Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Some in state government have a disregard for the lessons in property rights that have been imbued in native Texans for several generations."

An early lesson in private property rights

April 20, 2008

By Willis Webb
Wise County Messenger
Copyright 2008

Property rights, particularly the intrusion by public entities through eminent domain, has been a frequent news topic over the past year or so.

It seems quite a few Texans' dander is up because of the Trans-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's grandiose plan for channeling all kinds of traffic through, across and up and down Texas. Most of us don't have every piece of information regarding how that is going to help Texas, nor do we have exact routes just yet.

There is a great deal of information about groups organizing against the effort, particularly in rural areas where the loss in terms of property is more significant and where there naturally are stronger, more personal feelings about the project.

While the loss of property to eminent domain stings painfully, the wound is aggravated in the minds of most rural Texans by the potential for that governmental "right" to be exercised in the name of a for-profit corporation, especially when that private entity is a foreign company. That's the case with the contractor/developer for the Trans-Texas Corridor.

In addition to the Trans-Texas Corridor, there are other quasi-public projects seeking roundabout ways to make use of eminent domain. One of those is via T. Boone Pickens on two fronts - for wind farms on Texas' High Plains to generate energy and the other through pumping water out of the ground, then selling and moving water out of the Panhandle via pipeline (across private property) to the thirsty Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Despite the fact that some in state government have deep Lone Star roots and, even though non-native Pickens has a long history here, there seems to be either a lack of understanding of and/or a disregard for the lessons in property rights that have been imbued in native Texans for several generations.

Respect for someone else's real property and their right to protect it however they see fit, within legal bounds of course, was brought home to me at an early age.

From birth to age 8, I lived with my family on a ranch/farm.

There was lots of room for a youngster to roam and engage in the play activities dictated by that age in that time. I could run and play almost anywhere on our land and still not disturb anyone else's property, which was always a parental caveat for children of that time.

However, the rules changed when I turned eight and we moved to "town" to a 50-foot wide lot. I received stern orders from my mother to not get on "someone else's property" without their permission. That someone else's property was, if I stood in the middle of our front yard, only 25 feet to the right or left. That's a pretty narrow play area for a little guy with a short attention span used to wide open spaces.

In the course of tossing a ball around the yard, it rolled over into the neighbor's yard on our right. I thought nothing of going into their yard to retrieve the ball.

However, after finding the ball I discovered something that caught my interest and sat down to play in the middle of the neighbor's yard.

In short order my mother came striding out of the house, grabbed me up, dragged me back across "our property line" and proceeded to spank me with one of my dad's old discarded belts.

Mother had a particular order she followed in the administering of discipline and punishment. She stood on the front porch, as I stood crying near "our property line" holding the offended portion of my anatomy, and proceeded with the lesson that went with the punishment.

My mom stood there and pointed at me with the hand that held the belt and said, "You've been told not to get on someone else's property without their permission. That's why you got spanked and if you set one foot out of this yard again, I'll spank you again."

Defiantly, I stuck one foot across "our property line." Off the porch she came and once more expertly applied the belt to my posterior.

Harsh? Perhaps, but I learned how serious my folks were about respecting other people's property and about following rules.

Do you expect Gov. Perry and Ol' T. Boone missed out on having a mother like mine teach them about respecting other people's property rights?

Willis Webb is a retired community editor-publisher of more than 50 years. He can be reached by email at

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