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by Tumbleweed Smith

"I realize that no matter what job you have in this life, people will always keep you grounded." – Oldham County Judge Don Allred

Judge Allred took me out to see some of the wind turbines going up in his part of the panhandle. They are numerous. (Texas now leads the nation in wind energy, with nearly three times more turbines than California.) He parked his pickup under one and I recorded the subtle whump, whump of each blade's revolution. It's an interesting sound.

His pickup windshield is interesting, too. It has about a dozen cracks in it that make zigzag lines all across it.

"I don't always spend my time at the courthouse," says the judge. "I also spend my time on the farm and ranch and you know it does hail every now and then here in the panhandle and you take safety in your pickup and sometimes it takes a beating. And when you pass a truck on the highway, you get some rocks sometimes thrown up. People are always asking me why I don't have my windshield fixed. I just tell them each crack has a story and I just hate to part with it."

Don has been county judge of Oldham county twenty-three years. The only time he had an opponent was his first run for office. Don doesn't like to spend county money in a frivolous manner. Until he got a secretary nine years ago, he used an answering machine to get his messages.

"I'd be out all day tending to county business and come to the court house in Vega late in the afternoon to check my messages."

He gets some that are unusual and unexpected.

"One day I came into the office and there were two messages on my answering machine. I listened to the first one and it was from Teel Bivins, our state senator at the time. He and I were working on a project and he had called me to get some information and he wanted me to call him back so we could discuss our project. I listened to that message again and just thought to myself, County Judge, you have a little bit of standing in this community and you're an important guy with a responsible position. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

"The second call was from a lady who lived just east of he court house. She was an older lady who thought her county judge was someone she could call on for assistance in certain situations. Her message was, 'Judge, I've got the diarrhea real bad. Could you bring me some Imodium AD?' I weighed the two messages as to their importance: a state senator and a local constituent. I thought about their necessity and I took care of the local issue first."

more articles by Tumbleweed Smith

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