Sundays With George Thatcher, Raiderland’s American Bad-Ass: Lubbock, What’s To Like???

Lubbock: What’s to Like?

My first trip to Lubbock was one too many, I thought back then. I was just graduating from Air Force pilot training, and had been given the option to take an assignment to Reese AFB as a flight instructor.
I arrived in a howling dust storm, with visibility close to “zero-zero” and a nasty croswind gusting over fifty knots. Landing the T-33 trainer frankly tested my skills to the limits, and I felt lucky just to plant the bird on the concrete surface without cartwheeling. The “nipup factor” was high enough to tear hunks from my seat pack. Naturally I enjoyed the wing’s hospitality that night at the officers club, but you know about first impressions. I flew back to Oklahoma the next day and closed the book on any more such foolishness as to think I could actually teach student pilots to feel comfortable doing what I had just barely survived.

The next best option, as I saw it back then, was to fly something that had many, many engines, so I chose the B-52, which would let me grab as many throttles as an aircraft could carry in those days. Still classified as a student myself, I made the choice that guided my life for the next eight years. Another student in the class, who ranked just behind me in class standings, was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming an instructor, and he snapped up the assignment I had eschewed. Unfortunately for him, he and his very first student were killed in a training accident at Reese. That’s why I no longer gripe about the Lubbock winds at all. They convinced me, back in 1960, to make a choice that has probably kept me alive all these years. Rest in peace, John Wirthman. You were a great guy with a glorious future ahead of you.

My next journey to Lubbock was in 1990, when I arrived here as a later-life doctoral student. I’d have to say it was the best decision I ever made, in a lifetime of questionable choices. Texas Tech was beginning a growth spurt, and our time in the old Administration Building was short-lived, as we soon moved into the new College of Education building. These were first-class accommodations, to which I took an instant liking. I also met my beautiful wife here, in church of all places, especially for a reformed reprobate. After a couple of years of hard study and marital bliss, we moved on to El Paso where, still a grad student, I had chosen to do my final doctoral research.

But Lubbock wasn’t finished with us yet. After several years of teaching in Oregon, the budget axe fell on my program and I was left with a choice of retiring or finding another gig. So, still adventurous and young, or so we thought, we accepted teaching jobs in Wuhan, China. You probably know the name from that city’s current notoriety as the place of origin of the COVID virus. My wife had already had experience as a school principal, so she was a natural to become the director of the private school of our assignment. I taught for her and did the administrative stuff, and so passed our year in the Workers’ Paradise. We left many, many stories there, some of which I’ve already shared, so I’ll leave them for the “other” book. But, faced with the prospect of signing on there for another year, Lubbock came to the rescue again. My old mentor and program chair at Texas Tech called us, literally as we were enroute back home for a summer break, and asked if we would possibly agree to return to Tech for teaching assignments. Totally sick of China by then, we gladly leaped at the chance, and the rest was a four-year stint at the College of Education, until retirement beckoned and the urge to see the deep blue sea came over us. Still young enough, we kept thinking, we’ll enjoy life on the beach and maybe do some part-time teaching to keep the edges sharp. So again, we bid adios to West Texas and made Florida our new home.

Florida taught me an awful lot about hurricanes, tropical storms, and unpleasant critters, the worst of them being from New York and Boston. We New Jerseyites never considered ourselves to be Yankees, preferring to think of our species as uniquely evolved humans trapped between the barbarian hordes. So, after some uncomfortable years of deep reflection, we packed up the household and headed for Colorado. Glorious summers, biting winters, and finally a life-shortening and progressive illness caused us to move again. Guess where? Back to Texas, of course. We stayed briefly in San Antonio, but again for health reasons, we concluded that Lubbock had the best all-around conditions for our ultimate retirement. Every other place we researched lacked that certain “something” that we had always experienced in the Hub City.

We found the perfect house in a great neighborhood seven years ago, and we’ve never looked back. Besides ease of finding one’s way around here, we found the shopping to be better than adequate, the weather tolerable, and the medical community to be nothing short of outstanding. Okay, so we need both Italian and seafood restaurants, but that’s what vacations are for. But instead of going thru the entire Chamber of Commerce spiel, I’d prefer to share one more story, which sums it all up for me.

Not too long ago, at around noon on a Sunday, I stopped at my favorite United Supermarket to pick up some flowers for my wife and have a slice of pizza. While carrying my purchases to a dining table, I made a senior misstep and dumped the vase of flowers all over that table and the floor around it. Immediately, and I do mean right away, there appeared about four store patrons with table napkins and paper towels, who blotted up my mess in less than a minute and asked if there was anything else they could do. No, but there was one small way I could repay their kindness, so I fished out a few roses from my dripping bunch and gave one to each of the ladies who had come to my assistance. There was one particular family who seemed especially grateful for my little gesture, and the wife came over to my table and gave me profuse thanks and a most welcome hug. Then her husband came up and offered his hand while saying, “We really appreciated that, Brother.”

“Brother,” he had called me. A total stranger yet. I had never experienced such a totally spontaneous gesture, and it warmed this old heart like nothing else I can remember. And I offer you this simple homily as my take on the heart of Lubbock. People really are like that here; they genuinely like their neighbor, and they practice what I consider to be the best examples of following the Golden Rule. In my view, that’s what to love about Lubbock, a community that has made me feel more at home than the other twenty-five stops I’ve made along the journey.

The word “Lubbock” starts with the letter “L”. So does the word “Love.” Coincidence?

George Thatcher August 2022

George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt