My Op-Ed in The Guardian

Jason BoyettComment

Politics and religion are two things I used to post about quite often, back when I was a blogger building a "platform" so I could sell books and establish myself as...something. I wrote a lot about religion, so I would opine on that. And I care about politics, so I would opine on that, too.

I don't do either of those much anymore. Most of my writing career is for other companies, organizations, or people these days—often not even under my own name—so I like to hold my opinions close to the vest. But the sudden vitriol this week coming from the Republican party against refugees fleeing Syria was just too much. Too much hypocrisy for the party associated with conservative religious beliefs, the authority of the Bible, and the Evangelical Christians who comprise so much of its base. I don't often feel compelled to take a stand, but I did this time.

I wrote a short piece about it, pitched the idea to editors at The Guardian, and they published it yesterday. The formal op-ed style isn't my favorite genre of writing—it can be pretty stilted, under a very limiting word count—but I always think it's good to write in a format that stretches you. Here's an excerpt from "Republicans like to invoke the Bible yet ignore what it teaches about refugees":

While it is understandable to be concerned about safety, taking an anti-refugee position is contrary to the beliefs of the faithful voters these Republican leaders rely upon every election day. They are also taking a position contrary to the Bible these leaders supposedly care so much about.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), welcome strangers (Matthew 25:40), and show mercy to those in need (Luke 10:25-37). No doubt these teachings apply to families on the run from ISIS.

These passages represent only a sliver of biblical teaching on the topic, and the Christians I know don’t just believe these verses, but act on them. 

Read the rest of the piece, in which I discuss some of the work my conservative, religious family members have done on behalf of refugees in Amarillo—and why the Republican party seems to be abandoning this work of the faithful out of concerns about security. I continue to be so saddened by this direction taken by the GOP presidential nominees and governors.

"I was a stranger and you invited me in."

Gratitude for Do-Gooders

Jason BoyettComment

The last few months have seen a lot of chaos and dissension in Amarillo, related to the MPEV vote and the drama surrounding our City Council.

The last week has seen a lot of chaos and dissension in Texas and the U.S., related to the attacks in Paris and the Republican push-back against Syrian refugees.

It's maddening and saddening and all the voices are entirely too negative. Which is why I'm glad I've been interviewing local volunteers for the December issue of Amarillo Magazine. These are regular people who give hours of their time to help other people.

They say things like:

  • “I think we’re here to serve. It doesn’t matter what your religious background is. We’re here to help other people and I think that’s what life is about.”
  • "I want to try to make a difference in the world. I just really love to help people."
  • "Every person, to me, is important. I think they are precious."
  • "I know I’m supposed to do this. If I don’t, shame on me.”

Yesterday, in the middle of a rollicking Facebook conversation about refugees, someone told me I was too idealistic. I couldn't refute it. My excuse is that I've been talking to good, caring, compassionate Amarillo people all week. And if given the choice, I'd rather be an idealist than a pessimist any day.

The December issue comes out the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's a good one.


Cheers! A Toast to Local Drink

Jason BoyettComment

My cover story for the November issue of Amarillo Magazine was all about alcohol. The idea for the feature was that the city's growing interests in organic food and higher-end food choices were also spilling over into an appreciation for better choices in drink—from craft beer to specialty cocktails. So we provided an in-depth guide to the local drinking scene, from one of the best wine lists in Texas (Macaroni Joe's) to one of the top two or three bars in the United States in terms of number of beers on tap (I Don't Know Sports Bar & Grill).

 Photo for Amarillo Magazine by Shannon Richardson

Photo for Amarillo Magazine by Shannon Richardson

It was a fun issue to write. (I'm not saying anything about the research.)

Some links:

Amarillo Craft Beer Guide

Amarillo Wine Guide

Amarillo Craft Cocktails & Whiskey

Find Your Perfect Happy Hour

Drinks and Devotion (I love this little interview with Matt Morgan)

Amarillo is a Tex-Mex Joint in Finland

Jason BoyettComment

In early October, my wife and I traveled in Europe with our friends Trace & Becca Bundy. Trace is a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist with an international following and was doing several shows in the UK and Europe. We tagged along. Our families parted ways when he left for performances in Finland while Aimee and I headed for a weekend at a floating B&B in Amsterdam.

Within a few hours of arriving in Jyväskylä—a Finnish city whose name I won't even try to pronounce because I'm afraid of umlauts—Trace gleefully texted us a set of menu photos. His hosts had taken him to a popular Tex-Mex place called...Amarillo. That's right: A Finnish restaurant named after my hometown.

From the restaurant's website:

The best Tex-Mex food in town and rocking parties at the bar

Amarillo was born deep in the heart of Texas. Our chefs have crisscrossed around Texas and sat at the campfire on both sides of the Rio Grande so that we could offer you the best Tex-Mex this side of the ocean. Hamburgers, fajitas, bolillos, wings, 'dillas and other delicacies in the Amarillo style – imposing and fulfilling servings!

I've never had bollillos in the "Amarillo style" or otherwise. Those are authentic Mexican delicacies but not really Tex-Mex in this part of the country. I've had all the other stuff, and I guess those fajitas and whatnot have been both "imposing and fulfilling."

In fact, I was at a local place just the other day when a boot-wearing patron stood up and announced, "Boy, howdy, was that an imposing and fulfilling chile relleno!" All the chefs looked up from their campfires and nodded knowingly.

One more thing: Everyone in Amarillo, Texas, knows never to order wings or hamburgers at a Tex-Mex place. That's just dumb.


Amarillo's Wildcat Bluff

Jason BoyettComment

This was one of my favorite on-location interviews of the year—a walk through Wildcat Bluff Nature Center with Mary Emeny and Vivien Young, the executive director. I used to hike and run the trails at Wildcat Bluff before the drought forced it to close a few years back. I was fun to go back, get reacquainted with the staff, and see how the spring and summer rains had brought the place back to life. 

Here's an excerpt from "Bursting With Potential" in the October issue of Amarillo Magazine. This made me laugh.

The paved trail takes you to a small pond, tucked behind high grasses and covered by a small footbridge. The bridge creaks as you step upon it. “Watch this,” says Vivien Young, the part-time executive director of Wildcat Bluff Nature Center. She takes one more step. As if on cue, frogs leap from the planks and out of the high grass, pelting the water in a hailstorm of pocket-sized amphibians.
The water shivers as minnow-sized killifish – transplants from the Canadian River – dart back and forth beneath the dive-bombing frogs.
“I love to do that," Young says.

Here's the full story.

Now I'm Noticing Bees More Often

Jason BoyettComment

For several weeks I've been seeing bees buzzing around the flowers on my coleus in the front yard. Now that I know my high school friend Brian Schneider is keeping bees in his backyard about a mile away from me, I assume those are his bees. 

Bees usually stay within a few miles of their hive. I know this because I interviewed a bunch of local beekeepers for this story in the October issue of Amarillo Magazine, in which I forced myself not to use all the buzz-related puns.

Muir says he will start working with a hive – inspecting the queen’s health, checking the amount of honey, inspecting bees for mites – and discover that two or three hours have passed without him thinking about work. “It’s almost like meditation. You have a break from your brain for a while. I enjoyed a lot of pretty evenings this summer out in the cotton fields.”

Read the rest here.

(Above photo by Shannon Richardson.)


Safe Haven

Jason BoyettComment

My latest cover piece for Amarillo Magazine is "Safe Haven," a feature in the October issue about Dove Creek Ranch & Equine Sanctuary west of Canyon, Texas. I'd never been there, but discovered a truly peaceful hidden canyon where Laurie Higgins-Kerley and her ranch foreman Frank Castillo rehabilitate injured or neglected horses.

As I followed them around taking notes, I ended up with weird scribbles down my notepad because the friendly horses kept nuzzling against my arm.

Horses be all disrupting my interview.

A photo posted by Jason Boyett (@jasonboyett) on

Here's an excerpt from the published piece:

A large chocolate-colored thoroughbred saunters up to her, his big brown eyes level with hers. “This is Leon,” she says. “Leon Redbone.” He’s friendly, sweet, and named for the blues musician. “We’ve had him for around a year. He comes from the racetrack. Look at his ankles.” She points down toward the horse’s visibly swollen legs. “That’s cartilage damage, probably from overuse. He was severely underweight. We started pushing fluids and getting him back in shape. He probably won’t ever be rideable again, but he’d make a great companion horse.”

Read the whole article, "Safe Haven," at Amarillo Magazine.

Where have I been writing?

Jason BoyettComment

In recent months, I’ve been writing feature articles for Amarillo Magazine, a local glossy published by the Amarillo Globe News.

I’ve written about dog training and local dog trainers: “How to Help Your Dog Avoid Problem Behaviors

I’ve written about local neighborhoods and developers: “High Plains Visionaries

I’ve profiled the Amarillo Children’s Home: “Going Places

I’ve written about the use of Twitter and Facebook when you get married: “Ten Rules for Weddings in the Social Media Age

I’ve written about beer pairings and profiled Danny Lee of The Big Texan Steak Ranch: “Crafting the Perfect Combo

I’ve profiled the Oliver family and the oldest saddle shop in Texas: “Saddled with Tradition

I’ve written about the faith traditions of the Panhandle, along with six individual religious portraits: “Keeping the Faith

I helped document a local woman’s epic backpacking trip in the wilderness of California: “One Step After Another

Until the past year, it had been awhile since I’d done much journalism. Most of my clients are outside the Amarillo and Texas Panhandle area. So it’s been nice to get reacquainted with local people and businesses by writing about them.