Disorder in the Court in 1842

Created Monday, 29 November 2010 02:46

Disorder in the Court: 9/11/1842

Strange but true – General Lopez de Santa Anna’s invasion of Texas in 1836 was not to be the last time that a Mexican Army crossed the border into Texas in full battle array – artillery, infantry, military band and all. Santa Anna may have been defeated at San Jacinto – but for the Napoleon of the west, that was only a temporary setback. In March of 1842 a brief raid by General Rafael Vasquez and some 400 soldiers made a lightening-fast dash over the Rio Grande, while another 150 soldiers struck at Goliad and Refugio. They met little resistance – and departed at speed before Texan forces could assemble and retaliate. All seemed to have quieted down my late summer, though: Texas had ratified a treaty with England, and the United States requesting that Texas suspend all hostilities with Mexico.

It seemed a good time to get on with urgent civic business, such as the meeting of the District Court in San Antonio. There had not been the opportunity to try civil cases for many years; the town was full of visitors who had come for the court session: officials, lawyers and litigants. Court opened on September 5th – but within days rumors were flying of another Mexican incursion. Such rumors were cheerfully dismissed – not soldiers, just bandits and marauders. Just in case, though, local surveyor John Coffee Hays – who already had a peerless reputation as a ranger and Indian fighter – was sent out to scout with five of his men. They saw nothing, having stayed on the established roads; unknown to them, one of Santa Anna’s favorite generals, a French soldier of fortune named Adrian Woll was approaching through the deserted country to the west of San Antonio, with a column of more than 1,500 soldiers – as well as a considerable assortment of cannon.

Under cover of a dense fog bank on the morning of September 11th, Woll’s army marched into San Antonio, with banners flying and a band playing. Having blocked off all escape routes, the General had a cannon fire to announce his presence. There was some sharp, but futile resistance, before surrender was negotiated. General Woll announced that he would have to take all Anglo men in San Antonio as prisoners of war; this included the judge, district attorney, assistant district attorney, court clerk, court interpreter, every member of the San Antonio Bar save one, and a handful of litigants and residents, to a total of fifty-five. They were kept prisoner – after five days they were told they must walk all the way to the Rio Grande, but they would then be released. Sometime during this period, the-then Mayor of San Antonio, John William Smith, managed to escape and send word of what had happened to the nearest town, Gonzales.

John Coffee Hays and his scouts had also managed to elude capture upon their return to town. The word went out across Texas for volunteers to assemble; two hundred came quickly from Gonzales and Seguin, led by Mathew “Old Paint” Caldwell, and fought a sharp skirmish on Salado Creek. A company of 53 volunteers recruited by Nicolas Mosby Dawson in LaGrange or along the road to join Caldwell’s volunteers along the Salado Creek north of San Antonio, ran into the rear-guard of Woll’s army, a large contingent of cavalry and a single cannon as they were withdrawing to San Antonio. Dawson’s company was surrounded; in the confusion of surrendering, firing broke out again. Only fifteen of Dawson’s company survived, to join with the San Antonio prisoners on their long walk towards the Rio Grande.

Once there the prisoners were informed that they would be taken into Mexico. Some were paroled and permitted to leave as a personal favor to the US Consul in Mexico City. Others escaped, but most of the San Antonio prisoners were kept for two years at hard labor in Perote Prison, in the state of Vera Cruz, until an armistice was signed between Mexico and Texas in March of 1844.

The site of the Dawson Massacre is marked by a granite monument, where the present-day Austin Highway crosses Salado Creek. The first case to be heard at that momentous court session was never settled; Dr. Shields Booker brought suit against the former mayor of San Antonio, Juan Seguin, for a payment of a 50-peso fee. Dr. Booker died in Perote Prison. The lawyer representing him, Samuel Maverick, was paroled after six months in Perote, and returned to Texas.


Counting down to Christmas

Counting down to Christmas

by Celia Hayes

So, all our basic Christmas shopping has already been accomplished during the year. All we need to do is turn out the gift closet shelves and decided where to send the various choice items which we have bought and stored against the arrival of the season. Who needs to set foot outside the house on Black Friday? Certainly not us – not even for gift bags and wrappings, for we picked up what we required at the post-Christmas sales last year, when everything seasonal was marked down 70% or more. Hey, I am not a legendarily wealthy author, and my ability to shovel money into the commercial economy is limited and locally-based. But I could be tempted this year with a real Christmas tree; our local HEB put them out this weekend, and amazingly, they look very fresh and healthy. Running a hand over a branch does not result in a shower of detached needles, and the price asked for them was shockingly reasonable, compared to previous years. We did see some live small trees in pots at another venue, and we might well consider that option, being that we will have to keep it outside to keep the younger cats off of it anyway.

So, Thanksgiving is here at our San Antonio home – and the smoked whole turkey from Granzin’s in New Braunfels is in the bottom of the refrigerator this very minute, to be served up with the side dishes that I posted about last year  . . .  and the very next day, we will need to get cracking on home-made Christmas cookies; another family tradition for which my mother is famous.

Her favorite cookie recipe came from one of those Pillsbury giveaway cookbooks, of which she had a large collection, before they were all burnt in the 2003 fire. This one cookbook was worn to shreds, as well as being liberally splashed with vanilla, smears of butter and sprinkles of flour, sugar and other ingredients. Fortunately, before it was lost entirely, my mother had transcribed the recipe for a local art association cookbook – which is a boon to all mankind, as the cookies are excellent and buttery, and there are a number of variations that can be made with very little trouble to the basic recipe.

Mom’s Christmas Butter Cookies – Basic Recipe

Sift together: 2 ½ c. flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
Cream together with electric mixer:
1 c butter
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
Add: 1 unbeaten egg
1 Tbsp vanilla
When well-blended, add the dry ingredients. This makes the basic cookie dough, which must be chilled before forming, and baked on an ungreased cookie sheet or parchment paper at 400°.

Variations –
Snowballs: Stir in 1 ½ c. finely chopped walnuts, chill and then shape into small walnut-sized balls. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes, and roll warm cookies in powdered sugar.

Cinnamon Balls: Shape plain chilled dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll in ¼ c. sugar mixed with 2 tsp, cinnamon. Bake at 400° for 5-8 minutes

Chocolate Rolled Cookies: add 2 ounces of unsweetened melted chocolate to basic dough. Chill, roll out and cut into shapes. Spread half of the cookies with a frosting of your choice (Mom always favored peppermint-flavored), and top with remaining cookies to make a sandwich cookie.

Fruit/Nut Balls: Add 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel, 2 Tbsp orange juice, ½ c. mixed candied fruit, and 1 c. chopped nuts. Chill, shape into walnut-sized balls and bake at 400° 5-8 minutes.

Jelly or Chocolate Balls: Form chilled dough into walnut-sized balls. Use the end of a wooden spoon to make hole into the top of each. Fill the indentation with jelly (apricot, currant or raspberry) or melted semi-sweet chocolate. Bake 4-5 minutes.


Press Release by National Association of Realtors October 2011 Existing-Home Sales Information

by Randy Watson

October Existing-Home Sales Rise, Unsold Inventory Continues to Decline

For more information, contact:

Walter Molony 202-383-1177 wmolony@realtors.org

Washington, DC, November 21, 2011 Existing-home sales improved in October while the number of homes on the market continued to decline, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million in October from a downwardly revised 4.90 million in September, and are 13.5 percent above the 4.38 million unit level in October 2010.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market has been fairly steady but at a lower than desired level. “Home sales have been stuck in a narrow range despite several improving factors that generally lead to higher home sales such as job creation, rising rents and high affordability conditions. Many people who are attempting to buy homes are thwarted in the process,” he said.

“A higher rate of contract failures has held back a sales recovery. Contract failures2 reported by NAR members jumped to 33 percent in October from 18 percent in September, and were only 8 percent a year ago, so we should be seeing stronger sales,” Yun added.

Contract failures are cancellations caused by declined mortgage applications, failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price, or other problems including home inspections and employment losses. “Other recent factors include disruption in the National Flood Insurance Program, and lower loan limits for conventional mortgages, which paradoxically force some of the most creditworthy consumers to pay unnecessarily higher interest rates,” Yun said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.07 percent in October from 4.11 percent in September; the rate was 4.23 percent in October 2010.

NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said consumers can increase their odds of obtaining a mortgage by being aware of how credit scores are determined. “If you want to get a mortgage, don’t buy a car or take on new installment debt or credit cards,” he said.

“Pay all your bills on time, maintain old credit lines and don’t use more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Realtors® can help you understand the issues surrounding access to affordable credit, in addition to helping you find the right home and negotiate terms,” Veissi said.

An ongoing positive trend is a steady decline in the number of homes on the market. Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 2.2 percent to 3.33 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.0-month supply3 at the current sales pace, down from an 8.3-month supply in September. Inventories have been trending gradually down since setting a record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

The national median existing-home price4 for all housing types was $162,500 in October, which is 4.7 percent below October 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – slipped to 28 percent of sales in October from 30 percent in September (17 percent were foreclosures and 11 percent were short sales); they were 34 percent in October 2010.

“In some areas we’re hearing about shortages of foreclosure inventory in the lower price ranges with multiple bidding on the more desirable properties,” Yun said. “Realtors® in such areas are calling for a faster process of getting foreclosure inventory into the market because they have ready buyers. In addition, extending credit to responsible investors would help to absorb inventory at an even faster pace, which would go a long way toward restoring market balance.”

All-cash sales accounted for 29 percent of purchases in October, little changed from 30 percent in September and 29 percent in October 2010; investors make up the bulk of cash transactions.

Investors purchased 18 percent of homes in October, compared with 19 percent in September and 19 percent in October 2010. First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of transactions in October, up from 32 percent in September; they were 32 percent in October 2010.

Single-family home sales increased 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.38 million in October from 4.31 million in September, and are 13.8 percent higher than the 3.85 million-unit pace one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $161,600 in October, which is 5.8 percent below October 2010.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 in October but are 10.5 percent above the 534,000-unit level in October 2010. The median existing condo price5 was $160,300 in October, down 1.5 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 5.1 percent to an annual level of 750,000 in October but are 1.4 percent above October 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $224,400, down 5.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 2.8 percent in October to a pace of 1.10 million and are 19.6 percent higher than October 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $132,800, which is 4.7 percent below a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual level of 1.94 million in October and are 14.1 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $145,700, down 1.6 percent from October 2010.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 4.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.19 million in October and are 15.5 percent higher than October 2010. The median price in the West was $207,500, which is 1.6 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

NOTE: NAR also tracks monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for select metropolitan statistical areas, which is posted with other tables at: www.realtor.org/research/research/ehsdata. For information on areas not included in the report, please contact the local association of Realtors®.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

Benchmark Revisions: All major statistical data series go through periodic reviews and revisions to ensure that sampling and methodology keep up with changes in the market, such as population changes in sampled areas, to ensure accuracy. NAR began its normal process for benchmarking sales at the beginning of this year in consultation with government agencies, outside housing economists and academic experts.

There will be no change to median prices or months-supply of inventory. Although there will be downward revisions to sales volume and unsold inventory, there will be no notable change to previous characterizations of the market in terms of sales trends, monthly percentage changes, etc.

In the past NAR has benchmarked to the decennial Census, most recently to the 2000 Census, because it included home sales data. However, the data are no longer included in the Census, so we’ve had to develop a new approach using an independent source to improve methodology and to permit more frequent revisions.

Preliminary data for the new benchmark will undergo broad review shortly by professional economists and government agencies. After any issues that may surface in the review process are addressed, we will update monthly seasonal adjustment factors and publish revisions.

2 Contract failures, all-cash transactions, investors, first-time buyers, and distressed sales are from a monthly survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at Realtor.org.

3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).

4The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.

5Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price often is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.

The Pending Home Sales Index for October will be released November 30, and existing-home sales for November is scheduled for December 21. The Commercial Real Estate Outlook and market report for the 3rd quarter will be published November 28; all release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.

REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTOR® are members of NAR.



Texas Agriculture Sales Tax Exemption Number

 Farmers and Ranchers Require Agriculture Sales Tax Exemption Number

Written by Randy Watson

Texas Farmers and Ranchers… Have you submitted your application for a Texas Agriculture and Timber Exemption Registration Number? (Ag/Timber Number.) Under a new state law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, commercial agriculture or timber producers will need an Ag/Timber Number issued by the Comptroller’s office to make eligible sales tax-exempt purchases for their business.

Beginning January 1, 2012 in order to make sales tax exempt agricultural related purchases you must have this number. To claim the sales tax exemption from the Texas Sales tax, the item being purchased must be used in the regular course of business exclusively on a farm or ranch in the production of agricultural products or exclusively to produce timber products for sale.

How do you get your registration number? There are 2 ways to register.

Apply online at www.getreadytexas.org. It’s a fairly simple straight forward application. Log in or create an account at the Texas Comptroller Office’s “MyCPA” website. Once you have an “MyCPA” account you’ll need basic information about your operation, such as business name, description and address, you will need your Social Security number (for internal use only). Businesses registered with the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) (Corporations, LLC’s, etc.) will need to provide the file number as well. You can find it using the SOS Taxable Entity Search.

You can print a copy of your confirmation letter upon completion, or write the registration number down. Texas will mail you a confirmation later on the next business day after the application has been completed.

Or you may apply on Paper. If you prefer to apply for your registration number via a paper application, you can do one of the following:
Download the paper application from the Comptroller’s website: AP-228 Application for Texas Agricultural and Timber Exemption Registration Number (PDF); or Call 1-800-252-5555 to request that a copy of the application be mailed to you.

Once complete, mail your application to the address provided on the form. Mailed applications may take three to four weeks to process, and you will not receive your number instantly (as you will through the online application). Once your mailed application is processed, you will receive your registration number in the mail.


The following items are always exempt and an Ag/Timber Number is not required:

  • Horses, mules and work animals commonly used in agricultural
  • Animal life, the products of which ordinarily constitute food for human consumption, such as cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys and hogs
  • Feed, including oats, corn, chicken scratch and hay, for farm and
  • Seeds and annual plants, the products of which are commonly recognized as food for humans or animals,such as corn, oats and soybeans) or for fiber, such as cotton seed.

What activities DO NOT qualify and are not eligible for a sales tax exemption?

  • home gardening
  • horse racing, boarding or training
  • trail rides and zoos
  • florists or similar retailers who maintain plants prior to sale
  • wildlife management and conservation
  • hunting and fishing operations, including aerial hunting
  • predator control and/or wildlife/livestock
  • censuses or surveys
  • commercial fishing
  • companion animal (pet) breeding and kennels

Who DOES qualify for a sales tax exemtion and is eligible for a Texas Agricultural and Timber Exemption Number?

A person, including a non-Texas resident, engaged in the production of agricultural or timber products for sale in the regular course of business is eligible for a registration number. This number can be used to claim an exemption from Texas sales tax on the purchase of qualifying items. Included for eligibility for registration numbers are persons in these groups

  • farmers and ranchers who raise agricultural products to sell to others
  • persons engaged in aquaculture and apiculture; (i.e. commercial fish farms or bee keepers)
  • custom harvesters
  • persons engaged in agricultural aircraft operations, as defined by 14 C.F.R. Section 137.3 (crop dusting)
  • commercial nurseries engaged in fostering growth of plants for sale (i.e., growing stock from seed or cuttings, replanting seedlings in larger containers)
  • timber producers, including contract lumberjacks
For more information visit their website www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/agriculture or call toll-free 800-252-5555

October 2011 San Antonio Real Estate Sales Statistics

October 2011 San Antonio Real Estate Sales Statistics

Written by Randy Watson


The San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR) released their monthly housing report for the month. The October 2011 report indicated that 1349 single-family residential homes sold compared to 1285 homes that sold in October 2010.

“The healthcare, tourism, and defense industries have a major economic impact here, but there are also many financial services and manufacturing companies that provide opportunities for the local workforce,” says Scott Caballero, 2011 SABOR Chairman of the Board. “Eagle Ford Shale is said to bring nearly 4,000 jobs to the area as well. San Antonio’s cost of living supports the healthy economic climate. The steady, affordable housing market is proving to be a major piece of how San Antonio fares overall.”

  • 1349 single-family residential homes sold in October 2011.
  • $182,304 is the average price of a single-family home, a 1% decrease from October 2010.
  • $149,500 is the Median price of a single-family home, a 1% decrease from October 2010.

San Antonio ranked number 5 by USAA and military.com for Military Retirees to launch their second career. Forbes’ 2011 Best Cities for Jobs ranked San Antonio number 4 for large cities.

Market data is compiled by the San Antonio Board of Realtors from the Multiple Listing Service report.



Texas Made Texas Good Locally-produced and Locally Grown Foods

Created Friday, 19 November 2010 14:13

Texas Made, Texas Good

Doing the rounds of various local farmer’s markets, special events and festivals over the last year or so around San Antonio has really brought it home to me that there is an incredible bounty of locally-produced and locally grown foods out there. It’s gone, way, way beyond just Texas-made wines. Local olive-oil, sheep-milk cheeses, pastas and BBQ sauces, smoked meats and sausages . . . it just never ends, even just keeping to a limit of that which is available within a day’s drive of San Antonio. Some of my favorite places and venders are strictly local; that is, you actually have to get up and go there, as mail-order is not an option and – for some of them – the internet is just something that happened to other people.

The Riverside Market in Boerne – on Main Street and SH-46, and the Dutchman’s Market in Fredericksburg, on Main Street opposite the entrance to old Ft. Martin Scott fall into this category: Both of these places offer incredible home-made jerky and smoked sausage, and the Riverside also has incomparable brisket and whole roast chicken. Fortunately, some of my favorite purveyors of fine Texas comestibles have that fully-functioning website option. A handful of them are even represented on the shelves of the neighborhood HEB. Like Opa’s smoked sausages – they’ve been firing up the smoke house for sixty years now. The New Braunfels Smokehouse products may not have penetrated quite so far into the local grocery store, but they – like Opa’s have a substantial brick-and-mortar physical presence as well as the website for those who simply must indulge in a smoked tenderloin, a whole turkey or a sun-dried-tomato-and-chipotle sausage.

Fischer and Weiser foods – jams, jellies, sauces, salsas and salad dressings are also represented in San Antonio grocery stores; when I first began exploring Fredericksburg, though – they seemed only to be available in various gourmet foodie places in Fredericksburg itself. Their roasted raspberry-chipotle sauce is one of my constant favorites – as well as an answer to the question of what do you get when German and Mexican cooking traditions clash. I’ve had a bottle of it in the pantry pretty constantly since 1995. I am also pretty sure that I saw D.L. Jardines’ smokin’ hot salsas and sauces in the HEB also – but they have a website as well, and are available at places like Rustlin’ Rob’s and other foodie emporiums in Fredericksburg.

RayAnnVentures isn’t at the point of being available at the grocery store everyday – they are still doing the rounds of the weekly markets throughout the the Hill Country with their output. Last fall I caught up to them at the Wimberly Market days – and oh, my. Fantastic pickles and jars of jelly that looked like cut-glass jewels, in the home-style two-piece-lid canning jars. Like home-made, only better. (BTW, RayAnnVentures ships homemade jelly and jams overseas to APO/FPO addresses.)

Now, the last provider of specialty comestibles which tickled my fancy at local market-days has succeeded in making the leap to a permanent retail outlet: Shayne Sauce Foods opened a brick-and-mortar outlet in Artisans Alley, on Bitters Road in San Antonio. They do jams, sauces and mustards but their main thing is whole-wheat dried pasta, in every shape and flavored with everything from black-pepper-n-garlic to chocolate, curry-spice and roasted red pepper. And strawberry dessert pasta – which I guess you would serve with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. No, I haven’t worked up sufficient sense of adventure to try that yet . . . maybe for New Years.

Bon appetite – and go, Texas!

Search online for San Antonio Homes



by Randy Watson


November 18, 2011
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Material herein is published according to the fair-use doctrine of U.S. copyright laws related to non-profit, educational institutions. Items attributed to sources other than the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University should not be reprinted without permission of the original source.

HOUSTON (Real Estate Center) – Add “baked goods” to the list of colorful analogies used to compare Texas’ relatively strong economy to that of the United States. That’s what State Comptroller Susan Combs did at yesterday’s 2012 Forecast Conference in Houston.

“The U.S. has what has been referred to as a ‘Twinkie economy,’” she said. “There are no natural ingredients. [Texas is] whole wheat, if you want to take a look at us versus the U.S. economy.”

Combs was speaking to a crowd of more than 400 business leaders, developers and students at the half-day event, which was presented by Urban Land Institute Houston and the Real Estate Center.

“We are now, as an economy, more diverse than either of our neighbors Canada or Mexico,” Combs said. “Our GDP, per capita, since 2001, [has] been larger than the U.S. every single year.”

Texas has lost about 4 percent of its jobs since the beginning of the recession, less than the United States (6 percent). Of those jobs, Combs said Texas has replaced about 90 percent, while the U.S. has replaced 23 percent.

“What’s more interesting to me is oil and gas,” Combs said. “Oil and gas lost well over 20 percent. They lost over 47,000 jobs. They’ve now regained more than that — about 57,000.”

Those jobs come with high wages, which helps drive sales tax revenue.

“The average weekly wage in the Eagle Ford is $2,764, about $140,000 per year,\” Combs said. \”Texas’ average is $940. So sales tax is being driven largely by the oil and gas sector. And sales tax is about 64 or 66 percent of all tax revenue. So when you’ve got a very aggressive, positive cycle of activity in oil and gas, it helps a lot.”

Although Combs focused largely on the positive aspects of the state economy, she didn\’t shy away from the challenges facing an ever-growing, ever-changing Texas. One of the biggest is meeting the educational needs of the state as its demographic shifts to predominantly Hispanic, a group that historically has had a lower educational attainment than Anglos.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 43 percent of Hispanics in Texas did not have a high school diploma in 2009, compared with 8 percent of non-Hispanic whites. In addition, Combs said 50 percent of Anglos have college degrees.

The result is a disparity in how much each group earns: Hispanic households in Texas earn, on average, $29,000 per year. The average Anglo household brings home $47,000.

In short, Texas is juggling huge growth, shifting demographics and challenges in both public and higher education.

\”We have to manage all these in some better way than we are doing now,” Combs said.


Christmas Shopping Began as Halloween Ended

Christmas Fair Shopping

Okay, so maybe it is a little bit early to consider Christmas shopping, even though the Christmas decorations in retail stores went up as the Halloween decorations came down, with the speed of a Los Vegas blackjack dealer flipping through a deck of cards. It’s time to consider Christmas, early or not. For myself, I developed the habit of doing so while stationed overseas, when the heavy parcels home had to be mailed by October in order to arrive by Christmas, which pushed my personal Christmas shopping back into the months of August and September . . . anyway, now I have a couple of shelves in the master bedroom closet that are dedicated to gift storage. That is, the things that we pick up throughout the year, thinking “Oh, that will be a splendid present for so-and-so!” Come December, all we need do is pull everything out and get busy with the tissue paper and ribbons.

For those who are not inclined to this kind of Christmas shopping, there are alternatives to the Big Box Store sameness; venues to purchase gifts that are unique – and made in America. The very nicest of them are a range of craft shows and markets, taking place locally over coming weekends, many of which also benefit local institutions.

One of the biggest of these upcoming fairs takes place over next weekend, November 17-20th (2011) at the New Braunfels Convention Center – the Weihnachtsmarkt, which benefits the Sophienburg Museum and archives. More than fifty local vendors and crafters will be featured over four days of the fair, as well as a dozen local authors, including me!

The first weekend in December provides a treasure-box of community-oriented Christmas fairs and craft shows: continuing the decided Germanic flavor, Fredericksburg sets up their St. Nikolausmarkt on the Marktplatz (Market Square) on Friday and Saturday, December 2nd and 3rd – the Friday evening of this event to be enhanced with a lighted Christmas parade on Main Street.

Goliad also has a Christmas craft fair, parade and community events. Christmas on the Square happens on the same Friday and Saturday. Their Saturday parade has a more traditional Texan flavor, as it usually features Santa arriving mounted on a long-horn, and attended by a mounted posse of cowboys. Goliad also features local authors – me, yet again. I love Goliad, by the way – especially at Christmas.

Closer to San Antonio, Boerne goes English and Dickens for Christmas, with all sorts of period Victoriana, Main Street lit by lamplight and many enterprises remaining open for extended hours. Castroville, better known as Little Alsace – more of a French influence there – also has a two-day event, with parade, tree-lighting, and many local vendors. Really, one is almost spoiled for choice, the first weekend of December. But there is no excuse not to get the Christmas shopping done then.




Critters Living in Our San Antonio Neighborhoods

Nature’s Critters

by Celia Hayes

We were walking the dog this morning, when we noticed two of our neighbors deep in conversation in the driveway. The object of conversation seemed to be an occupied Hava-Hart trap, and naturally being terribly curious about anything going on in our neighborhood, we went over and joined the conversation, discovering that the occupant of the trap was a mature and deeply unhappy opossum. This was not entirely unexpected around here, actually. Possums turn up all the time – in fact, before we acquired the dogs, there were several of them that hung out in my back yard, going so far as to help themselves to the cat food that I put out for the outdoor cat. The cat, by the way, was perfectly amiable towards the opossum, as she very well might be, as the opossum had way more and very much sharper teeth than she did.

The neighbor in question was a trifle freaked about her catch, as she had actually set the trap for squirrels. This year, between the drought and a bumper crop of acorns on the numerous oak trees, the squirrels are being a particular pest. They are everywhere, digging holes in the flowerbeds, in the potted plants, and eating the roots of certain ornamental plants, and sending our dogs into noisy frenzies of excitement. The Lesser Weevil surprised one particularly unwary and slow-moving squirrel at the bird feeder the other day, and came as close to actually catching it as she has ever come . . . although I am not certain she would actually know what to do with it if she did. My daughter entertains a lively fantasy of the Weevil being so enthused by close pursuit that she actually follows the squirrel up into the tree branches . . . and then we would have to call the fire department to extract a 90 pound dog from out of the tree . . .

Anyway, wildlife abounds in our little patch of San Antonio home paradise; plenty of the usual suburban small mammals and rodents, and a nice selection of birds. We planted various flowering shrubs to attract humming birds, and put out feeders which draw in cardinals, wrens, sparrows and doves. One of our other neighbors has actually induced several families of woodpeckers to take up residence in their yard; most amusing to watch, they tell us. I think the most colorful yard critters are the small anole lizards. They are everywhere in the spring and summer months, bright lime green in color with delicate pink throats that they will show off by inflating them. They always seemed to hang out in the wisteria, very possibly because the lizards and the wisteria leaves are the same color.

All this wildlife is about par, for a small yard in a city neighborhood – a bigger yard and one adjacent to a greenway or open fields can count on wider assortment. Like deer: Hill Country Village – well within the 1604 Loop – supports a herd of deer and has for years. McAllister Park has deer in it, best seen in the early morning, and I spotted some deer wanderers at the corner of Thousand Oaks and Naco-Perrin one morning, several years ago, meandering towards the open golf course at Northern Hills. Even the campus of USAA has it’s very own herd, which to my mind increases the likeness of the place to a stately fortified demesne on a high hill with an enclosed park around it. We might be in the city, or at least the suburbs . . . but the critters are always with us.


Halliburton Begins Construction of Base of Operation in San Antonio

Halliburton Jobs Come to San Antonio for the Eagle Ford Shale

Written by

The Eagle Ford shale operations may be the largest oil field ever discovered in Texas. They are predicting millions and millions of dollars worth of oil and hundreds to tens of thousands of new oil related jobs from San Antonio throughout South Texas. Houston based oilfield giant Halliburton, the world leader in the oilfield service industry with operation in more than 70 countries began work on a $50 million base of operation in San Antonio. The planned 400,000 square foot structure will be located near I37 and Loop 1604 in southeast Bexar County.

Halliburton’s major business segment is the Energy Services Group which provides technical products and services to petroleum and natural gas exploration and production. This new facility will employ 1500 workers to support it’s operation in the Eagle Ford shale. Our many military veterans and military retirees may find employment in the oilfield industry. Many of these jobs are higher paying jobs in the $70,000/year to well over $100,000 per year jobs range and may require specialized training or miniumum of a 4 year or advanced degrees such as a PhD. Texas A&M San Antonio campus is nearby.

Employment will not be limited to the oil fields directly. The facility will require administration and laboratory personel as well as those in the high tech fields, engineers, geologists and chemists. In addition to truck drivers; mechanics and automotive technicians will be required to service their fleet of trucks at the new facility. Halliburton hopes to hire locally 75 percent of the anticipated 1500 employees.

Halliburton’s base of operation is to be fully operational by 2013. Bexar County Judge, Nelson Wolff reportedly said that the precense of Halliburton should aid the region’s economy as a whole and boost demand for higher-end housing. Early seat of the pants reports indicate that San Antonio’s high end/luxury communities such as the Dominion and even Boerne’s Cordillero Ranch are already seeing interest from oil related business professionals wanting to relocate to San Antonio. Even surrounding communitities such as Floresville real estate and Pleasanton may see a increase in demand for housing.

Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Schlumberger have also announced multimillion dollar facilities to be built in southeast Bexar County and will be hiring hundreds to support their operations as well.