song she sang was one that she sang with Merle Haggard called A Place to Fall Apart. Fricke sang the song with her Keyboardist and the duet was beautiful.
Fricke worked a significant amount of her career singing jingles for major companies. She even sang some to the crowd! The audience reminisced on Dial Soap, Coca-Cola, Red Lobster, and United Airlines jingles. Janie even mentioned that she was the first jingle artist in space! Her song was what the astronauts woke up to in the space shuttle.
On behalf of the Old Town Theatre and the LEAP Ambassadors, thank you to Janie Fricke and band for an amazing show!
With the conference going full blast, we awoke early to get in a full day of learning, networking, and marketing Sam Houston State University!
NextGen Under 30 Breakfast
If your city suffers from a high percentage of brain drain and you are looking for a way to “honor, and retain talent,” then the NextGen Under 30 breakfast was the place to be. Across the nation, a lot of cities have experienced or currently have a brain drain problem. This is mostly seen in smaller cities that lose young individuals to larger cities with (1) universities and (2) a more competitive workforce. To combat this, Kansas joined the NextGen Under 30 Foundation which recognizes and honors young leaders and helps them become more engaged in their home state.
NextGen targets individuals who are 30 or younger and aids them with knowledge about their cities while providing them with a vast networking opportunity through various events. To be considered for this opportunity, you must not only be under 30 years of age, but you must also be nominated and complete the application process. All applicants are then considered, and the winners are selected by a group of judges who are business and civic leaders. The winners get the opportunity to meet the governor and lieutenant governor of the state, tour the capitol, and participate in an awards dinner and ceremony. The honorees have the opportunity to apply to become ambassadors for the following year and assist the upcoming winners.
Kansas State Senator Tom Hawk then welcomed comments and questions from the legislators.
However, the narrative was quickly turned over to us (the younger crowd) when one of the legislators asked to hear from us and what would compel us to stay in the area. The number one response to the question was “respect.”
My personal answer was upward mobility, in addition to respect.
Young people want to be able to grow and advance in the field that they go into and not remain stagnant through the course of the years. The lack thereof adds to the brain drainage in certain cities because there is either (1) no competitive work opportunities or (2) no mobility, even after a few years of working there. This dual lack of employment opportunities and career advancement makes it a simple decision when larger cities or even the private sector offer competitive employment opportunities.
The breakfast was not only a good opportunity to be heard and to network but also a nice start to our busy day! (Professor’s note: At lunch, a state representative came up to me and told me that the comments from Morgan helped him feel much better about the younger generation.)
Opening Session: Warm Welcome to Kansas
The LEAP Ambassadors received a warm Kansas welcome from Kansas State Senator Carolyn McGinn, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, Kansas State Senate President Ty Masterson, and Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman! All of these legislators shared interesting facts about Kansas. The most important fact that we learned is that Kansans do not speak of the Arkansas River in Kansas as the “Arkansaw” River. Calling it so, is a great indicator to the locals that you are not from the area because it is referred to as the “big river” and “little river”–or, maybe the “ArKansas River.” Along with its geography, Kansas is known as the air capital of the world! Kansas is the home of the Spirit Aerospace Headquarters and the National Institute of Aviation Research, a facility that Morgan and Jessica got to tour! Following this interesting detail, Mayor Whipple mentioned that Wichita is rated the #1 city to be single in and the worst city to date in (a prospect that excited Yvette greatly).
Dante Chinni, our keynote speaker and the Director and Founder of American Communities Project, specifically reviewed Kansas demographics and discussed how the statistical data are interpreted and utilized to highlight issues such as the benefits of Kansas’s manufacturing and the brain drain Kansas is experiencing.
More specifically, Chinni highlighted demographic characteristics such as exurbs, working-class counties, military posts, and college towns, etc. These data show that the Midwest consists of a highly complex terrain that defines easy understanding. Even within individual states, single policies can be difficult fits.
Along with demographic research, we were also shown economic differences and challenges. Coming out of COVID, new problems arose, such as population growth vs. decline, internal personal wealth, and internal community wealth. With these topics, Chinni emphasized the greater use of specific data such as the asset income per capita.
Hearing the data from Kansas allowed us to compare how our city Huntsville, TX, experiences brain drain. Our university facilitates brain gain with incoming students, but after graduation, a high percentage will leave to pursue their careers elsewhere in a more populated city that has much more job opportunities. This phenomenon leaves the City of Huntsville with a much bigger brain drain problem.
Aside from the obstacles Kansas must overcome, we can see the beauty Kansas has to offer and what it can produce to have a better Kansas and uplift our nation. I was fascinated to learn more about the state. I consider Kansas a great state to visit with its excellent hospitality.
Postsecondary Access and Affordability: Policy Options for States
Yvette and I made our way to the post-secondary access and affordability breakout session which was moderated by Senator Dietrich…
… and featured by Dr. Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. As a national expert on secondary education affordability, Dr. Baum was able to provide plenty of statistics to support her claims. Her point was very clear. Not only are we wanting to make colleges more affordable to students, but we want to keep them at a decent quality to have constant graduation rates. There have been frequent conversations about the possibility of college being free and whether that possibility could potentially lower the quality of the schools, which is something Dr. Baum is afraid of.
The statistics showed that more than half of the full-time students at public four-year institutions have their tuition and fees covered by grant aid. The obvious trend we see is that low-income households are not saving their money to put towards their child’s college career. This explains why most students at public colleges are depending on grant aids and loans. Many young people are not willing to go thousands of dollars into debt just to get a four-year education.
Our focus needs to be on helping low-income students become more aware of different financial aid options that will pay for their college. On their behalf, colleges need to, in some way, be accessible to everyone who is willing to put in the effort and work into programs, related to financial aid, that can help tremendously.
Luncheon with Legislators
Once the clock struck noon, we followed the hungry crowd toward the Redbud Ballroom for the featured presentation over lunch. Ashlyn and I sat at a table with State Senator Reynold Nesiba from South Dakota and Kansan State Senators Beverly Gossage and Kristen O’Shea (Senator O’Shea is the youngest female Senator in Kansan history!). Similarly, Yvette and Jessica sat at another table with a senator from Illinois.
Having asked plenty of questions of our own, the legislators were curious to know where we were from and soon enough, we found ourselves answering questions about LEAP and Sam Houston State! Before the presentation commenced, we were able to learn more about what each senator was passionate about, why they chose to become public servants, and asked for advice on running for office.
Soon after, Senator Carolyn McGinn made her way toward the stage and began introducing the guests of honor. The first guest of honor was Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. Governor Kelly expressed her gratitude for all the legislators in attendance and gave a shoutout to our neighbors in the north from Canada!
Unfortunately for us, she was unable to stay for the lunch, but as the past CSG National President, Governor Kelly knows the importance of attending conferences to learn as much as possible from others.
The next speaker put on quite the show! CSG national Chair, Washington State Senator Sam Hunt gave a brief CSG report. He reminded everyone to not forget that the national conference, hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii, is just a few months away. To emulate the spirit of the next host state, Senator Hunt stripped off his dress shirt and jacket–amid nervous twitters from the audience–and showed off his best Hawaiian gear, gear that was underneath his sports jacket!
Senator McGinn then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. H. W. Brands, the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at UTA. Dr. Brands is a renowned author of 30 books covering American politics and history and two of his books were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.
Dr. Brands told us the stories of two completely different historical figures, with a common objective in mind: John Brown and Abraham Lincoln.
Both Brown and Lincoln shared abolitionist views but acted in very different ways. Dr. Brands explained that John Brown acted with violence and aggression, while Abraham Lincoln believed that the law and policy were the best avenues for change.
Dr. Brands did a great job of outlining why the men thought the way they did, and what implications their different perspectives had on the nation. It was a captivating lecture, and I’m sure the whole room cannot wait to read The Zealot and The Emancipator!
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
On the Second Family evening, Ashlyn, Yvette, Jessica, and I all experienced a new touristy trip with LEAP: a trip to the zoo! The Sedgwick County Zoo is the seventh largest in the United States and is home to 3,000 individual animals and 400 species.
Typically, a zoo groups species of animals based on the region they are from or the type of habitat they belong to. With cameras in tow, and knowing that we had the zoo for the evening, we scurried over towards the different habitats hoping to capture some great shots!
We were thrilled to see African giraffes graze on leaves…
…the running rhinos playing in their pen…
…and the zebras strolling lazily.
The meerkats were already posed to perfection and proved to be some great models!
As we wandered through the different continents, we eventually found the buffet meant for us! We had a great meal over which we shared our thoughts on the day’s sessions. While jokes were made, (ambassador note: mostly at our expense), we shared a few laughs and enjoyed gazing at the animals.
Despite missing out on the opportunity to touch and feed the stingrays, we enjoyed seeing the available exhibits in the Reptile and Amphibian room through the glass, except for the tortoise! The room was full of a wide array of different creatures from the rarest turtle in the world to recently fed snakes.
While in the room, we found it amusing that a turtle and a frog were playing a game of copycat, as humongous bullfrogs sat idle and lurking in the murky water.
The Cessna Penguin Cove exhibit was right around the corner and Jessica was eager to check it out. We quickly learned why: penguins are Jessica’s favorite birds! The zoo supplied many interesting facts and displays, but most insightful for us was the chart showing the different heights of the penguins. After some convincing (editor’s note: and some dragging) we learned how LEAP Ambassadors fit into the size up!
Stepping back into our childhoods for a lovely outdoor trip to the zoo was so much fun! Thank you to the Midwestern staff.
It was a new experience in many ways: LEAP Ambassadors attended their first light opera, they met many LEAP Alumni, and they spent an evening enjoying good company. The occasion was the summer performance from The Gilbert & Society of Houston, and with all of their performances sold out, it was a minor miracle that we were able to purchase 23 tickets to the third showing of “HMS Pinafore.”
For those who haven’t seen a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta before, it’s worth a summer jaunt to the beautiful Hobby Center to see a performance. HMS Pinafore was written in 1878, but its satirical edge and comedy rang true 144 years later. The opera tells the story of three sets of star-crossed lovers, with each pair being thwarted in their loving ambitions by the British class system. This leads to much shiply shenanigans: an attempted suicide, mystic omens, an aborted midnight elopement, and a dungeon jailing–all chorused by a crew of “sisters, cousins, and aunts.”
We had different favorites, but there was a general consensus that the cast outdid themselves with “Never Mind the Whys and Wherefores,” in which the production deviated sharply from the libretto. The orchestra got involved in the hijinks, Admiral Joseph (played by Alistair Donkins) engaged in much madcap, and Josephine made the most of her many encores. Donkins, who for the past forty years has flown in from England to perform with the Houston Gilbert & Sullivan cast, is retiring. We wondered whether these scenes were written specifically as a scene-stealing sendoff to the most reliable of the performers.
Neither of the Ambassadors had seen an opera, even a “light opera,” and several of the former Ambassadors had also never seen such a performance. Their novice status, however, didn’t prevent them from posing like pros after the production–and, in fact, one pro did pose with us!
The fists-up pose derives from the lyric to “A British Tar.” A “tar” is a nickname for a sailor, possibly as an abbreviation of tarpaulin, and the song–one of two patriotic tunes from HMS Pinafore–celebrates the stoutness of a British sailor:
A British tar is a soaring soul, As free as a mountain bird, His energetic fist should be ready to resist A dictatorial word.
His nose should pant, And his lip should curl, His cheeks should flame, And his brow should furl, His bosom should heave, And his heart should glow, And his fist be ever ready for a knock-down blow.
Other than the playful fists, the tone of the evening was one of amicability. Bryan Phillips, who was involved in LEAP from 2010-2012, was the most senior former student. Bianca Saldierna (2017-2018), Staci Antu (2017-18), Esme Mata (2019-20), Quinn Kobrin (2019-2021) joined the current LEAP Ambassadors, providing insight and catching everyone up on their impressive accomplishments post-graduation.
Dr. Bill Hyman and his wife, Carol, were there, too. Maggie Padilla and her husband, Roman (who somewhat resembled the Captain of Pinafore) attended. And Jean Loveall, Program Coordinator for LEAP, also joined us. Of course, Stephanie and our advisor, Professor Mike Yawn, were there. Yawn is an excellent advisor to the organization: “Bad language or abuses / He never, never uses.“
Well, hardly ever.
We had the chance to meet these wonderful folks over dinner at Black Walnut, where the casual atmosphere provided the perfect place to talk–as well as good food!
Professor’s/Editor’s Note: Many thanks to the former LEAP Ambassadors who attended. Their ongoing willingness to meet with current students and provide mentorship is a huge part of the LEAP program. Also, special thanks to Bill and Carol Hyman and Roman and Maggie Padilla whose presence made the evening even more enjoyable.
Our local CASA organization has an important mission, which is to have a safe, permanent, nurturing home for every child. Accordingly, every summer, CASA hosts Christmas in July, a fundraiser that we had the opportunity to attend and, in a small way, help positively impact children’s lives. Thanks to sponsorships by Wes and Karen Altom of Postcards Magazine and Professor Mike Yawn, we were able to attend–dressed in our Christmas and luau attire, we got ready to play (and hopefully win) bingo!
At my table, I had the honor to sit with TX Representative Kyle Kacal and his wife Marci Kacal, who were joined by Richard and Dorothy Yawn and Mac and Leanne Woodward.
Rob Hipp with KSAM was the bingo caller for the night, and he did a wonderful job of keeping the crowd involved and entertained. By the last round of bingo, with some practice and prompting, we were pros whenever Mr. Hipp shouted “lets play…” we all answered: “BINGO!”
We all enjoyed the food provided by the City Hall Café, and we were able to participate in the raffles, silent auctions, and biddings. Unfortunately, although I put all my tickets in the drawing for a free spa, I was not very lucky.
On the other hand, Mrs. Michelle Spencer was the luckiest of us all! Just before the final round of bingo, Mrs. Spencer won a game! The prize for the win was, a free Airbnb travel package and gas card. (Photographer’s note: for those of us at her table, it was a very suspenseful few calls until the winning combo was called. We were able to snap a few candids of the Spensers before and after they won!)
As the night went on, more games were played and more winners were announced. The room was buzzing with anticipation whenever someone stood up, signifying there were only one number away from a win. “BINGOs” were heard around the room and prizes were awarded by amazing sponsors.
What we all agreed to find more enjoyable, along with the bingo of course, was the live bidding. I have personally never seen one before. This bidding was very special since the auction items were paintings created by the children who are part of the CASA program. Each painting delivered a strong message. The one I fell in love with was the painting of a silhouette of a person speaking, and the words drawn outside of the shape were “I’m fine.” Within the profile were words of how the child actually felt not having a home and being mistreated.
As the bidding went higher, some even up to $5,000, our jaws dropped, and our hearts were filled gratitude for how kind and generous the citizens of Huntsville are.
As we wrapped up the last game of bingo, we were told by the end of the night how much money was raised from this event, and once they said over $106,000, the room was filled with joy, knowing that we all were able to give back to children in need.
Many thanks to our table mates, the wonderful community of Huntsville, and, of course, many congratulations to CASA for such a successful night.
Late afternoon on Friday, we loaded the car and embarked on our journey to the Midwest! Our destination for the first half of our week is Wichita, Kansas, for the 76th Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference. Leaving late afternoon, though, we only made a few hours on the road before our first stop.
On the museum grounds, we were introduced to a new (to us) artist, Richard Serra, known for his massive bronze sculptures. His abstract works develop a “patina” over time, meaning that the metal changes color. Since its creation in 2002, we could clearly see how the coloring of Vortex has changed over time.
We snapped a few shots and made our way to another nearby outside piece, Hina, by another new (to most of us) artist, Deborah Butterfield. Butterfield also works in bronze, but her horses look like they’re made of wood!
Chatting about the different techniques, we made our way inside to meander through the modern pieces, on the lookout for more new and inspiring artists and works.
The minimal and modern building blended perfectly with the landscape and the works inside. The interior layout is designed to display prominent exhibits, with soaring ceilings and a lot of glass, and it is an appropriate motif for minimalist works such as those by Donald Judd.
The east and north sides overlook a reflecting pool, across which stands a gleaming Roxy Paine with interweaving branches entitled Conjoined.
Yvette quickly identified the distinct squares and colors of Josef Albers and Jessica spotted her favorite part of the museum, a collection of Andy Warhol flowers, and we were pleased to see that we would be rewarded with other Warhol works as well.
True to the nature of modern art, the pieces were not limited to paint and canvas. Steel and fiberglass adorned the center of one gallery, while interesting messages displayed on LED signs followed a vertical and uniform pattern in another. Of particular interest were Nancy Graves’ Inside-Outside and Jenny Holzer’s Kind of Blue, which we spent a lot of time on, pondering and (trying to) photograph.
Ashlyn best liked a rather unique photograph that featured a simple middle-class home balanced upon a pair of legs, Laurie Simmons’ Walking House. She was drawn to the piece for how it “stood out” and could be interpreted on multiple levels.
We made our way (rather quickly because of the temperature) through the sculpture garden which, in addition to the Paine, featured a KAWS…
Professor Yawn’s favorite piece was one by Martin Puryear, titled “Ladder for Booker Washington.” While we didn’t understand the reference, Yawn discussed it and offered several interpretations for this intriguing piece.
The more dynamic pieces allowed us to practice creating interesting and unusual photographic compositions and ultimately resulting in some nice shots.
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth was a good start to what soon will be a week worth of art, history and politics!
La Cena at Salsa Limón
With Oklahoma City in our sights, we chose somewhere quick (that turned out to be just right!) for dinner—Salsa Limón. We made our selections, while attempting to create a variety of options (which in my opinion, is becoming increasingly more difficult since our tastes sometimes converge). Jessica and Morgan chose similarly (boring burritos!) with pastor and chorizo, respectively, Ashlyn had a chicken molco bowl (“Just what I was expecting!”), and Yvette, Professor Yawn and Stephanie had an assortment of tacos, from barbacoa, to mushroom & cheese, to pastor, to black bean & avocado.
It was a good and light meal, energizing us for the final leg of our day’s travels.
It’s not every day you get to hear from a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, but LEAP students had just that chance yesterday. Dr. Peter Hotez, Professor of Pediatrics and Founding Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine—and, most recently, developer of a vaccine against COVID—discussed the role of expertise and politics in addressing global pandemics in another interesting event hosted by the World Affairs Council.
Hotez has been in the trenches fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, while also conducting perhaps 1,000 television, radio, and podcast interviews since the spread of COVID. Remarkably, he’s also had time to work with his co-researcher, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Associate Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, in developing CORBEVEAX, a low-cost vaccine that protects against COVID. Notably, Hotez and Bottazzi did not patent the vaccine—foregoing millions in income to assure lower pricing for the medicine.
Hotez’s discussion was wide-ranging, but he stressed three major points: the origin of COVID, the politicization of medicine, and the future of pandemics.
Hotez believes it’s important to uncover the origins of COVID, but he finds conspiracy theories to be misguided. While it is possible, he notes, that COVID escaped from a lab in China, there’s no evidence for that theory, and pursuing it with much vigor is likely to distract researchers from the most likely answer, which is that COVID either developed from—or was spread through—a wet market in China.
What most clearly distresses Hotez, however, is the politicization of COVID…
…a thread skillfully navigated by the World Affairs Council moderator, Ronan O’Malley.
While prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaxxers could be found on the left and right, more or less equally, the right-wing of the Republican Party seemed to embrace conspiracy theories not only about the origin of COVID, but also about almost any US government efforts to combat COVID.
Some believed that COVID itself was a hoax wrought by the US government, while others accepted the threat of COVID, but believed that any medicine promoted by the government was part of a deep state/big pharma conspiracy for profits, leading to the misguided use of Ivermectin and other nostrums. Hotez noted that such beliefs led to more than a quarter of a million deaths of people who could have been vaccinated, but weren’t.
Hotez called this movement an aggressive, anti-science faction, and he considers this dangerous, not only as it relates to COVID, but also how it relates to the next pandemic. “Nature”, Hotez noted, “is not coy.
It’s sending us a clear message.” That message, it seems, is humans need to get it together, which involves not only identifying the origins and spreads of viruses such as COVID-19, but also winning an informational war about science itself. Fighting pandemics is difficult, but it’s infinitely more difficult when a significant portion of the population refuses to adopt common-sense approaches to fighting the pandemic.
Following the event, Dr. Hotez briefly met with us, asked us about our majors (History, Biology, and Political Science), and he suggested that it was about time he get to Sam Houston State University to speak, a point on which all of us agreed.
Following the event, with much on our mind, we went to Meru’s Grill nearby, and we discussed much of what we learned. None of us had been to Meru’s, but it was a great find: the staff were friendly and knowledgeable, the ambience was inviting, and the food was amazing. The appetizers, which included the “Avocado Bomb” and the “Smoked Salmon,” were refreshing and innovative.
The avocado bomb, for example, had raw Hawaiian Tuna, avocado (of course), a dressing, and possibly pineapple, a combination we weren’t expecting, but couldn’t get enough of. Our appetizers included two shrimp dishes, a Thai salad, and a burger, all of which were truly excellent in both taste and presentation.
Perhaps our favorite part of the meal, however, was the carrot cake dessert, recommended to us by our excellent server, and a truly delicious delicacy in the form of a square “slice” of cake, with icing unsurpassed in texture, flavor, and volume.
Meru’s Grill isn’t part of the medical field, but it definitely eased our worries and improved our spirits, topping off a wonderful night of education, good company, and great food.
Typically, you only think about the fire department when there’s an emergency. But on a calm day in Huntsville, Chief Greg Mathis took SHSU students from the LEAP Center on an informative tour of the Huntsville Fire Department.
We began our tour in the lobby of the fire station where they have a 1927 restored Huntsville fire truck on display. Chief Mathis gave us the history of the fire truck, as well as the history of some of the pictures and antique fire equipment they also had on display. Interestingly, he had a black-ball lottery device, which determined–way back in the day–whether an individual would be hired. The firemen all voted on the potential new hire, and if they voted yes, a white ball was put into the receptacle; a black ball was a no vote. A single no vote would prevent a hire–hence the term “black-balled.”
Our next stop on the tour was the Training Room. The room is designed to serve as a back-up emergency services center, if needed, and it is fully wired for electricity, backup power, wi-fi, and high-speed cable.
We also had a chance to see the residential area, and this is where many of our questions were asked. The department, including this room, is entirely ADA compliant, a television area that was very inviting, and an industrial kitchen with a hand-made dining table, where holiday dinners take place.
The area also has a dorm-like living arrangement for when the firemen need to sleep. There are bunk rooms with sliding barn doors and four closets in each room. While each fire fighter gets his/her own room for that shift, the room may be used the next night (and the next, and the next) by different firefighters, hence the need for separate closets for clothes and linens and such. It’s a great place to sleep, but even if it invites deep sleep, the firemen all awake when an alarm goes off, alerting the personnel to what might be called an emerging situation.
A typical shift is one-day on, three days off, although occasionally personnel have to work an extra 12-24 hours overtime.
While some of the dangers of being a firefighter are obvious, there are other, less obvious, threats, one of which is cancer. On the job, you get exposed to numerous cancerous chemicals, which makes firefighters roughly 15% more likely to die from cancer compared to the general population. Because of this, the fire station provides free routine cancer checks to their crew. In addition, numerous precautions are taken: the crew must leave their gear in the locker room (which is separated from the main quarters), take a shower, and generally keep contaminated items out of clean areas.
The firefighters also get access to a private gym in the fire station. This gym is supplied with equipment like a rowing machine, treadmill, and a Jacobs Ladder. A gym is provided in-house, and the crew are allowed one-hour a day “on the clock” (assuming other work in the station is not immediately needed). This helps the firefighters with both mental and physical health–the latter being particularly important for their job duties.
Of course, you can’t visit a fire station without seeing the big trucks!
We got to learn about how the firetrucks work and even got to press the siren button, although the siren doesn’t work when the truck isn’t on. Who knew?
We also got to see some of the heavy high-tech gadgets they have for opening, pushing open, or cutting pieces of metal that would otherwise remain stuck–the jaws of life.
We learned that some of us are probably capable of handling this equipment….
…and others probably aren’t….
This was one of our favorite parts of the tour, and we were grateful for our great tour guide.
We finished a fun photo in front of the firetruck with Chief Mathis, who was super generous with his time, knowledge, and our lack of knowledge on all things fireman!