The Wind Howled


Outtakes 36

The Wind Howled

My father spent time in Amarillo during his early military training. Learning he would again be stationed here did not rank high on his bases of choice list. He remembered the wind, the dust, the heat, and the bitter cold, and he was not anxious to brave the elements a second time. Everything I’d been told about Amarillo’s climate is true. It can be sunny and cloudless, and in a matter of hours, the temperature drops and a freezing rain falls.

Weather plays an important role in our lives. Folks spend their summers in the north but winter in Arizona or Florida. We plan vacation time around the seasons. For those of us in the Panhandle, commitments are often tempered with “weather permitting.” We use Daylight Savings Time to prolong warm, summer days so that we can enjoy the outdoors. Don’t you just love those fall foliage tours?

The weather has its place in our writing. “The sky wept as the mourners gathered around the grave,” enhances the somber setting. “Bright late spring sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows. The dance of colored lights clashed with hushed strains of the funeral dirge,” provides a contrast of the weather and the occasion. Howling winds often signal something frightening.  Falling snow contrasts the warmth of a house or the desperation of the poor.

Are you looking for an antagonist for your story? Try weather. Did you see the movie The Day After Tomorrow? Dennis Quaid played a researcher who predicted an ice age in the future. Unfortunately, the future was now. With little time to prepare, the inhabitants of the library struggled to survive the deadly cold.  As a writer, could you burn books to keep warm? Would you think to line your clothes with newspaper or pages from books to add insulation? Could you brave the elements to search a marooned ship for food and medicine? The non-human antagonist threw every imaginable curve at the survivors and I believed it.

A good writer uses every means at his disposal to craft the story. Since the weather is a primary topic of everyday conversation, why not employ it to enhance and define your story. Imagine the difference rain, snow, sleet, and the dead of night could make in your current work. Enjoy.

Cait Collins

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The Perfect Host


Outtakes 32

The Perfect Host

Moving to Amarillo, Texas, meant a third high school in three years. I had issues with the high school in Bossier City, Louisiana, because they threatened to withhold my fall semester credits from Maine as I had not taken mid-term exams. My Air Force seargent father had received emergency orders to Thailand after the TET Offensive, and we were forced to make a quick move.  There was no opportunity to take the tests. I had all A’s and some of the classes I took in Maine as a freshman were senior classes in Louisiana. Fear I would face the same issues in Amarillo dampened my outlook concerning the move. Fortunately, my concerns never materialized. As a student at Amarillo High School, I found acceptance and a quality education. Two and a half years later, I graduated in the top ten percent of a class of over 500 students. I looked forward to college.

I enrolled at Amarillo College in the Spring of 1970. Founded on July 16, 1929, Amarillo College was the first junior college district in the state organized independent of a school district. The first classes were held in September 1929. The college moved to its present location in 1937.  Originally, the college offered primarily arts and sciences programs. In 1942, the offerings expanded to include vocational courses. Allied health, occupational and technical programs were added in the 1960’s. AC serves the Panhandle through four campuses in Amarillo, and locations in Hereford and Dumas. The college continues to grow under the leadership of the Board of Regents and a dedicated staff and faculty.

I am a proud graduate of Amarillo College. AC provided me with the skills I needed to begin a 30-year broadcasting career. I directed, ran audio, produced, ran cameras, hauled cable for broadcasting basketball games. I even did some announcing and campus newscasts. Toward the end of my time at Amarillo College, AC became the home for KACV radio, and KACV-TV, the PBS station for the Texas Panhandle. The college also provided employment through the student work program. I worked approximately twenty hours per week split between the TV station and the college library. I graduated with an Associate in Arts Degree, with an emphasis in communications. I am a member of Delta Psi Omega, an honorary acting fraternity.

Over the years, I continued my relationship with Amarillo College by attending continuing education classes in computer programs, interior decorating, and creative writing. More recently, my association has been through Frontiers in Writing, an annual writers’ weekend sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers, and hosted by Amarillo College. This will be the fourth year AC has opened the College Union Building to FiW attendees. The English Department serves as a sponsor for FiW as part of their efforts to support education in the written word.

We could not ask for a better host. When registrants arrive for the conference, they will find a parking lot close to the CUB reserved for attendees. Audio/video needs are provided by the staff. A member of the physical plant staff is available throughout the two-day event to ensure the facility is open, clean, and comfortable. The meeting rooms are spacious and provide a quality learning environment. The Commons offers a place for attendees to relax, visit, or write. This year’s conference promises to be an exciting event. Friday the focus will center on the business of writing.  Saturday we write. We look forward to seeing old friends and making new friends June 29-30, 2012 at the Frontiers in Writing Let’s Write Weekend on the Amarillo College Washington Street Campus.

Cait Collins